About the Award

The Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award recognizes significant efforts by an individual or group of individuals to improve public health approaches for children’s vision and eye health at the state or national level.  The award was established in 2014 by the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health Advisory Committee to commemorate Dr. Bonnie Strickland and her groundbreaking work to establish a comprehensive system for children’s vision in the United States.  Strickland served as Director of the Division of Services for Children with Special Health Needs, Maternal and Child Health Bureau before her retirement in 2014.


Nominees for the Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award may include individuals (such as a parent advocate, legislator, or professional) or a group comprised of diverse stakeholders, including family and community leaders, who are implementing changes to improve children’s vision and eye health in the United States.  The NCCVEH seeks nominations of individuals or groups who seek out new and innovative solutions to common barriers to healthy vision in children.  Nominees should be able to demonstrate an impact in one or more areas of a public health system supporting children’s vision:

  • Key Stakeholder Engagement or Collaboration, including representation from families and diverse racial/ethnic/geographic and socio-economic levels target populations
  • Training and Education
  • Public Awareness
  • Provision of Resources and/or Services
  • Surveillance and Accountability
  • Reduction of Health Disparities
  • Infrastructure Development- Local, State, or National Level

Call for Nominations

Nominations for the 2017 Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award are now being accepted through June 16, 2017.  Download the nomination form and instructions here and submit the completed document and attachments to the email address provided.

Download the Nomination Form.


The 2016 recipient of the Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award was the Illinois Eye Institute (IEI) at Princeton Vision Clinic based at the Illinois College of Optometry.  The IEI at Princeton was selected by the Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award Committee for its consistent and on-going commitment to addressing the unmet visual needs of Chicago Public School students.

Project Overview: In 2011  the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) and the Chicago Public Schools Office of Health and Wellness (CPS) came together to address the unmet visual needs of CPS students. CPS serves more than 400,000 children living in Chicago with over 90% of the students on public assistance programs such as listed as free and reduced lunches.  CPS provides an efficient system to conduct vision screening their students at regular  intervals and requires a comprehensive eye exam upon entry to school.  CPS had been faced with challenges with vision compliance.  Many families face obstacles in getting the appropriate care their child needs and fail to comply with the entry to school eye exam.  Many did not follow through for children who are referred after failing a vision screening, for glasses that have been broken or lost, or for concerns from a teacher that a vision problem exists.  

In January of 2011, after ICO and CPS agreed to partner to address the visual needs of CPS students, the Illinois Eye Institute at Princeton School-based Vision Clinic opened.  Princeton Elementary School, which was empty in 2009, is a two story school made up of 8 classrooms on each floor with wheel chair accessibility- making it ideal for seeing any child within the public school system.  The classrooms were converted to a vision clinic.  Thirteen lanes of equipment were brought into to the building.  Clinical manpower is provided by ICO students, pediatric residents and preceptors. 

To date more than 32,000 children have received care and more than 10% of the population had advanced vision care needs. We are open year round and care is provided regardless of a family's ability to pay.  IEI at Princeton has had a significant impact on children's vision in several ways. First, the direct service that is provided year round to children who otherwise would not have had access to eye care.  Second, all but a few third year optometry students rotate through the clinic for one morning a week for 11 weeks . This exposes future clinicians to primary care pediatric eye care as well as the needs that are seen within the community where the socioeconomics are low and access to comprehensive eye care is limited. The IEI at Princeton also has taken the data obtained through the delivery of care to the Chicago Public School students and demonstrated that children with uncorrected refractive error, when corrected, improve the academic performance (GPA and standardized math scores). The goal is to continue to investigate the value of primary and secondary eye care services and continue to contribute to the literature with high quality well designed studies.

Highlighted activities included:

1.       Targeting a high-risk and high-need population of children

2.       Establishing a unique partnership with a public school system

3.       Providing staffing and resources necessary to ensure program success

4.       Utilizing the program intervention to strengthen professional education and training

5.       Engaging community partners to reduce barriers, and

6.       Establishing a systems-level approach that engages families and creates access to eye care

2016 Honorable Mention Recipient:

In 2016, Honorable Mention for the Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award was awarded to Vivian James, PhD, North Carolina Preschool Exceptional Children Coordinator for the Office of Early Learning - State Board of Education, Department of Public Instruction, was named as Honorable Mention for the Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award.  She was recognized for her exceptional work in North Carolina to improve vision screening systems as they relate to public health professional training as well as special education eligibility determinations.  Dr. James worked within the existing NC Early Learning and Exceptional Children's infrastructure to implement a public health approach for children's vision that:

  • Improved the vision screening skills of individual diagnosticians that have varied professional backgrounds and roles but are responsible for vision screening as part of an educational evaluation
  • Included extensive review to ensure that training language was being effectively communicated to the non-medically trained and geographically diverse individuals charged with conducting screenings
  • Utilized an extensive network of subject matter experts to address the unique nuances of the special education system in North Carolina while also incorporating recommendations of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health
  • Provided detailed guidelines in implementing comprehensive early childhood vision screening programs that include consistent follow-up communication with parents and the medical home
  • Established easy to follow protocol to standardize screening tools, methods, referral, and follow-up processes for vision screening as part of special education evaluation

Prior to Dr. James's work, school systems did not have vision screening equipment appropriate for very young, difficult-to-screen children. Furthermore, once school districts obtained the necessary screening instruments, there were no available resources within the NC Department of Public Instruction to conduct training on:

1)      critical screening program components,

2)      how to effectively use the vision screening equipment

3)      implement the vision screening guidance, and

4)      access available resources for children and families when vision screens indicate the need for medical follow-up.

Funding previously provided to school districts for vision screening equipment would have been ill used if the school staff members do not know how to reliably use the equipment. Preventable vision problems in very young children would have been missed.  Dr. James has been instrumental in eliminating these barriers for the future.

Past Recipients

The inaugural recipient of the Bonnie Strickland Champion for Children’s Vision Award was The Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at Children’s (PPOC) based at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Brookline, Massachusetts.  The PPOC was selected by the Award Committee for its consistent and on-going commitment to introducing proven and innovative new approaches to pediatric vision screening and care to providers and patients in the medical home setting.

Highlighted activities of the PPOC’s work included:

  1. Increasing provider awareness and competency
  2. Creating policy change related to referrals to eye examinations
  3. Providing staff the resources required to support new policy and practice
  4. Developing electronic surveillance mechanisms to inform practice
  5. Implementing a clinical trial to test new technology in the practice setting and
  6. Including a parent/guardian survey to inform future practice while increasing family awareness of the importance of monitoring vision development during childhood

The PPOC is an independent practice association affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital that is made up of 300 providers in over 80 privately-owned pediatric primary care practices in Eastern Massachusetts. Collectively, the PPOC providers care for more than 400,000 children and perform over 1,000,000 office visits annually. The PPOC’s mission is to provide the highest quality of care to the patients and families it serves.