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Meet the 2017-2018 ArOA Board of Directors

President Matthew Jones, O.D.

Dr. Jones serves as President of the Arkansas Optometric Association.   He serves on many committees in the ArOA including state legal legislative, national legal legislative, convention, career guidance and AOP-PAC. He is also a member of the board of directors for the Association’s charitable foundation, Vision Arkansas. Dr. Jones is a volunteer for SECO International, serving on the Continuing Education Committee. He was recently appointed to the Meetings Center Committee of the American Optometric Association.

In March 2017, Dr. Jones was recognized as the Young Optometrist of the South by SECO International. Dr. Jones received the Arkansas Young Optometrist of the Year Award in 2012. 

Dr. Matthew Jones received his undergraduate degree from the University of Evansville in 2005 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. From there, he attended the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN graduating with honors in 2009.

In the community, Dr. Jones is a member of the Blytheville Rotary Club where he  previously served as treasurer. He now serves as chairman of the Blytheville Rotary Foundation. He is the secretary/treasurer of the Great River Charitable Clinic board of directors where he provides free eye care services and materials for the under-served.  

Dr. Jones practices in Blytheville and Osceola.  He and his wife, Allison, and daughter, Sutton, live in Blytheville.

President-Elect Belinda Starkey, O.D.

Dr. Belinda R. Starkey is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Dr. Starkey graduated from Southern College of Optometry in 2004 and was selected for membership into The Gold Key International Optometric Honor Society. She has achieved licensure in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Dr. Starkey became a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry in 2014. She is a member of the Arkansas Optometric Association and the American Optometric Association. She joined the ArOA Board of Directors in 2012 and is currently President-Elect.  

Dr. Starkey was raised in Mountain Home, AR, and was Valedictorian of Norfork High School.  Outside of the office she enjoys spending time with family, painting and boating.  She is involved in the Dramatic Arts Department at Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas.  She has appeared on an episode of TLC's Arkansas based 19 and Counting and has been a background/atmosphere actor in the film Parker's Anchor.  She and her husband, Clay, and their two dogs live in Rogers where she practices at Parenti-Morris Eyecare.

Vice-President  Daniel Hennessey, O.D.

Dr. Hennessey attended the University of Central Arkansas. He received his Doctor of Optometry degree from Southern California College of Optometry. Upon completion of his residency training at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, he joined the faculty at UAB School of Optometry. He has been in private practice in Little Rock since 1986 and joined Little Rock Eye Clinic in 1991. Dr. Hennessey joined the ArOA Board of Directors in 2013 and currently serves as the Vice-President.  He serves on many committees in the association. He was appointed to the Arkansas State Board of Optometry in 2015.  

Dan and his wife, Beth, live in Little Rock and have three sons, Daniel and wife Victoria, Jason and Michael. They are also just a wee bit proud of their granddaughter, Lynlee Elizabeth. The family attends St. Edward Catholic Church in Little Rock where Dan serves as deacon. He was ordained to the ministry in 1998.

Secretary/Treasurer Jeffrey Netzel, O.D.

Dr. Jeff A. Netzel received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and his Doctorate from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis.

A native of Northwest Arkansas, Dr. Netzel feels it is important to get involved in his community. He is a current member of the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce as well as other service organizations.

Professionally, he is board certified in the Treatment and Management of Ocular Disease, a member of the American Optometric Association, and a member of the Arkansas Optometric Association.  He is currently serving on the board as secretary/treasurer of the Arkansas Optometric Association.  He serves as the secretary/treasurer for the AOP-PAC and as chair of the membership committee.

Dr. Netzel resides in Springdale with his wife Jill and his three children, Kate, Caroline, and Will.

Immediate Past President Bryan Armstrong, O.D.

Dr. Bryan Armstrong is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He is a 2000 graduate of the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee. He serves as Immediate Past President for the Arkansas Optometric Association, is a member of the American Optometric Association, The Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce for Benton and Bryant.

In addition to optometry, Dr. Armstrong enjoys spending time with his wife, Annette, and their children, Kendall, Kip, Andrew, Emmaline, Elizabeth, Lina Grace and Maggie. They are members of Cross Roads Missionary Baptist Church and he coaches the USSSA Saline County Cyclones. In his free time he enjoys hunting and fishing. 

Joe Sugg, O.D., Director

Dr. Joe Sugg of Heber Springs is an alumnus of Arkansas State University.  He received his Doctorate of Optometry from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee in 2009.  He is in private practice at the Heber Springs Eye Care Center in Heber Springs, Arkansas. He is past president of the Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Heber Springs.  

Dr. Sugg’s involvement in the association includes serving as the AOP-PAC Chair, and as a member of the nominating, membership, and state legal legislative committees. Dr. Sugg received the 2013 Young OD of the Year Award from the Arkansas Optometric Association.  He participates in the Brandon Burlsworth Eyes of a Champion program and also helps provide eye exams at the Arkansas Special Olympics.  

Dr. Sugg and his wife, Ali, have two children, Spencer and Sydney. 

Gavin McDowell, O.D., Director

Dr. Gavin McDowell received his Doctor of Optometry from IAU.  He began practice in 2006 and  maintains clinics in Newport, Pocahontas and Trumann.  He joined the Arkansas Optometric Association Board of Directors in 2014 and serves on several committees including the State Legislative Committee and the Career Guidance Committee.

He is a vocal proponent of private optometry and is an active member in Rotary and Lion's clubs in the communities that he serves.  He and his wife, Laura, have three sons: Gavin Trent, Copper, and Rees, and all are members of the First United Methodist Church in Jonesboro.  His interests include participating in triathlons, marathons, and other endurance events.  

Melia Robertson, O.D., Director

Dr. Robertson was elected to the ArOA Board of Directors on April 24, 2015.  Dr. Robertson graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, AR in 2006 where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.  She graduated from SCO in 2010 Magna Cum Laude with Beta Sigma Kappa Honors. She opened a private practice the following year in Russellville. 

Dr. Robertson became active in the Arkansas Optometric Association as a student at SCO and served as Arkansas Optometric Student Association President.   She serves as chair of the Awards committee, on the Career Guidance Committee, the nominating committee and the convention committee. 

Dr. Robertson was awarded the 2016 Young O.D. of the Year by the Arkansas Optometric Association. 

Dr. Robertson provides eye exams to children through the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation and volunteers time and services at the River Valley Christian Clinic. She and her family attend Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Russellville where her husband serves as a deacon.  Dr. Robertson is married to Justin, a certified public accountant, and they reside in Russellville with their two children, Emmarie and Evan.  

James Hertzog, O.D., Director

Dr. Hertzog is the owner and optometric physician of Hertzog Family Eye Care in Cabot and Jacksonville.  He graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, and the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tenn. He is a Past President of the Cabot Lions Club and a past Board Member of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce.  He is the ArOA Vision Consultant to Medicaid. Dr. Hertzog gives his time to Optometry by promoting public awareness through health fairs, social media and eye screenings with the Lions Club.

Other accomplishments and awards include: Arkansas Democrat –Gazette’s “20 to Watch in 2013”; the Arkansas Optometric Association Young Optometrist of the Year in 2011; voted Best Practice/Optometrist by the Lonoke County Reader’s Choice several years running; the 2013 Cabot Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year; the 2014 ArOA Special Service award; and 2014 Cabot Panther Foundation's Hall of Fame.

Of all of his accomplishments he is most proud to be the loving husband to Dr. Charity Hertzog and father to his three sons, Jacob, Jonah, and Isaac.

Alex Bell, O.D., Director

A native of Rogers, Arkansas, Dr. Bell received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Arkansas.  Dr. Bell went on to graduate Cum Laude from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN.  He completed extensive training in ocular surgery co-management, glaucoma diagnosis/management, and contact lens and joined Parenti-Morris Eye Care in 2009.  Dr. Bell joined the board in 2017.  He serves as the convention committee chair

In the community, he is past-chair of the Wheelchair committee for local Rotary Club, and leads community group and serve for children’s classes at Fellowship Bible Church. 

“I believe in the mission and vision of optometry in this state, and I believe our Doctors do remarkable things for the people of Arkansas. I want to serve in any capacity that is asked of me to move our profession forward,” said Dr. Bell.He is married to Lauren and has three children: Rooney, Grey, and Marshall.

Russell Simmons, O.D. Director

Dr. Rusty Simmons is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Biology.  In 1983, he received his Doctor of Optometry degree from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. Simmons is in private practice in his hometown of Benton.  He joined the Arkansas Optometric Association Board in 2017.  He has chaired the Nominating and Awards Committees and served on the board in the past.  He currently chairs the Career Guidance Committee.  He received the Distinguished Service Award in 2012 and assisted in creating the Lifetime Achievement Award.  He is an avid supporter of Optometry Giving Sight.

Rusty and his wife, Karol, have three children, Bradley, Will and Brynne.  They attend First Baptist Church in Benton and in his free time he enjoys fishing and finding new restaurants.

Click here for a list of past ArOA Presidents

ArOA Staff

At the Arkansas Optometric Association, our staff is dedicated to our members. We take pride in our personalized service and strive to provide every member with positive experiences.

Executive Director: Vicki Farmer, IOM, CAE

Executive Assistant: Debbie Henley 

Phone: 501-661-7675

Fax: 501-372-0233

1401 W. Capitol, Ste 247

Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

Email: aroa@arkansasoptometric.org