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First Annual Innovator Awards Recognize Great Ideas


Innovation is a core value of Marshall B. Ketchum University. Not only does the University foster and bring creative and unique ideas among its three colleges, but it also welcomes the creative input from students. This year’s first annual SCCO Innovator Awards invited students to present bold new ideas and inventions in the field of optometry. From among twenty submissions, five finalists were selected to present their concept before their peers and a panel of judges, which were evaluated for originality, impact, viability, and feasibility on January 30, 2018, at the Marshall B. Ketchum University campus.

The winners of the first SCCO Innovator Awards are Matthew Tran, Andrew Sprenkel and Andrew Lee who proposed Opt-In, a secure mobile app that allows optometrists to hire and pay doctors to fill in for them. The concept was inspired when Lee’s father, Thomas Lee, OD, ’86, who experienced trouble finding an optometrist to cover for him during a family vacation.

The Opt-In Team received a $5,000 cash prize and a trip to attend the Vision Summit Council in New York. “They will make a presentation to some of the nation’s top CEOs and decision-makers in the optometry industry,” said Mark Nakano, OD, Associate Dean of Clinics.

“We’re all business-minded individuals and decided to look at ideas that could solve problems for other optometrists,” Sprenkel said.

Tran added that the Opt-In app would also help optometrists with patient retention and revenue when they needed to take time off. “It would also help the job market for optometrists looking for work in a social media-inspired platform such as LinkedIn,” he said.

Lee’s family was on hand to celebrate their success.

The finalists who also presented were: Devon Kennedy who presented a Proactive Practice Management Hackathon, to help students investigate and share information about the business side of optometry practice, and Arya Saidi who pitched Gocks, customizable “socks” that slide over the arms of eyeglasses to protect them from sweat damage.

“These five incredible students have influenced the SCCO community with new and innovative ideas,” said Dr. Nakano. “Their ideas were practical, inspiring and served to elevate the innovative spirit that is core to our mission here at MBKU.”

The SCCO Innovator Awards was juried and developed by Raman Bhakhri, OD, Assistant Professor, Carmen Barnhardt, OD, MSEd, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dashaini Retnasothie, OD, MS, Assistant Professor; Mark Sawamura, OD, Chief of the Jarnagin Center for Primary Eye Care, Chief of Ocular Disease and Associate Professor. It officially launched in September 2017 when 50 students attended the introductory workshop. Twenty students submitted abstracts, which was vetted by the development group and the finalists were notified in November 2017.

The panel of judges who made the final determination included Mark Bullimore, MCOptom, PhD, Dean, Southern California College of Optometry; Steven Heyman, Vice President of Sales at Innovative Beverage Concepts, Inc.; Amy Stachler, Regional Sales Director at Luxxottica and certified Ipec coach; and Julie Schornack, OD, MEd, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Ketchum University. Katie Santos-Coy, Director of Marketing and Communications at Ketchum stepped in for Michael Kling, OD, owner and Chief Executive Officer of Invision Optometry.

The entire Ketchum University community is proud of the finalists and the Opt-In Team for pioneering the first annual SCCO Innovator Awards. We wish Matthew Tran, Andrew Sprenkel, and Andrew Lee the best of luck as they travel to New York to make their pitch to the Vision Summit Council. Next year’s SCCO Innovator Awards will be announced in fall 2018.

Thank You To The Organizing Committee:

  • Edna Alfaro, Graphic Designer
  • Carmen Barnhardt, OD, MSEd, Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Raman Bhakhri, OD, Assistant Professor
  • Matthew Breneman, Director of Multi-Media Services
  • MBKU Campus Operations
  • MBKU Campus Safety & Security
  • Erin Dean, Administrative Assistant to the Senior Associate Dean of Professional Affairs
  • Kate Garcia, Coordinator of Clinical Education
  • Erin Hales, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications
  • Catherine Heyman, OD, Associate Professor
  • Dashaini Retnasothie, OD, MS, Assistant Professor
  • Mark Sawamura, OD, Chief for the Jarnagin Center for Primary Eye Care, Chief of Ocular Disease and Associate Professor
  • Katie Santos-Coy, Director of Marketing and Communications