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Michigan College of Optometry ahead of the curve

BIG RAPIDS - When asked how he divides his time between living in Big Rapids and Sylvania, Ohio, and serving as dean of the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University, all the while balancing his responsibilities as president of the American Optometric Association, Dr. Kevin Alexander replies, "I've always operated at Mach 2 with my hair on fire."

An experienced and dedicated staff also help Alexander keep the wheel turning. In order to maintain his schedule, he points out the importance of having a well-organized system, crediting his Associate Dean Nancy Peterson-Klein and Assistant Dean Bob Buckingham.

"I'm a 30,000-foot view guy," he said. "I've been blessed with a superb associate and assistant dean who help drive the ship."

However, Alexander is not the only mover and shaker in the MCO. Dr. Mark Swan is currently serving as president of the Michigan Optometric Association, and Optometry senior Mary Phillips is vice president of the American Optometric Student Association.

Involvement with the AOA or MOA is important because of the information-sharing it provides between the MCO and industry professionals, Swan added, saying, "We're able to bring industry information to the students first-hand, sometimes before other schools, so that puts us ahead of the curve."

Alexander's leadership of the AOA puts him at the head of an organization with 35,000 members in 6,500 communities across the country whose mission is to improve the quality and availability of eye and vision care. Alexander's academic background includes teaching ocular disease and pharmacology at the Ohio State University as an assistant professor. He has written numerous articles and lectured internationally on the topic of ocular disease, and is principal author of the AOA's Clinical Practice Guideline for Care of the Patient with Anterior Uveitis in addition to editing the influential textbook, The Lippincott Manual of Primary Eyecare. Prior to leading the AOA, Alexander was Ohio's Optometrist of the Year in 1989 and president of the Ohio Optometric Association from 1995-96. A fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, he has been MCO dean since July 2000.

As leader of the MOA, Swan helps the organization advance the quality and accessibility of optometric services throughout the state. He has also advanced that mission by serving on several MOA committees, including children’s vision care, environmental vision, legislative, Medicaid and industry relations. At Ferris, Swan combines his optometry training with a master's degree in reading disabilities and is heading up a new collaborative service with the College of Education and Human Services to provide care for children with visually related reading disabilities. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and has served that organization in several capacities.

As vice president of the American Optometric Student Association, Phillips is gaining experience at the national level in an organization that helps promote optometric professions, enhance the education and welfare of optometry students, as well as advance the vision and ocular health of the public. The AOSA represents more than 6,000 students attending the 19 schools and colleges of optometry throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

For more information on these organizations, visit, and