As AOCLE changes and grows, many new faces have come to join us. Some may not know the beginnings of the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators (AOCLE). We present a summary of the past three decades of the AOCLE so that all may benefit from its rich history.
In 1972, Bausch & Lomb invited contact lens educators from the Schools and Colleges of Optometry to Rochester, New York to introduce a new lens. It was at this meeting that Paul White, Marty Gelman and Woody Kolb among others, discussed the idea of forming a contact lens educators group. Several of the group informally got together at an Academy meeting, probably in 1972 and again at a B&L National Research Symposium in Washington, DC in 1973 to plan the formation of the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators (AOCLE). Paul White acted as unofficial Chair during these formative years. Under the sponsorship of Wesley-Jessen, the first official meeting of the organization took place at the John Hancock Towers in Chicago in 1974. Maury Poster was elected as the first Chair of the association. The only item of substance on the agenda was to collate all the class notes from the Contact Lens Syllabi of the schools. They were photocopied into 12 massive packages and distributed to each school to use as desired. The 1975 meeting in Rochester, New York was the first AOCLE annual meeting sponsored by Bausch & Lomb (B&L) and held in conjunction with their National Research Symposium, later to be known as the North American Research Symposium (NARS). When B & L stopped having their Research Symposiums, they continued to sponsor an annual AOCLE August meeting, held in Rochester or a relatively nearby location, up until 1996. Mort Sarver was elected as the association’s second Chair in 1976 and Jerry Lowther, the third chair in 1978. The original by-laws were amended in 1977 in order to comply with the Internal Revenue Code, as described in Section 501 (C) (3) establishing the Association as a non-profit organization for the purpose of education.
Initially, only one contact lens educator from each school was invited to the annual meeting, but by the 1979 meeting in San Francisco, twenty four contact lens educators were in attendance.
At the annual meeting in Dallas in 1982, several members expressed disappointment with the association’s progress and its limited involvement in improving contact lens education in the Schools and Colleges of Optometry. Paul White and Bob Mandell suggested that the association hold a workshop to discuss research and contact lens related problems. A resolution was passed to take steps to develop and plan such a workshop at one of the schools of optometry in the summer of 1983. Berkeley was chosen as the site for the first workshop and Bob Mandell, Mike Harris and Jim Paramore were appointed to the Workshop Committee with Paul White working on the funding, as he had done for other projects since the association’s inception. Although a two week workshop was initially suggested, budget limitations resulted in a four day workshop. Funds were received from seven contact lens companies and in 1983, the first AOCLE Workshop was held at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry with Contact Lens Research as the primary topic. Slides that had been submitted by the contact lens educators in attendance, for use at this meeting, were later duplicated and distributed to all the schools. As a result of the success of this first workshop, it was decided at the 1983 annual business meeting in New York City that annual, three to four day workshops should be held, with every school eventually acting as host. Subject matter was to be determined by member recommendations and based on the particular strengths of the host institution. New England College of Optometry volunteered to host the second workshop in Boston in 1984. Also, in 1984 through a grant from Cooper Vision, three members of AOCLE; Les Caplan (UAB); Mike Harris (UCB) and Don West (Pacific) participated in a faculty exchange program that was known as the John DeCarle Visiting Professorship. Each one spent two to three weeks in Great Britain lecturing at many of its Schools of Optometry (City University of London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Bradford etc.). Two members from the British Contact Lens Educators Group (BUCKLE), were to visit U.S. schools, but only one, Martin Watts, participated and visited USML, TOSU and SUNY Schools of Optometry. A continuation of the grant by Cooper for another year, to be known as “Hands Across the Ocean” was planned, but it never came to fruition. At the association’s third workshop at Ferris State School of Optometry in 1985, most of the contact lens educators received their first exposure to computer utilization in administration, clinical record keeping and computer-assisted instruction. Jerry Lowther demonstrated one of the earlier Video Disc Players and the first Video Disc Software Program in Optometry, which he had developed, with assistant Glenn Hammack. A number of the participants were so excited by the technology and its perceived value in the classroom and potential impact on individualized instruction, they immediately purchased the hardware and the software package for their own schools. Due to budgetary limitations at the time, this was the only workshop restricted to one member only from each institution.
During the first few years of the workshops it was difficult to get schools to volunteer to be the host school but by the late eighties, there was fierce competition for future sites. Some schools came prepared not only with school and university promotion materials, but also with brochures from their local Visitor’s Bureau.