Jean E. Ramsey, MD, MPH, was nominated by the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) and Women in Ophthalmology (WIO).
For more than a decade, Dr. Ramsey has been advocating on behalf of children via the Academy, AAPOS, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (MSEPS). She was integral in developing, advocating for, and implementing a vision screening bill for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In 1998, Massachusetts became one of the first states confronted with the mandatory pediatric comprehensive eye examination legislation. Working with the MSEPS, Dr. Ramsey successfully led the fight to defeat this bill, and in the process developed a broad-based coalition in support of a mandatory preschool vision screening bill that would make it possible to obtain universal screening and eye care for all children in Massachusetts. This was an innovative approach to the difficult problem of capturing the geographically diverse group of preschoolers. By developing a system of vision care based on vision screening for preschool children and eye examination for high risk children and children who do not pass the screening, ALL children could have access to eye care and referral as needed. This bill that Dr. Ramsey crafted collaboratively across professions continues to serve as a model for other states working to ensure optimal eye care for children.
Dr. Ramsey has always recognized the importance of collaboration among groups and across professions. A federal legislative initiative to fund pediatric vision-screening activities in the states was developed with Dr. Ramsey working with optometric members of The Vision Council of America to craft the language of the bill. She subsequently presented the bill at Capitol Hill press briefings in an effort to educate members of Congress and others about the importance of early vision care for children. She has spoken at meetings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Head Start and Early Head Start, the National Early Hearing Detection Program and Children with Special Health Care Needs, national professional organizations, and others to promote early pediatric vision screening and the pediatric eye health agenda. As a result of this and other work, national organizations and federal agencies have developed an increased awareness of the importance of pediatric vision care.
In 2008, Prevent Blindness, with funding from the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau, developed the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, an organization in which Dr. Ramsey plays a leadership role. Working with AAPOS, the National Center, and Head Start Association, Dr. Ramsey played a key role in developing The Year of Children’s Vision initiative to address important gaps in the vision care system within Head Start and other early childhood programs. The educational impact of this initiative has been unprecedented, both nationally and internationally.
Dr. Ramsey has also been instrumental at the subspecialty society level in ensuring that all pediatric ophthalmologists understand the importance of becoming involved in advocacy. In order to successfully engage a group of over 1000 pediatric ophthalmologists, Dr. Ramsey organized symposia and workshops at AAPOS to highlight the work in Massachusetts and other states. She has provided her pediatric ophthalmologist colleagues with the tools to be successful in the advocacy arena. In addition, she has served as an important mentor to residents by consistently encouraging and supporting their attendance at the Academy’s Congressional Advocacy Day and Mid-Year Forum via the Advocacy Ambassador Program.
Dr. Ramsey’s tireless advocacy on behalf of children at a state and national level is exemplary and unique. In a subspecialty full of enthusiastic advocacy volunteers, Dr. Ramsey stands out as exceptional. The Academy is proud to honor Dr. Jean Ramsey with this year’s Outstanding Advocate Award.