Dr. C. Ellis PotterDr. Ellis Potter, has been announced as the 2017 recipient of the The American Academy of Optometry’s Brien Holden Humanitarian Award. The award, honoring the memory and work of Professor Brien Holden, PhD, DSc, FAAO, recognizes an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to improve eye care within a country or region. In particular, the award acknowledges humanitarian efforts in the nonprofit sector that build or support the development of sustainable eye care systems in developing communities. (See http://www.aaopt.org/regsite/2017-award-recipients).

The coveted Brien Holden Humanitarian Award embraces a bond between the academic and  humanitarian branches of optometry. Dr. Potter, a longtime Fellow of The Academy of Optometry, demonstrates a commitment to both. As a recipient of this Award,  Dr. Potter honors the memory of Brien Holden as well as his accomplishments in VOSH/International. Ellis’ commitment to eradicate world blindness continues until this day.  Dr. Potter is a shining example of a life so rare in continuing humanitarianism. He leads by example and has inspired many.  
Dr. Potter has a lifetime record of humanitarianism. In his community and his profession, he has been an individual that always goes above and beyond. Dr. Potter has a long and distinguished career with Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, both in the International level and in his state chapter. He has been a member of VOSH-Kansas since 1994, leading over 13 VOSH clinic trips. He served in leadership positions within VOSH/International since 2009 and President from 2011-2013. He was recognized as a Fellow  of VOSH/International in 2006,  a member of the Franklin Harms Society in 2013 and awarded a Certificate of Recognition for his contributions to VOSH and is a founding member of the  VOSH Historical Society and a Member of the Scroll of Vision in 2016. As VOSH/International President, Dr. Potter represented VOSH/International at the World Council of Optometry both in 2012 and 2013. He was a symposium Presenter in Philanthropy’s Role in the Development of Quality Global Eye Care sponsored by Alcon and also at AAO Public Health: Sustainable Humanitarian Efforts in International Eye care. He most recently served as VOSH Treasurer, and is currently the co-chair of the VOSH Corps Committee since 2014 and Chair of the VOSH Budget Committee.
Within VOSH/International, Dr. Potter has worked tirelessly to change the VOSH paradigm. Since its inception in 1971, VOSH teams have provided optometry care and glasses to hundreds of thousands of people by thousands of optometrist. VOSH is a force within the volunteer community of optometry. Dr. Potter has played a big role to help VOSH evolve from its original model that provided care in week long clinic trips to developing countries to a model that works with local optometry and health care to create more sustainable models. Dr. Potter has been a key figure in this transition. He has done this in his leadership role as president and his committee work.
One of his main accomplishments is the VOSH Corps Program. VOSH/International, in collaboration with the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Public Health Division and supported by Optometry Giving Sight, is working to build optometric education worldwide, in a long-term effort towards meeting the vision needs around the world. Dr. Potter’s efforts, along with those of Dr. Greg Pearl and others, produced results with the first optometrist, Dr. Justin Manning being sent to serve at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, Managua (UNAN), Optometry School in September, 2015, which saw its first graduating class in Nicaragua in 2017.
Dr. Potter also expanded communications with VOSH’s Regional and Student VOSH Chapters and established 13 new chapters during that time. Dr. Potter developed a COPE approved Continuing Education Course entitled “Eye Care in Developing Nations”. Potter expanded the Technology Transfer Program; collecting and  reconditioning used ophthalmic equipment and transporting it to needy International clinics, schools and other teaching institutions. He created the Franklin Harms Society to recognize participants completing 10 mission trips.  Dr. Potter has represented VOSH/International at global meetings including the World Council of Optometry meetings, both in Chicago, USA and in Malaga, Spain. In 2012 he presented a lecture at the American Academy of Optometry Meeting entitled: Sustainable Humanitarian Efforts in International Eye care.
Following his tenure as VOSH President, he has continued to to stay active by serving as Interim Treasurer as well as being active on several VOSH/International Committees (Executive, VOSH Corps and Budget and Fundraising).  He facilitated three VOSH/International Strategic Planning sessions.  He has participated in additional VOSH mission trips to the Dominican Republic and Chile.
Dr. Potter has has authored 82 professional articles and editorials. He has been a member of the American Optometric Association from 1964-present. He was awarded Kansas Optometrist of the year in 2006. He served on the Board of Directors, Continuing Education, Legislative Key Man, Ethics and Resolutions committees. He also was the Kansas Optometric Journal editor from 1999-2006. Dr. Potter has been very active in the American Academy of Optometry from 1971 to the present. He has attended 37 AAO meetings. He became a Fellow and Diplomate of the Comprehensive Care Section. As with the AOA, Dr. Potter also was active and took leadership roles within the AAO including Admittance Committee and Executive Committee of the Comprehensive Care Section, including serving as Section chair.
Dr. Potter’s humanitarian commitment to his community began early, he started his long and distinguished community service career as a boy scout. He earned his Eagle Award 1960, God and Country Award 1960 and Order of the Arrow Camping Award. Dr. Potter served in the United States Air Force at Kincheloe AFB in Michigan from 1967-1969. He earned the rank of Captain, Optometrist, Biomedical Science Corp. Following his service to his country he made a career of private practice optometry in Colorado and then Kansas.
Beyond optometry, Dr. Potter is involved in many community service activities including Rotary. He has been a Rotarian since 1980, including President from 1987-88. He is involved both at the local level and with Rotary International Foundation. With Rotary International, he became a Paul Harris Fellow 1992 and Benefactor 1993. With Rotary District 6110 (Parts of KS, MO, AR, OK), Dr. Potter was District Governor 7/1/7-6/30/8, he chaired the Kirchner Scholarship 2009-present and was founder and Dean of the District Leadership Academy; 2011-present. He received numerous accolades including: RI District Service Award 4-29-00, RI Four Avenues of Service Citation 5-4-00, Service Above Self Award; Iola Rotary Club; 7-1-04, Kansas Senate Tribute 2007, Excellence in Leadership; Iola Rotary Club 6/2008, Rotary Shares Presidential Citation; RI Pres Wilf Wilkinson 2008, Diploma of Recognition-District 4350; Nov 7, 2008, Honorary Member-Ancud, Chile Rotary Club; 12/2010.
Dr. Potter can be contacted at potter@vosh.org.

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