NEW YORK—Women In Optometry has announced the winners of its eighth annual Theia Awards of Excellence. The awards will be presented on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, toward the end of the Women In Optometry Women’s Leadership Conference, held in conjunction with the American Academy of Optometry in New Orleans, Louisiana. Erin O'Malley, a leadership advisor and communication specialist, will deliver the keynote at the event. Each year, WO asks readers and friends to submit the names of women who have been extraordinarily influential in the industry. The categories are: Leadership, Mentoring, Education, Young OD, Industry Influencer and Business.

This year, more than 150 nominations were submitted; the WO advisory board votes for the winners. This year’s winners are:

Her nominator wrote, “Dr. Block has been a leader in optometry her entire career as a professor, mentor and [being] involved in numerous organizations.” Dr Block is president elect of the World Council of Optometry, professor emeritus at Illinois College of Optometry, former co-chair of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, former chair of Vision Care Section, former chair of the National Academy of Practice in Optometry, former medical director of school-based vision clinics at Illinois College of Optometry, a member of the American Public Health Association and a New England College of Optometry presidential medal awardee for 2023.

Dr. Block helped author the first vision report for the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine and is global clinical advisor, research and education for Special Olympics Lions Club International Opening Eyes. Her nominator wrote that she “was instrumental in developing the vision program protocols used globally.”

MENTORING: Ray Corbin-Simon, OD, and Minal Patel, OD.
Dr. Patel is the owner of Wink Eyecare Optical in Abington, Pennsylvania. Dr. Corbin-Simon’s nominator wrote, “She dedicates much of her time to helping other practice owners succeed. She helps practice owners navigate the waters of ownership, helping them make more money, have more free time and become more confident leaders.” Dr. Corbin-Simon is the owner of In Focus Vision Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. She is also consultant at The Power Practice, president of the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians, former chair of the Neurolens Advisory Board and former assistant clinical professor at SUNY College of Optometry.

Dr. Patel’s nominator wrote, “Dr. Patel is truly passionate about mentoring students and she willingly allows students from Salus University to shadow her. Her kindness and mentorship make a real difference in the lives of aspiring optometrists, helping them pursue their dreams with confidence and determination.”

Dr. Xu’s nominator wrote, “She has impacted optometric and development throughout her work and continues to be a fervent advocate for sustainable programs.” Dr. Xu is associate professor of clinical optometry and director of eyecare services at South Boston Community Health Center, coordinator of international programs at New England College of Optometry, former research assistant at the Center for Health Communication at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, health systems consultant at World Bank Group, and a former lecture in optometry at Mzuzu University in Malawi.

YOUNG OD: Shira Kresch, OD, MS, FAAO
Dr. Kresch’s nominator wrote, “Outside of working full-time in hospital settings, her vision was for a group of ODs from schools, hospitals, etc. to help and learn from each other. SIG (American Academy of Optometry Special Interest Group) has 125 members with 15 optometry schools represented and eight ophthalmology programs.”

Dr. Kresch is the owner of Michigan Contact Lens and clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is the founder and president of the Academic Optometric Society, program co-chair of the Optometric Glaucoma Society, co-investigator on three studies and T35 National Research Award winner.

Dr. Vora is the founder and host of the Nerdy Optometrist Podcast, and regional product manager at Topcon Healthcare. Dr. Vora’s nominator wrote, “Ukti has been actively influencing the industry by bringing some amazing stories in front of the community through her podcast. The channel focuses on talking about the real struggles and inspires so many to never lose hope and constantly try to do your best. Her podcast has brought the global eyecare community closer as she has speakers from all around the world.”

BUSINESS: Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD, FAAO, FBCLA, FEAOO, Dipl ABO
Dr. Shen Lee’s nominator wrote, “She has built and grown a successful and thriving business. The office houses the latest technology for ocular surface and dry eye care, ortho-K and scleral lenses. Not only does she spend countless hours providing outstanding care for our patients, but she recently dedicated her weekends to running FDA clinical trials.”

Dr. Shen Lee is the CEO and co-founder of Vision Optique & Ocular Aesthetics in Houston, Texas, as well as a Best Practices 2018 award winner. She is medical director and principal investigator of ocular aesthetics dba ocular clinical trials, adjust clinical instructor at University of Houston College of Optometry, and founder, consultant and speaker at iTravelCE. She is a former member of the advisory board and consultant for Essilor, and a former consultant and speaker for Alcon.

Registration for the Women In Optometry 2023 Women’s Leadership Conference is open online here.