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  • Outstanding Advocate Award

    2020 Outstanding Advocate Awardee: Thomas L. Steinemann, MD

    Awards Committee

    The Academy is proud to honor Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, with the 2020 Outstanding Advocate Award. This award recognizes Dr. Steinemann for his leadership and advocacy efforts spanning two decades in promoting patient safety and contact lens use.

    Dr. Steinemann was nominated by the Eye and Contact Lens Association for his advocacy at both the state and national levels to ensure patient safety, especially in the area of improper usage of plano cosmetic (decorative) contact lenses.

    In 2001, Dr. Steinemann was one of the first ophthalmologists to see serious, blinding eye infections in young teens due to a flood of cosmetic contact lenses being sold without prescription across the country. After the Academy issued a consumer warning, Dr. Steinemann worked with the Washington office to educate policymakers and to champion legislation to regulate cosmetic lenses.

    Dr. Steinemann’s expertise, tireless advocacy and dedication significantly aided the effort to amend the FDA’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and led to passage of PL109-96. Dr. Steinemann’s story was featured on ABC News 20/20 and Good Morning America as well as in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Legislation to categorize cosmetic lenses as medical devices subject to regulation was signed into law by President George Bush in November 9, 2005. Dr. Steinemann has led the Academy’s efforts (in partnership with the FDA and FTC) every year since then to ferret out violators and to ensure that unregulated devices are removed from stores across the country.

    Dr. Steinemann was also a champion for the Academy during the development of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (Contact Lens Rule), and pushed to minimize burdens on practitioners while ensuring patient rights. Most recently, he partnered with the Academy’s Advocacy team and was the lead spokesman during the revision of the policy initiated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The proposed new regulations on the sale and distribution of contact lenses has been problematic despite his presentation documenting problems with passive verification (Contact Lens Workshop), as well as conference calls with FTC staff and optometry on this issue. His efforts to ensure patient safety have even reached across the border, where he was instrumental in assisting the Canadian Ophthalmological Society in ensuring passage of Canadian legislation to regulate cosmetic contact lenses as medical devices.

    Dr. Steinemann’s service to advocacy has continued: he is a founding member of CDC’s Healthy Contact Lens Work Group and a member of FDA’s Medical Devices Advisory Committee. His strong leadership and unwavering dedication to ophthalmology and its patients makes him a worthy and deserving recipient of the Outstanding Advocate Award.

    Dr. Steinemann graduated from the Medical College of Ohio and completed his residency at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He did a fellowship in cornea/external disease at the LSU Eye Center/Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans. Dr. Steinemann has a cataract and cornea practice in Cleveland and is Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University.