Professor Dennis Smith Honored by American Academy of Optometry

Optometry professor Dennis Smith (left) with AAO award namesake Michael Harris at the academy's 2012 convention in Phoenix. [courtesy AAO].

Dr. Smith is the first Pacific faculty member to earn the academy's highest honor for an educator.

The American Academy of Optometry has named Pacific University professor Dennis L. Smith, O.D., MS '87, FAAO, the recipient of the 2012 Michael G. Harris Family Award for Excellence in Optometric Education.

Only one faculty member is chosen for the honor from among the 20 optometry colleges located in the United States and two in Canada, effectively making the recipient the national professor of the year for optometric education. 

Smith was among 17 award honorees at the AAO's 90th annual meeting, held Oct. 24-27 in Phoenix, who were recognized for their contributions to advancing the profession.

A member of Pacific University's College of Optometry's faculty since 1991, Smith teaches courses in systemic disease, physical diagnosis and advanced case analysis.  

Smith has received numerous teaching honors while at Pacific, including the President's Award for Excellence in Professional Education this past spring.

He has also received the Didactic Faculty of the Year accolade (2004), Optometry Faculty Merit Award (1995), and the university's Junior Faculty Award (1993) as well as multiple teacher of the year designations. 

He lectures extensively on the management of ocular and systemic diseases and has published a number of articles in peer-reviewed academic and medical journals. 

"Dr. Smith is regarded as an excellent teacher by many of the students he has taught and mentored," college dean Jennifer Smythe said. "His enthusiasm and ability to take make difficult concepts understandable engages students in a way that keeps the learning process fresh and the curriculum relevant."

Smith is a retinal consultant for the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center's Diabetic Retinopathy telemedicine program. He was instrumental in developing a partnership between the university and Virginia Garcia many years ago that has blossomed into several clinical sites throughout Washington County, including the recent opening of VGMHC's Wellness Center in Cornelius.

Smith served as the first attending doctor for a Pacific vision clinic at Virginia Garcia and the the vision clinic's first director. He was later elected chair of the Virginia Garcia's Board of Directors. 

"Dr. Smith's efforts allowed the College of Optometry to enter into multiple programs with Virginia Garcia, including the development of interprofessional care sites like the one we have in Hillsboro to treat patients with diabetes," Smythe said.

"This has greatly enhanced the education of both optometry and other health professions students at the university by providing them with more clinical experiences."

In addition to his position at Pacific, Smith is a Senior Fellow for the World Council of Optometry. In this role, he spent six weeks in Brazil to help develop college optometry curricula at several universities there.  

Additionally, he has more than 20 years experience practice in hospital-based settings and is also an AAO Fellow (FAAO). 

Founded in 1922, the American Academy of Optometry is committed to promoting the art and science of vision care through lifelong learning. 

Since its inception in 1945, the Pacific University College of Optometry has promoted excellence in vision and eye care through education, service and research.

Posted by Joe Lang ( on Nov 27, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Edited by Jenni Luckett ( on Dec 7, 2012 at 8:33 AM

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