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The award was bestowed by the National Optometric Association after a nomination by a well-connected alumnus.

FILE PHOTO - The Pacific University College of Optometry has been recognized by the National Optometric Association, a group that focuses on improving access to vision care to and recruiting optometry students from minority communities in the United States.In case you didn't know — and university officials are fond of bringing it up when talking about the school — the Pacific University College of Optometry is one of just a handful of certified optometry schools west of the Rocky Mountains.

Now Pacific has something extra to brag about.

The National Optometric Association has named the Pacific University College of Optometry its "School of the Year" for 2018. The award was announced at the association's annual conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month.

According to Pacific University spokesman Joe Lang, the award was given to the Forest Grove-based College of Optometry in recognition of "its ongoing commitment to providing vision care to underserved populations."

Pacific was nominated for the honor by an alumnus, Dr. Larry Jones, who graduated with an optometry degree in 1985 and is now president-elect of the National Optometric Association.

Pacific honored Jones last year with its Kamelia Massih Prize for a Distinguished Optometrist, an award named for a fellow 1985 alumna of Pacific's optometry school who was a close friend of Jones before her death in 2010.

COURTESY PHOTO: PACIFIC UNIVERSITY - The National Optometric Association named the Pacific University College of Optometry  its 2018 School of the Year last month.In a statement released by Pacific, Jones praised the work of both the National Optometric Association and the work of Pacific's optometry staff, including College of Optometry Dean Jennifer Coyle.

"Dean Coyle's impact on optometry and helping underrepresented minority students is exemplary," Jones said.

The focus of the National Optometric Association is on improving access to vision care for members of minority communities throughout the United States, as well as ensuring that people of color are represented in the ranks of optometry students across the country. Many of the association's members are people of color who work as optometrists, including Jones.

Perhaps most visible among the College of Optometry's efforts to serve communities that may lack regular access to vision care is its EyeVan Mobile Clinic. Staffed by optometry students, the EyeVan travels to both nearby and more remote parts of Oregon to provide vision screenings and examinations.

In addition to the EyeVan, the College of Optometry has a popular club called AMIGOS Eye Care, which organizes regular trips for students to travel internationally, providing vision care in places like Central America and Africa.

The Pacific University College of Optometry is just one of five members of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry west of the Rockies, and it is the only one in the Pacific Northwest (the other four are in California and Arizona).

All told, there are 22 ACSO member schools and colleges in the continental United States, plus a 23rd in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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