October 27, 2016 New England College of Optometry, NECO, hosted its Profiles in Vision 2016 Gala on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at the InterContinental Boston. Over 250 alumni, faculty, staff, students, sponsors and supporters attended the event which focused on the high impact of low vision services. Proceeds from the gala will benefit New England College of Optometry’s patient care low vision rehabilitation programs and other outreach services.
The evening included a reception, silent auction, and dinner reception, followed by a speaking program. Silent auction items included a Back Bay Escape, private boat cruise, a weekend on the Cape, first row Red Sox tickets, and an evening of poker at the Mandarin Hotel, hosted by Ben Mezrich, best-selling author of Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions.
Event co-chair John Connors, Boathouse Inc., talked about leadership and innovation at NECO, noting that the “magic of this institution is the multiplier affect that occurs when you take a student and put them in a community and they help other people. It happens when you make them a leader and they impact policy that helps people who are visually impaired. At NECO, the faculty doesn’t just teach students, they provide opportunities to help people through their work. I call this unselfish education.”
President Clifford Scott, OD '68, MPH, emceed the event and thanked the corporate and community sponsors present at the gala. He described the College's continued commitment to partnerships with community health centers, the Boys and Girls Club, and other service organization to bring care to underserved populations. He discussed the 40 year relationship between the College and community health centers, explaining that James Hunt, Jr., President of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, has helped the College “stay at the forefront at what is happening in community care.” As part of their clinical education, students at New England College of Optometry work throughout the New England Eye network, including providing eye care at community health centers, hospitals, schools, and VA medical centers.
James Hunt, Jr. spoke about importance of providing eye care services for underserved populations at community health centers and at community centers such as the Boys and Girls Club. “Improving access to eye and vision care and services to diverse communities continues to be the cornerstone of NECO’s clinical program,” he explained. “The College provides low vision and rehabilitation services at the Perkins School for the Blind, the Carroll Center and to residents throughout the Commonwealth through the mobile van.” The College’s mobile clinic travels throughout the state, bringing care directly to at-risk children and adults by providing eye exams, eyeglasses, and low vision rehabilitation directly on-site at schools, senior housing, and assisted living facilities.
Evening honoree Janet LaBreck, Commissioner of Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) for the United States Department of Education, has been connected with the College since her first visit as a child, meeting with Dr. Asarkof, a leader in low vision. She noted that clinicians may never know the impact they will have on someone’s life. When she was denied coverage for a glare-reducing pair of glasses as a young adult, Dr. Asarkof encouraged her to appeal the decision. Her advocacy efforts from the experience led to a job offer and a lifelong commitment and career trajectory in patient advocacy.
Commissioner LaBreck also discussed the tremendous impact providing low vision services can have on a patient’s life, noting that patient evaluations also introduce patients to technologies and services that can help with low vision. “These individuals,” she noted, “use tools and strategies on a day to day basis to make them independent, productive, and, most importantly, contributors to the community.”
Speaking directly to current NECO students at the event, she inspired them by noting that as practitioners, they have an incredible amount of power to impact people’s lives through their response, their treatment, and the hope they can offer. She noted, “After they see you, patients can begin planning their lives that moves them beyond what their diagnosis is. That’s what is so powerful about the work you do and the partnerships you engage in.”
The evening ended with special guest speaker, internationally acclaimed Boston author Ben Mezrich. Mr Mezrich entertained the crowd by describing his pathway to non-fiction and sharing stories of how he came to write about the founding of Facebook, the successful poker playing MIT students, and the UFO sightings on the 37th Parallel. He also donated an evening of poker, serving as host, to the silent auction.
About New England College of Optometry
New England College of Optometry, NECO, is an independent graduate college of optometry that educates students for careers in eye care delivery, research and education. For over 130 years, the New England College of Optometry has been educating optometrists and leaders in the field. Originally founded in 1894 as the Klein School of Optics, NECO prepares the next generation of eye care providers, educators, leaders, and innovators through a rigorous curriculum and extensive clinical experiences. Through a vast network of clinical affiliations, our students put patient care first, providing vision care to children, older adults, the homeless, and individuals with disabilities through our mobile eye clinic, satellite clinics in schools, homeless shelters, community health centers, and VA medical centers.
Media Contact: Ingrid Hoogendoorn, Director of Communications