UMSL College of Optometry faculty Julie DeKinder and Vinita Henry receive national awards from AOA’s Contact Lens and Cornea Section Council

by | Jul 17, 2023

The awards recognize innovation and leadership in the field of contact lenses and anterior segment disease.
Julie DeKinder and Vinita Henry

UMSL Optometry faculty members Julie DeKinder (left) and Vinita Henry recently received awards from the American Optometric Association Contact Lens and Cornea Section Council. (Photos by August Jennewein)

During its annual meeting on June 23, the American Optometric Association Contact Lens and Cornea Section Council gave out a handful of awards to recognize innovation and leadership in the field of contact lenses and anterior segment disease. Out of six awards presented to optometrists across the country, two went to faculty members in the College of Optometry at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Dr. Vinita Henry received the Achievement Award, in recognition of outstanding long-term contribution to the optometric profession in the area of contact lenses and eye care, and Dr. Julie DeKinder received the Dr. Rodger Kame Award in recognition of a section member who has unselfishly given service to the field and made a positive impact on fellow practitioners.

“We are very fortunate to have faculty of the caliber of Dr. Vinita Henry and Dr. Julie DeKinder, who are both highly and widely respected experts in the field of cornea and contact lens,” Dean Keshia Elder said. “Dr. Henry has led an extraordinary career in cornea and contact lenses – she is a co-editor of one of the most commonly used books in contact lenses and has served in multiple leadership positions throughout the field of optometry. Dr. DeKinder is not only an expert in cornea and contact lens; she’s a sought-after lecturer and contributes greatly in the accreditation of optometry schools. Both of these faculty members are very well-rounded, respected and selfless servants in the field of optometry, and these awards are very well-deserved.”

Vinita Henry and Julie DeKinder

Henry and DeKinder received their awards during the American Optometric Association Contact Lens and Cornea Section Council’s annual meeting on June 23. The awards recognize innovation and leadership in the field of contact lenses and anterior segment disease. (Photo by Keshia Elder)

Neither DeKinder nor Henry knew they were being considered for the awards, and both said they were surprised, honored and humbled upon finding out. It’s rare for two members of the same institution to receive awards during the same year, and DeKinder said it was especially meaningful to be recognized alongside her mentor, Henry, who along with Professor Emeritus Dr. Ed Bennett, helped lay the foundation for UMSL’s cutting-edge contact lens program.

“It was impactful to me to receive an award on the same night as my mentor,” DeKinder said. “I was thrilled because Dr. Henry is so deserving to receive the Achievement Award. It was a really great night for UMSL. The UMSL College of Optometry has always been a strong contributor in the world of education related to contact lenses. I joined the faculty after Dr. Henry and Dr. Bennett really had made a huge impact on the world of education, sharing their knowledge through textbooks that are used nationwide. I have been very honored and lucky to work with both of them. Both Dr. Henry and I receiving awards makes me really feel like we’re still on the forefront of contact lens education and that we’re working hard to let people know that we’re serious about contact lens education at UMSL. We’re not going to change; we’re going to continue trying to be at the forefront of education and impact as many lives as we can.”

And that wasn’t the only recent recognition for Henry, who also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators this year. Henry has been actively involved with the organization, which features members from different colleges of optometry from across the country, for many years and said she was honored to be recognized by her peers. But she was also quick to credit Bennett’s work in establishing the UMSL College of Optometry’s contact lens program.

“I think that the awards are a testimony to the strong contact lens program at the college,” Henry said. “This contact lens program was started at the beginning of the college by Dr. Ed Bennett, and his influence and mentorship created a continuation of a strong program for our students through the faculty he influenced.”

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Heather Riske

Heather Riske

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