American Academy of Optometry Names Dr. Akio Kanai as Winner of Brien Holden Humanitarian Award

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Dr. Akio Kanai (second from right) in Azerbaijan in 2018.

SYDNEY—Dr. Akio Kanai, chief executive officer of Fuji Optical, has been announced as the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award winner for 2018 by the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) for his efforts in delivering vision care to refugee communities over more than three decades. The Brien Holden Humanitarian Award is awarded annually by AAO as a way to honor the memory and work of Professor Brien Holden, PhD, DSc, FAAO. The award recognizes an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to improve eyecare within a country or region. In particular, the award acknowledges humanitarian efforts in the non-profit/not-for-profit sector that build or support the development of sustainable eyecare systems in developing communities.

Dr. Kanai is a graduate of the Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University (MBKU). He began cooperating with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1984, and has since conducted more than 35 missions to help refugees in Nepal, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Armenia. In addition, he has donated more than 160,000 pairs of glasses, provided optometry equipment, made cash grants and trained local medical staff as part of these efforts. Fuji Optical is UNHCR's longest-serving corporate partner.

Dr. Kanai, who knew Brien Holden through involvement with the Asia Pacific Council of Optometry, said of Holden, “We really lost a great person who contributed so much for the developing countries.” He added, “It is my great honor to receive the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Optometry.”

Amanda Davis, chief executive officer of the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation, said Dr. Kanai’s commitment to delivering eyecare to refugee communities over more than 30 years, and which continues today, is truly humanitarian. “Both through his own efforts and through the contributions of Fuji Optical, he has brought much needed eyecare to our most vulnerable people, and his dedication to this cause over such a long period is really inspiring to others working in the field,” she said.

In 2006, Dr Kanai received the Nansen Refugee Award from UNHCR and in May, 2018, an honorary degree from MBKU. He will receive the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award at AAO’s annual meeting, held Nov. 7 to 10 in San Antonio, Texas. Read about Dr Kanai's work in Azerbaijan and Armenia here.