The Foundation: Advancing Optometry, Vision Science, And Patient Care

Pete Kollbaum, OD, PhD, FAAO discusses how the Foundation advances optometry, vision science, and ultimately the patient care.

Cara Moore: Hi everyone. Thanks for watching Optometry TV. I’m Cara Moore. I’m joined now by Dr. Pete Kollbaum, President of the American Academy of Optometry Foundation. Thanks for being here.

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Cara Moore: So tell us a little bit about the foundation briefly.

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: So, as many of us would know, one of the main goals of the Academy is to advance optometry, vision science, and ultimately the patient care, through the advancement of education and research. And the foundation supports that mission through providing grants and fellowships to individuals in order to help them advance their careers.

Cara Moore: And an important part of all that is the President circle, right?

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: The President’s circle is one, certainly one method that allows individuals to donate their financial resources. It’s a pledge commitment that allows individuals to say over a 10 year period, pay $10,000 into a fund of their choice that helps advance a particular area of optometry and vision science, and again, ultimately advance patient care within that area.

Cara Moore: So how important are those donor dollars?

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: Obviously every donor dollar is important. But in particular, the advantage of the President’s circle dollars is it’s a, it’s a commitment that the foundation knows is coming in to help support the foundation’s missions. And with that, that allows the foundation to plan into the future somewhat. And say, over this 10 year period, we want to be able to provide X number of scholarships to X number of individuals. And so being able to have that commitment and make that planning is really integral to continuing to grow. What we’re able to do, grow what optometry is able to do, and how we’re able to care for our patients.

Cara Moore: And as President of the foundation, you’ve sort of come full circle, right, because you actually benefited from those donor dollars.

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: Correct. Yeah. When I was, well, when I graduated optometry school, I worked in private practice for a while and then decided I wanted to get more involved in education and research. So I left private practice to go back into Grad school. And as I made that shift into Grad school, it’s of course a, a drastic change in my financial salary, going from a typical practice practitioner salary to a graduate student’s salary. And at the same time that I’m trying to still pay off my loans from optometry school. And so it was a very crucial time for me during that adjustment where I once was in graduate school, I was then awarded a fellowship by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation. In particular, it was an Azell fellowship named after one of the founders of the foundation, back in 1947. And, the Azell fellowship is particularly aimed for individuals that are transitioning some from clinical care into research and education. Others, just as a mechanism in order to encourage more individuals to go into research and education of optometry students and vision science students.

Cara Moore: And I would imagine that fellowship made a pretty big impact on your life.

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: It did. It allowed me to continue to pay off my loans and still put food on the table. So.

Cara Moore: So an easy decision to give back to the foundation.

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: Very easy. Yeah. The President of the foundation at the time, I think, called me one day or and said, you know, would this be something that you were interested in? And I think I had to think about it a few seconds. I mean, it’s interesting that you can think on one level, $10,000 seems like a large amount of money. But if you think, well, I can, paying that over a period of 10 years, well, that’s $1,000 a year or $3 a day. So I think most people can consider that as an alternative. Me, I was at an interesting point where I was quite young in my career. I was still, I think in Grad school when I first joined the President’s circle. And so it was, you know, again, there was some sticker shock to it, but a very easy decision to know that individuals had before me had I tried to pay it forward, to help people like me at the time. So again, a very easy decision for me to say, I need to pay that forward for other individuals so they could have, at least doors open to some of the same opportunities that were made available to me.

Cara Moore: Well, you’re sitting here as proof of the importance of that, the President’s dollars so we appreciate it.

Dr. Pete Kollbaum: Thank you.

Cara Moore: Yep. Thanks for being here. And thanks for watching Optometry TV.

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