Winner of Inaugural Student Innovator Award Named


Winner Vanessa Fimreite (second from right) with the judges (from l to r): Dr. Richard Madonna, Ms. Liduvina Martinez-Gonzalez, Dr. David Troilo, Dr. Howard Purcell and Mr. Marc Ferrara
Winner Vanessa Fimreite (second from right) with the judges (from l to r): Dr. Richard Madonna, Ms. Liduvina Martinez-Gonzalez, Dr. David Troilo, Dr. Howard Purcell and Mr. Marc Ferrara

Fourth- Year OD student, Vanessa Fimreite, is the first recipient of the SUNY Student Innovator Award. The $5,000 award, which was first announced at last year’s Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit and sponsored by Essilor of America, Jobson’s Rick Bay Foundation and the College, is designed to reward an original concept developed by a SUNY Optometry student that is impactful, viable and feasible in today’s optometric practice.

President Heath introducing the competition as the judges look on
President Heath introducing the competition as the judges look on

Fimreite’s winning idea, MAVA: Mobile Acuity and Vision Assessment, will be presented for the first time publicly to the attendees at this year’s upcoming VM Global Leadership Summit on April 13.

The competition began last Fall when students were invited to submit abstracts related to innovations or improvements in clinical eyecare, research, practice management, optometric education, health care policy, community education, technology, social media and more.

“Jobson’s Rick Bay Foundation is thrilled to be able to work with Essilor and the SUNY College of Optometry in awarding the first SUNY Student Innovator Award,” said Marc Ferrara, CEO, Information Services for Jobson Medical Information. “The Student Innovator Award program is a unique partnership which will encourage the next generation of optometry to bring impactful, innovative ideas to the profession and our industry.”

These initial submissions were judged by a committee made up of SUNY Optometry faculty and administration and a short list of five innovations were chosen last December. Then, a judging panel made up of Mr. Ferrara, Dr. Howard Purcell, senior vice president of customer development at Essilor of America, Inc., as well as SUNY Optometry’s Dr. Richard Madonna, professor and chair of Clinical Education, Ms. Liduvina Martinez-Gonzalez, vice president for clinical administration and executive director of the University Eye Center and Dr. David Troilo, vice president and dean for academic affairs, was put together to view the presentations on February 12. After the presentations were completed, the judges convened to pick a winner which they announced during a reception after the event.

“The future of optometry is important to Essilor, and through awards like this, we have an opportunity to recognize optometry students whose ideas have the potential to make a lasting impact on our industry,” said Dr. Purcell. “It’s a privilege for me to witness firsthand the caliber of ideas and thinking coming from these students and know that the future of optometry is in very good hands.”

Vanessa Fimreite
Vanessa Fimreite during her presentation

In addition to Fimreite’s winning innovation, third-year OD student, Michael Wallerich was invited by Dr. Purcell to pitch his unique idea to Essilor’s research and development team in Dallas.

“One of our goals at the College is to nurture a strong intellectual curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit in our students,” said SUNY Optometry President David A. Heath. “This event really helped to bring out those qualities. I was very impressed by the innovations that our students presented, and I look forward to seeing what ideas our students develop in the years to come.”

In addition to Fimreite, the other SUNY finalists who presented their ideas included: Patrick Doty (Class of 2017) and Clare Tao (Class of 2017) for Model of a Modern (Sports Vision) Practice; Kar To Ip (Class of 2017), Karen Molina (Class of 2017) and Kevin Zhang (Class of 2017) for Phundus: Interactive Visual Database; Linda Shi (Class of 2017) and Alan Tsai (Class of 2017) for OptimEyes: The Solution to Solutions; and Michael Wallerich (Class of 2017) for LensIQ – Optimizing Care with a Modern Solution.

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