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UH Health leader inducted into National Optometry Hall of Fame

Earl Smith honored for significant, long-lasting contributions to the optometric profession

University of Houston

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IMAGE: Longtime College of Optometry faculty member and University of Houston administrator Earl L. Smith III, O.D., was inducted to the National Optometry Hall of Fame during the 2015 American Optometric... view more

Credit: Jessie Villarreal

HOUSTON, July 1, 2015 - Longtime College of Optometry faculty member and University of Houston administrator Earl L. Smith III, O.D., is a member of an elite group of optometrists who has been selected for the prestigious National Optometry Hall of Fame.

Since 1998, the National Optometry Hall of Fame has recognized and honored optometrists who have made significant and long-lasting contributions to the optometric profession. Smith was inducted with two others - Paul C. Ajamian, O.D., and Kenji Hamada, O.D., - at a ceremony and reception June 25 during the American Optometric Association (AOA) Optometry's Meeting held June 24-28, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. The Hall of Fame is administered by Optometry Cares, a philanthropic and charitable organization committed to expanding eye health and vision care access to everyone in the U.S. to enhance human performance and quality of life.

Inductees are chosen for their national stature, significant and enduring impact on the profession, scholastic accomplishments, state and national leadership contributions, and community service. President of Optometry Cares, T. Joel Byars, O.D., and the selection committee chair, William E. Cochran, O.D., wrote in a joint letter, "It is no small achievement to be selected for this national honor. The dedication and commitment to your students, your community and the profession of optometry as a whole are evident by an impressive collection of activities and responsibilities you have held throughout your career. Our profession is fortunate to be represented by luminaries like you."

Smith received both his Doctor of Optometry and Ph.D. from UH and joined the College of Optometry faculty in 1978. During his tenure at the college, he has served as the chair of the Basic Sciences Department, the associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research and as dean from 2003 to 2013. Smith, who also holds the endowed Greeman-Petty Professorship in Vision Development, currently serves as the interim chief health officer of UH.

In his role as chief health officer, he leads the University's efforts to develop and implement the strategic plan of the UH Health initiative, as well as launch the new UH Health Sciences Center. He has been steadily spearheading the effort to expand the University's health-related portfolio by enhancing existing programs and bringing in new ones, as well as creating new clinical services that not only benefit the university, but also serve the community. The hub for this new frontier will be the Health and Biomedical Sciences Building Two, a new nine-story, 280,000-square-foot facility, interconnected with the J. Davis Armistead Building, which is home to the University Eye Institute and much of the College of Optometry, and the Health and Biomedical Sciences Building One.

Smith's research interests are focused on the optics of the eye. For his research on the role of vision in regulating refractive development and eye growth, he received the Glenn Fry Award in 1996 and the Prentice Medal in 2010 from the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), the Korb Award for Excellence from the Contact Lens and Cornea Section of the AOA in 2011, and was recognized as a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow by the National Academy of Practice in Optometry.

Smith has published more than 180 refereed papers and received 33 years of research funding from the National Institute of Health's (NIH) National Eye Institute (NEI). He also is an accomplished lecturer, having received teaching awards at the department, college and university levels.

An active member of the vision science community, Smith is a fellow of the AAO, a fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, a past president of the American Optometric Foundation, a past president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, a past member and chair of the NIH NEI's Central Visual Processing Study Section, a past member of NIH's National Advisory Eye Council, and currently serves as a director on the boards of the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research.

For his accomplishments in teaching and his impact on the profession of optometry, Smith was presented with the Educator of the Year award in 2003 and Optometrist of the Year award in 2009 by the Texas Optometric Association. Smith is the first active UH faculty member to be inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame. Former College of Optometry dean William R. Baldwin, O.D., who worked at UH for 11 years, from 1979 to 1990, was a 2011 inductee.

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About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation's best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation's fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 40,900 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country. For more information about UH, visit the university's newsroom at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.

About the UH College of Optometry

Since 1952, the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) has educated and trained optometrists to provide the highest quality vision care. One of only 22 optometry schools in the country, UHCO offers a variety of degree programs, including Doctor of Optometry (O.D.), a combined Doctor of Optometry/Doctor of Philosophy (O.D./Ph.D.), Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). UHCO serves an average of 50,000 patients a year through The University Eye Institute and its external clinics located in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth regions.

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