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New England College of Optometry Competes for $5,000 Grant

BOSTON (April 6, 2016) – New England College of Optometry (NECO) is in the running to receive a $5,000 unrestricted educational grant through the University Education Challenge, a program designed by ABB OPTICAL GROUP to support the optometrists of tomorrow.

The ABB OPTICAL GROUP created the University Education Challenge for optometry students to develop their research and presentation skills while learning more about eye care and contact lenses. ABB OPTICAL GROUP, a leading distributor of optical products, is hosting the challenge in partnership with Paragon Vision Sciences, a manufacturer of specialty contact lens materials.

New England College of Optometry is one of seven schools participating in the challenge. NECO will be judged on the strength of a one-hour webinar created by a team of students and viewed by eye care professionals nationwide in March.

The title of NECO’s presentation was Novel and Emerging Uses of Contact Lenses.  “As a group, we decided that we wanted to focus on something different from what we learn in the classroom,” said Blair Germain, a third-year student and president of NECO’s Contact Lens Society. “Practitioners, as well as most of the general public, are already aware of the common uses of contact lenses, so we wanted to shed some light on lesser-known uses that are developing.”

For the presentation, the team focused on innovative ways contact lenses can be utilized: as medical technology to monitor and treat diseases; as a means of integrating technology into daily living; as a way to enhance sports; and how they can be used to help animals. Each student focused on an area of interest within the topic and all came together to create the final presentation. 

Other members of NECO's team included Michael Merritt, Kelsey Jordan, Hilary Hamer and Jesse Hogan, all third-year students and members of NECO’s Contact Lens Society. Assistant Professor, Andrew McLeod, MS, OD, FAAO, oversaw the students' efforts.  

The NECO presentation will be judged against webinars led by student teams from the Indiana University School of Optometry, Southern College of Optometry, Pacific University College of Optometry, the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry, the University of Missouri College of Optometry and Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry. 

Presentations started in September and continue through May, with the winner announced at the 2016 Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators meeting in June. In addition to the $5,000 unrestricted educational grant awarded to the school, the winning students also will receive a $500 prize for the team.

“The University Education Challenge is an opportunity for students to develop their research skills and present a relevant, contact lens-related topic to a national audience while working closely with fellow students and faculty in a collaborative effort,” said Ann Shackelford, director of consultation and specialty services at ABB OPTICAL GROUP. “We opened the challenge to all optometry schools back in June at the 2015 AOCLE meeting and these colleges were the first to respond, filling all available slots. We look forward to viewing all of the presentations and helping to further the study of contact lenses.”

For more information about the University Education Challenge, visit UniversityChallenge.

About New England College of Optometry

New England College of Optometry (NECO), the oldest college of optometry in the country, was established in Back Bay neighborhood of Boston in 1884. NECO prepares the next generation of eye care providers, educators and innovators through extensive programs and clinical experiences. New England Eye (NEE) is the patient care and clinical education affiliate of the New England College of Optometry. NEE is one of the largest optometric service providers in Massachusetts with 43 locations. For more information about New England College of Optometry, visit


ABB OPTICAL GROUP is a leading distributor of optical products in the United States. The company supplies nearly two-thirds of eye care professionals across the country with brand name contact lenses, fully customizable gas permeable and custom specialty soft contact lenses, ophthalmic lenses and more. The company's Digital Eye Lab is a fully automated optical lab dedicated to freeform digital lens fabrication. ABB OPTICAL GROUP also offers practice building services such as pricing strategy tools, business reviews, annual supply staff training and e-commerce solutions. For additional information, visit