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2016 Awards

OD of the Year - Dr. Susan DeBlack

Dr. Susan DeBlack, of Conway, is the 2016 OD of the Year.  This award is given to the O.D. who has made an outstanding accomplishment during the year and is awarded to a member who has a history of exceptional service to the Association.

Dr. DeBlack has been an active member of the Arkansas Optometric Association since returning home to practice in Arkansas in 1995 and has served on the Board of Directors since 2008.  She currently holds the office of Immediate Past President.  She has served as chair of the membership committee and state coordinator for Vision USA and served on the awards, nominating and convention committees. 

Some examples of her service to Optometry and the association include testifying before the Senate Insurance Committee on behalf of Arkansas Optometric Association in favor of non-covered services legislation, compiling the Arkansas Optometric Workforce Study, and is currently designing a leadership program for the association.

Dr. DeBlack assists with vision screenings at the Arkansas Special Olympics, volunteers regularly at the vision clinic of Shepherd’s Hope Neighborhood Health Center in Little Rock, serves as an InfantSEE provider, and participates in the Brandon Burlsworth Eyes of a Champion program. She is the Vision USA State Coordinator.Dr. DeBlack is a volunteer for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and serves on several committees at the First United Methodist Church in Conway.

Dr. DeBlack uses her expertise in many areas, from written works to presentations.  She has presented for the Girls of Promise STEM program, the Arkansas State University Childhood Services Infant/Toddler Extravaganza, updates on health care reform at regional meetings of the Arkansas Optometric Association, and many other programs designed to promote optometry and educate the public on the eye health and vision.  Dr. DeBlack compiled the Arkansas Optometric Workforce Study in 2015.

DeBlack was invited into membership of the Cougar 100, which recognizes the fastest growing businesses owned by University of Houston alumni.

DeBlack received her undergraduate education at the University of Central Arkansas and earned her Doctor of Optometry degree from University of Houston in 1992.  She became a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry in 2012.

She is married to Tom DeBlack, a professor of history at Arkansas Tech University, and they have a daughter, Susannah.  She is in private practice at DeBlack Eye Care Center in Conway.

Young O.D. of the Year - Melia Robertson, OD

Dr. Melia Robertson of Russellville is the 2016 Young OD of the Year. This award is given to a young optometrist who has been in practice a minimum of four years and is a person who shows promise and interest in ArOA leadership by volunteering her service to committees and special projects and showing an exceptional zeal.

Dr. Robertson began her involvement with the Arkansas Optometric Association in Optometry School.  She served as an Arkansas Student Club President and volunteered at the Arkansas Optometric Association annual conventions.

Since her start in practice in 2010, Dr. Robertson has served in several capacities in the association, including student liaison, career guidance committee, nominating committee, silent auction co-chair, and exhibits chair.  She began her service on the Arkansas Optometric Association board of directors in 2015.

Dr. Robertson opened a practice in Russellville upon graduation.  She volunteers as a Sunday school teacher and volunteer nursery worker at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church, volunteers at the River Valley Christian Clinic and supports the local Lions Club adult vision screening mobile unit. 

Dr. Robertson is married to Justin and they have two children, Emmarie and Evan.  

Lifetime of Excellence - Howard Flippin, O.D.

Dr. Howard Flippin is awarded the 2016 Lifetime of Excellence Award.  This award is given to an optometrist who has exemplified the highest ethical, professional and caring character during his or her practice life and who has reached the later years of their service to optometry, or has retired, and has shown a willingness to serve in numerous capacities.  His/her career has been an example for all Arkansas Optometrists to follow and their life has been one that has had a positive influence upon their family, community and peers.  This member has been an example to others of what it means to put the Arkansas Optometric Association ahead of personal goals.

Dr. Flippin retired in 2008.  He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Arkansas State Board of Optometry.  His service to optometry is vast and includes roles as president in the Arkansas Optometric Association and Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry. 

He has received the O.D. of the Year twice from the Arkansas Optometric Association, in 1980 and 1994, the Distinguished Service Award in 2001 and the Myron Shofner Award of Excellence in 2006. 

Dr. Flippin is married to Ann Flippin and they have three children: Karen, Dane and Tricia.  

Special Service Awards

Dr. Alex Bell of Rogers, Arkansas

Dr. Alex Bell is the recipient of the 2016 Arkansas Optometric Association Special Service Award for his dedication to providing the highest quality educational meetings/conventions in the fall and spring.  This award is given to a member of the Association who served the profession with excellence and is who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, the people of Arkansas, and the Association.

Dr. Bell has served on the convention committee in many capacities since graduation.  His role as Chair of the Convention Committee includes involvement in all areas of the meetings, most especially education.  As chair, Dr. Bell is responsible for making sure that each part of the meeting goes as planned and that each person fulfills his or her obligation. This includes education, paraoptometric education, exhibit hall, golf, social events, and all other areas.

Dr. Bell’s involvement in visual welfare to the public includes membership in the Pea Ridge Lions Club and leadership to advise and raise funding for vision instruments to assist low income children in the area.  He is involved in the Fellowship Bible Church and led the wheelchair drive of the Rogers Noon Rotary Club. 

Bell is a graduate of University of Arkansas and the Southern College of Optometry.  

Dr. Eric Robbins of Conway, Arkansas  

Dr. Eric Robbins is the recipient of the 2016 Arkansas Optometric Association Special Service Award for his dedication to obtaining the highest quality education for the Association events.  This award is given to a member of the Association who served the profession with excellence and is who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, the people of Arkansas, and the Association.

Dr. Robbins begins his quest of recruiting top-notch speakers one to two years before they will be speaking at spring or fall conventions.  His dedication includes an extensive search of lectures and research on the most popular and pertinent topics of education.  In the past several years, education evaluations include the highest praise for the education provided at association meetings.  Robbins has served in this capacity for seven years and has been a member of the convention committee since graduation in 2001. 

Dr. Robbins leads a busy life, focused on family and his profession.  He has served as the Boy Scouts Cub Master of Pack 400 since 2013, on Troop 534 committee, served as a Den Leader since 2010, and has organized an annual Cub Scout Fishing Derby for the past six years.  He sponsors the Beast Feast of Second Baptist Church, which is attended by 2,500 men and boys annually. 

Robbins is an InfantSEE provider and a Brandon Burlsworth Eyes of a Champion provider. Annually, he speaks at the Ruth Doyle Middle School S.T.E.M. night about eye anatomy and eye health while performing live eye dissections on cow eyes.  

Dr. Robbins is a partner at the Arkansas Eye Care Group in Conway.  They received the 2015 Small Business of the Year Award from the Conway Chamber of Commerce.  

Dr. Airiell Schwab of Searcy, Arkansas  

Dr. Airiell Schwab is the recipient of the 2016 Arkansas Optometric Association Special Service Award for her dedication to vision screenings for Special Olympic athletes.  This award is given to a member of the Association who served the profession with excellence and is given to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to our profession, the people of Arkansas, the Association.

Dr. Schwab practices in Searcy at the Searcy Eye Care Center.  She has served as the clinical director for Special Olympics Arkansas since 2011.  During this event, she recruits doctors of optometry and paraoptometric staff for a vision screening event that provides prescription glasses or sunglasses to 200 athletes annually.  Although the actual event lasts for one day, the preparation and follow up lasts throughout the entire year. 

Dr. Schwab’s interest in the service to the visual welfare of the public includes participation in A Day of Caring, which is an annual event benefitting those who live in White County.

Dr. Schwab is a graduate of Lyon College and the Southern College of Optometry.