Southern College of Optometry (SCO) student Hunter Chapman, ’16, pictured at center, was recently elected president of the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) at the AOSA Board of Trustees meeting in San Francisco. The largest student organization in optometry, AOSA’s 6,500 student membership includes more than 95% of all students in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada.
Chapman becomes the first SCO student to serve as AOSA President since Jeffrey Dunn, OD ’94, was elected in 1993; prior to that, Michael Goins, OD ’81, led the AOSA in 1980-1981. A native of Monroe, Louisiana, he is a 2012 graduate of Louisiana State University. Chapman’s other leadership includes service as an AOSA Trustee, AOA-PAC National Liaison to the American Optometric Association, and as an SCO Student Ambassador.
The election of an SCO student to lead the nation’s largest student optometry organization culminates a period over the last five years that has seen a new generation of SCO students assume leadership roles at AOSA, including Megan Moll, OD ’09, as treasurer in 2008-2009, Matt Willis, OD ’11, as secretary in 2010-2011, and Elizabeth Turnage, OD ’12, as treasurer in 2011-12.
Chapman’s election also underscores the fact that three leaders of national optometry groups enjoy ties to SCO. In addition to Chapman’s service, fellow student Brittany Tounsel, ’15, pictured at left, currently serves as president of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA). A number of optometry colleges maintain NOSA chapters, each dedicated to the organization’s mission of promoting diversity in optometry, serving members of underprivileged communities, and providing support to multicultural students in the optometric profession.
Tounsel, a graduate of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, is currently spending her optometry externship at the practice of SCO Board of Trustees member Chris Wroten, OD ’02, a former president of the Optometry Association of Louisiana. Chapman will enter an externship rotation at the same practice in the fall. Dr. Wroten was named Young Optometrist of the Year by the AOA in 2012 and has received numerous other accolades in recognition of his leadership to the profession.
Elsewhere at the national level, the American Optometric Association’s current president is an SCO alumnus, David Cockrell, OD ’81, pictured at right. During a recent visit to address SCO students, Dr. Cockrell noted that a significant proportion of state optometry associations are led by SCO alumni as presidents or executive directors.
Dr. Cockrell’s national leadership, along with other alumni before him, helps in fulfilling one of SCO’s strategic goals in which SCO’s alumni are encouraged to serve as role models to future young leaders through service to their profession and communities. That strategic plan vision was developed and led by SCO’s President, Richard W. Phillips, OD ’78, the incoming president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). Dr. Phillips also is a former president of Tennessee’s optometry association and SECO International, the regional organization representing membership in the country’s southeastern states.
The call to service and leadership at the national level seems to have a bright future with incoming students. Mike Robertson, SCO’s Director of Admissions & Enrollment Services, noted that several presidents of undergraduate pre-optometry clubs have enrolled or deposited as incoming students for the fall of 2018’s entering class at SCO.
“SCO’s leadership from students, faculty, and alumni in recent years have helped cement the college’s reputation as a leader in optometric education,” added Sunnie Ewing, SCO’s Director of Student Recruitment.