Sydney, Australia, 10 August 2018: Dr. Akio Kanai, CEO of Fuji Optical, has been announced as the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award winner for 2018 by the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), for his efforts in delivering vision care to refugee communities over more than three decades.
Born in 1942 on the northern Pacific island of Sakhalin, Dr Kanai was forcibly displaced and moved to Hokkaido Island during the turmoil at the end of World War II.
A graduate of the Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University (MBKU), U.S., Dr Kanai began cooperating with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1984, and has since conducted more than 35 missions to help refugees in Nepal, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
He has donated over 160,000 pairs of glasses, provided optometry equipment, made cash grants and trained local medical staff as part of these efforts. Fuji Optical is UNHCR's longest-serving corporate partner.
Dr Akio Kanai (2nd from right) in Azerbaijan in 2018
Dr Kanai, who knew Brien Holden through involvement with the Asia Pacific Council of Optometry, said, “We really lost a great person who contributed so much for the developing countries.”
“It is my great honour to receive the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Optometry,” he added.
Ms Amanda Davis, CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation, said Dr Kanai’s commitment to delivering eye care to refugee communities over more than 30 years, and which continues today, is truly humanitarian.
“Both through his own efforts and through the contributions of Fuji Optical, he has brought much needed eye care to our most vulnerable people, and his dedication to this cause over such a long period is really inspiring to others working in the field,” she said.
Dr Kanai at refugee camp in Thailand
In 2006, Dr Kanai received the Nansen Refugee Award from UNHCR and in May, 2018, an honorary degree from MBKU. He will receive the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award at AAO’s annual meeting, held in San Antonio, U.S., from 7-10 November in 2018.
- Read about Dr Kanai's work in Azerbaijan and Armenia here.
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About the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award
The Brien Holden Humanitarian Award is awarded annually by the American Academy of Optometry is pleased to honour the memory and work of Professor Brien Holden, PhD, DSc, FAAO.
The award recognizes an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to improve eye care within a country or region. In particular, the award acknowledges humanitarian efforts in the non-profit/not-for-profit sector that build or support the development of sustainable eye care systems in developing communities.
Professor Holden 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 dream of ‘vision for everyone, everywhere.’
Professor Holden was an Academy Life Fellow and a Diplomate in the Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses and Refractive Technologies. He was a Presidents 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.
About the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation
We believe sight is a fundamental right for everyone, everywhere. Our mission is to develop new solutions for vision care and eliminate vision impairment and avoidable blindness, thereby reducing poverty and suffering.
We are a global non-profit, non-governmental organisation who since 1998 has delivered sustainable eye care services, education and training programs in over 50 countries, providing eye care to over 14 million people at more than 400 eye care sites and training 250,000 eye care personnel.