VOSH/International presents the prestigious VOSH/INTERNATIONAL DR. HARRY I. ZELTZER LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD to a person who has been recognized during a lifetime of service to humanity for improving visual welfare through leadership, invention, public health, developing sustainable eye care and furthering the understanding and correction of refractive error. It is not an annual award and meets the highest criteria that exemplifies the spirit of VOSH/International. The Dr. Harry I. Zeltzer Lifetime Achievement Award was presented this year at the 25th VOSH Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois on October 14, 2017 to C. Ellis Potter, OD, FAAO, FVI.

These are the remarks he made when accepting this prestigious award:

            This is a huge honor to be not only associated with, but named as a recipient for the Harry Zeltzer Lifetime Achievement Award named after my friend and colleague, Dr. Harry Zeltzer.  Harry is one of the greats, a hall of famer for VOSH/International.  When I was President, he served not only as VOSH executive director but as a personal mentor and advisor.  We had many conversations. I can’t say enough about him as a friend and colleague.  I was truly blessed to have his aid and blessed for you to consider me in the same league with him.  

                        VOSH/International has come a long way in the last 10-15 years.  We have evolved.  We have used our International contacts to serve hundreds of thousands of patients in thousands of clinics with thousands of volunteers.  We have helped build and support the development of sustainable eye care systems in developing countries.  We have improved our administration with an informative web site, using conference calls and online communication, and by appointing an executive director.  We have recognized the importance of data collection and how it interrelates with our objectives and goals.  We have increased our public image exponentially to become a full-fledged program capitalizing on many media fronts.  We have gradually helped our chapters understand sustainability and the need for full service eye care. We have outreached to introduce humanitarian endeavors to Students and others in far reaching places.  We are recognized as advocates for the underprivileged.  We are welcomed as colleagues and equals at major meetings.  We have delivered equipment in faraway places.  We have led by example as a signee to open the new Optometry School in Haiti as well as being part of the development of the Optometry Schools in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  We have implemented the exciting VOSH Corp program to provide more educators in developing Optometry Schools.   We have encouraged participation in Domestic clinics and worked to develop a Disaster response.  We encouraged and incorporated our student colleagues and chapters into our long-range plans and objectives.

            We have done much, but we could do more.  I challenged the Board at the mid-year strategic planning event to think big and out of the box.  We could do much more if we had significant independent funding.  We could do much more with short term visitation and hosting of international colleagues in academic interchanges.  We could do more with many more sustainable vision locations to recommend to our chapters.  We could do more if we had more engaged participants.  We could do more with more individuals at this Annual meeting to hear of the possibilities and exchange ideas.  We could do more by joining with other organizations with common cause.  We could do more if we partnered with other NGO’s, Vendors, and Corporations.  We could do more if we partnered with other health care organizations.  We could do more if our board of directors had a greater range of representation.  We could do more if we seized upon our unparalleled name recognition and a reputation for doing good.  We could do more if _______________…  I’ll let you finish the sentence. 

            We are limited only by our own thought, imagination and energy.  I challenge each of you to think big and out of the box; to find creative ways to do these things and even more on a greater scale.  We can do more!  We can do much more!

            You have paid me the highest compliment with the Dr. Harry Zeltzer Lifetime Achievement Award but I couldn’t have done these things myself.   Working together, finding new ideas, executing significant plans can only be accomplished with teamwork.  You are part of the team.  And so part of the thanks for this award goes to you!  I Thank YOU! 

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021