Optometry’s beloved “Uncle Frank,” who had a remarkable 70-year career, is being honored for his life’s work and indelible imprint he left on the profession with two new awards carrying his name. Frank Fontana, OD, a friend and mentor to many for generations, passed away last fall at the age of 96.

Another Man of Firsts

The first recipient of the Dr. Frank Fontana Career Achievement Award has accomplished an impressive list of many other “firsts.”

Donald Korb, OD, a clinical professor at the University of California Berkeley’s School of Optometry, was an innovator even early in his career. He directed programs at Polaroid, including the first profile topographer in 1965, and was instrumental in the development and launch of the CSI contact lens in 1972. 

While meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a common term in optometry today, it was Dr. Korb who first coined the phrase in 1980, and he also established its mechanism of action. He was also the first to discover and name both giant papillary conjunctivitis and lid wiper epitheliopathy.

Dr. Korb also developed the first hydrogel contact lens, determined the importance of the blink and its relationship to MGD and dry eye disease, and invented both the LipiView and LipiFlow devices.

VSP Global and the Heart of America Eye Care Congress recently partnered to create the Fontana Scholarship, an annual award that will be first allocated in 2020. The award recipient will receive $4,250 in scholarship money and a $750 travel grant to attend the Heart of America’s Eye Care Congress Conference in 2020. Dr. Fontana helped to found the Heart of America meeting in 1962.

The scholarship will be open to third- and fourth-year optometry students who are actively engaged in patient care. Applicants will be judged on four areas of optometry in which Dr. Fontana excelled: clinical performance, empathetic patient care, ability and interest to adopt modern technologies and a strong interest in developing and participating in the optometric community.

Also in the spirit of celebrating Dr. Fontana’s legacy, Review of Optometry renamed its annual lifetime achievement award the “Dr. Frank Fontana Career Achievement Award.” The first award under the new moniker was presented to Dr. Donald Korb, a renowned researcher, innovator and educator in optometry, during the recent SECO conference in New Orleans. Dr. Fontana was the first optometrist to receive the lifetime achievement award from Review of Optometry, in 2014. Dr. Fontana’s expansive career and outreach were also celebrated at the award ceremony.

Additional, as-yet-unannounced awards to honor Dr. Fontana are expected later this year.