Dr. Gary Asano is the first Asian American in the U.S. to be the recipient of two of the top three low-vision rehabilitation awards in the eye care professions.
These have been in relative close proximity time-wise, the first being the Envision Oculus Award at the Envision National Conference in Wichita, Kan. in August 2018, and the most recent being the Jerry Davidoff Memorial Low Vision Care Award from the American Optometric Association Vision Rehabilitation Committee, in mid-June 2019 at the national Optometry’s Meeting, in St. Louis, Mo.
The Oculus Award, in its 14th year, has only been presented to one other individual O.D. since its inception, and reads: “For one whose career has had a national or international impact for people who are blind or low vision through professional collaboration, advocacy, research and/or education.”
The Low Vision Care Award, which has more than a 25-year history, is “For outstanding service and dedication to the visual welfare of the public and for contributions to the advancement of vision care research.”
Dr. Asano, a native of Los Angeles, has an extensive background in the specialty field of low-vision rehabilitation. This field, which has so many patients with vision impairments not readily corrected with conventional glasses or contact lenses, is tremendously underserved by less than 500 specialized eye care professionals in the U.S.
The number of those who currently need low-vision rehabilitation care may be as many as 21 million, so there is a wide disparity, hence Asano’s concentration on educating optometric students in the last 20 years. He has given numerous lectures at national, regional, state and local meetings, and has worked tirelessly as an advocate on the state and national organizational levels to promote the expansion of the field.
He was the driving force to create the Low Vision Rehabilitation Section of the California Optometric Association in 2009, and has served in various positions of the council. It has a membership of more than 70 ODs and 180 student members, the former category being at least twice the membership of any other similiar state organization. Asano has also been a past member of the Council of the American Optometric Association Vision Rehabilitation Section. He has authored a number of professional articles on his specialty care.
Because of his involvement in the field in numerous capacities, he has been instrumental in being able to readily secure sponsorship support and speakers for both state and national organizations. In the latest phase of his career, because of that involvement, he is now the sole U.S. professional consultant for two low-vision companies, Ocutech (Chapel Hill, N.C.) and Berryessa Designs (San Jose).
His educational background: Bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, University of Southern California; Doctor of Optometry, Southern California College of Optometry at MB Ketchum University; and Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry for more than 30 years.
He has been an assistant professor of the Southern California College of Optometry for 15 years, and a clinical assistant professor of the Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry since its inception in 2009. In attempting to impart an interest in low-vision rehabilitation, he has been a SCCO externship coordinator, a residency preceptor, and a clerkship coordinator for WUHSCO. He was a staff low-vision rehabilitation optometrist at the Center for the Partially Sighted in the greater Los Angeles area for 34 years, and in private practice in Torrance for 26 years.
He is proud that at least seven of those who worked in the office became ODs, and three did residencies in low-vision rehabilitation.
Asano has actively participated in the Asian American Optometric Society, the South Bay Optometric Society, and a plethora of Lion’s Club Eyemobile other health fair screenings over the years. In the most recent phase of his career, he was a staff optometrist and low-vision rehabilitation specialist at the Los Angeles Medical Center of Kaiser Permanente for nine years; and was twice nominated for the Southern California Kaiser Permanente Optometrist of the Year Award.
In teaching and inspiring students, he would remind them, “If you are truly growing the profession and helping future patients, then you will find that you are learning something new at least every other day.”