Academy names Ellis Potter as inaugural Brien Holden Humanitarian Award winner FB Twitter LinkedIn

Academy names Ellis Potter as inaugural Brien Holden Humanitarian Award winner

Sydney, Australia, 24 July 2017: We are pleased to congratulate Dr Ellis Potter as the inaugural recipient of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) Brien Holden Humanitarian Award. Dr Potter is a long serving humanitarian in the eye care field, including working in leadership positions of the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), both local and international, for close to a decade, including acting as President from 2011-2013.

Dr Potter has been a key figure in transitioning VOSH from its original model that provided care in outreach trips to developing countries, to a model that works collaboratively with local optometry and eye health systems to create sustainable long-term outcomes.

“The American Academy of Optometry is honoured to be given the opportunity to administer this new award that so perfectly reflects Professor Holden’s passion for finding regional and global solutions for vision disparities,” said Brett G. Bence, OD, FAAO, Immediate Past President of AAO. “This award will help sustain awareness to the continuation of Brien Holden’s legacy and humanitarian contributions,” he added.

Professor Kovin Naidoo, CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute, congratulated Dr Potter on being the first to receive the award. “Brien Holden was passionate about sustainable solutions to our global eye care challenges, so the choice of Dr Potter, given his efforts in this regard, is a great tribute to Brien,” he said.

“Brien expressed great enthusiasm for VOSH efforts to transform its programs beyond the outreach trips and took great joy in interacting with our VOSH colleagues as they moved in this new direction,” he added.

Responding to the announcement, Dr Potter said, “Thank you to Brien Holden and the Brien Holden Vision Institute for the insight and inspiration to bring attention to avoidable blindness.”

“Seeing a patient's gratitude and joy from seeing, some for the first time, was a huge motivation but more than that, it was the feeling that those patients understood that someone cared for them, was willing to help them, and it seemed to give them hope for a better future,” he added.

One of Dr Potter’s main accomplishments is the VOSH Corps program, which, in collaboration with the Brien Holden Vision Institute and supported by Optometry Giving Sight, is working to build optometric education world-wide.

Brien Holden was one of the founders of Optometry Giving Sight, established in 2003 to mobilize resources from the global optometric community to help eliminate refractive error blindness and low vision.

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Q & A with Dr Ellis Potter

Following the announcement of the award, Dr Potter spoke with Brien Holden Vision Institute about his early interest in optometry and what sustained him through such a long and dedicated career.

Did you have any specific motivation for choosing a career in eye care as a student?
Growing up in a small town in the Midwest USA there were several charismatic, energetic optometrists who became mentors to over 20 Optometry students; I was one of them. It seemed to be an interesting ideal profession for my interests in mathematics and my desire to work for myself.

Could you describe what motivations have continued or evolved for you through your career?
Seeing a patient's gratitude and joy from seeing, some for the first time, was a huge motivation but more than that, it was the feeling that those patients understood that someone cared for them, was willing to help them, and it seemed to give them hope for a better future.

From your time in the field with VOSH do you have a story of change or inspiration you would like to share?
Once exposed to helping people and the almost instant gratification on my first VOSH mission, I wanted to share that experience with others. It led me to become more involved with leading mission trips and becoming engaged in other ways to help within the VOSH organization.

Do you have one piece of advice for anyone volunteering in an emerging context following your lifelong experience?
Each of us has a unique niche, a talent, a skill, that can be used to help others. Find that niche and a way to help others and you will also be rewarded.   

Do you have any other comment you would like to add?
Thank you to Brien Holden and the Brien Holden Vision Institute for the insight and inspiration to bring attention to avoidable blindness.


About Brien Holden
Professor Brien Holden PhD, DSc, FAAO (1942-2015) founded the Brien Holden Vision Institute and was a global leader in eye care and vision research, internationally renowned and awarded scientist, humanitarian, and a Professor at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia. His career was spent inspiring scientists and health care professionals around the world with his goal of ‘vision for everyone, everywhere.’

Professor Holden was an Academy Life Fellow and a Diplomat in the sector on Cornea, Contact Lenses and Refractive Technologies. He was a President’s Circle member and an avid supporter of the American Optometric Foundation. Among several Academy awards received, Professor Holden was awarded the Academy's Charles F. Prentice Medal and Lecture at Academy 2014 Denver, the Academy's highest honour.

In July, we celebrate the life of our late CEO Prof. Brien Holden and how his contributions have
shaped the optometric landscape. For more on his lifetime of vision, click logo below.