SUNY Optometry Foundation to Recognize Several Honorees at its Upcoming Virtual Eyes on New York Gala, Now Set for Nov. 5

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NEW YORK—The Optometric Center of New York, the affiliated foundation of the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry, will recognize the contributions of several honorees and celebrate the recent opening of the Barbara Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care in the College's facilities during the "Reframed: Eyes on New York Gala." Originally scheduled for March, the gala has now been planned as a virtual event on Thursday, Nov. 5. Proceeds from this year’s Eyes on New York Awards Celebration will support optometry student scholarships and vision care for patients at SUNY Optometry and the University Eye Center. 

Among those being recognized are Denise M. Whittam, OD, a 1991 graduate of SUNY Optometry, who is the “Alumna of the Year."

“I cannot think of a more dedicated alumna for this year’s award. Dr. Whittam is a wonderful advocate both for our students and the optometry profession and has been for almost three decades,” said Dawn Rigney, executive director for the Optometric Center of New York and vice president of institutional advancement for the College. “From leading the Alumni Association and mentoring students to dedicating her career to help children overcome impaired vision, Dr. Whittam embodies the compassion, commitment, and leadership we strive to instill in our graduates.”


Denise M. Whittam
“To be honored and recognized by one’s own colleagues and friends is by far the highest achievement one can attain,” Dr. Whittam said. “I never realized that my experience at SUNY College of Optometry and pursuing the optometric profession would lead to meeting such incredibly bright, inspirational people, who not only became my friends, but also my family. I would be lost without their support and friendship.

"I am eternally grateful to the faculty of SUNY for passionately sharing their knowledge and clinical skills with me, not only during my four years at SUNY but ongoing to this day. They have become my mentors, my confidantes, and my friends, who feel like brothers and sisters to me for the rest of my life.”

Dr Whittam recently received an award celebrating her 40 years of work with Cohen’s Fashion Optical. While in high school, Dr. Whittam worked as a part-time employee at a Cohen’s branch in Manhattan, and today is their lead practitioner.

During her 26 years as a volunteer with the Alumni Association Board, she remained a regular presence on the SUNY Optometry campus, helping to support the College’s fundraising efforts and sharing her enthusiasm for the profession with future classes. Dr. Whittam has served as the president of the New York State Optometric Association, Optometric Society of the City of New York, the Children’s Vision Coalition, and SUNY College of Optometry Alumni Association Board. In 2014, she was named Optometrist of the Year by the New York State Optometric Association.

Also to be recognized at this year's virtual Eyes on New York event will be Eyes on Leadership honoree, Eva Kosanovic, president of Keeler, medical devices and ophthalmic supply company; and the Eyes on Rising Stars, Jessica and Ella-Jane Darcy, founders of Funoogles—a children’s eyewear company that allows kids to easily change the colors of their frames.

The event will also salute the recent opening of the Barbara Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care, a 5,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility accommodating the growing need for both basic and advanced pediatric eyecare within the University Eye Center at the College. VMAIL reported on the center's innovative approach earlier this year.

Tickets are free but pre-registration is required. VIP and sponsorship opportunities are available. Additional information and registration are available at www.sunyopt.edu/gala.