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October 5, 2010

SUNY Optometry President Receives Honor in China

Dr. David A. Heath, President of the SUNY College of Optometry, was one of 50 foreign experts from 16 countries honored for their outstanding contributions to China's development at the annual Friendship Award ceremony in Beijing, Sept. 30, 2010.  Created in 1991, the Friendship Award is the highest honor given to foreign experts by China.

Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang presented Dr. Heath with the award in the Great Hall of the People.

In congratulating the recipients, Zhang said "China's modernization and fight against financial crisis have been helped by foreign experts' wisdom."

Dr. Heath was recognized for nearly twenty years of work with the Wenzhou Medical College, along with other medical universities, to expand access to eye care in China.  Dr. Heath efforts in China have produced new models of medical education for eye care; national standards in the discipline of optometry; the first international, doctoral-level, joint-degree program in modern China, and, most recently, an emerging model of eye care for serving the visually disabled in the new Center of Excellence in Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation in Wenzhou.

As spokesperson for the honorees during the awards ceremony in Beijing, Dr. Heath said in his address," China's Friendship Award is important, not simply because it recognizes contributions made by foreign experts, but because it serves as a statement of what is important to China. It reflects the commitment of government leaders to the future vitality of the country."

Since assuming the presidency of the SUNY College of Optometry in 2007, he has signed affiliation agreements between the College and two of China's most prestigious medical institutions; The Wenzhou Medical College and the Zhejiang University. He recently attended the official opening of the Center of Excellence in Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation at the Eye Hospital of Wenzhou Medical College funded in part by a grant to SUNY from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind. According to Dr. Heath, this new Center will become a model for the establishment of similar centers throughout China.

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