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  • Outstanding Advocate Award

    2023 Outstanding Advocate Awardee: Kurt F. Heitman, MD

    Awards Committee

    The Academy is proud to honor Kurt F. Heitman, MD, with the 2023 Outstanding Advocate Award. This award recognizes Dr. Heitman for his expansive contributions as a staunch champion for quality eye care in the U.S.

    The South Carolina Society of Ophthalmologists (SCSO) nominated Dr. Heitman for his decades of advocacy on the state and federal level. Dr. Heitman was instrumental in defeating over 14 State House debates in the past 30 years involving unnecessary and ill-advised scope of practice legislations. Dr. Heitman’s mentorship of young ophthalmologists has led to the cultivation and expansion of the SCSO’s Resident’s Advocacy Program initiative.

    As a past Academy Secretary for State Affairs, Dr. Heitman developed state-based strategies and tactics to combat unnecessary and high-risk optometric scope of practice initiatives. He led the development of national and regional coalitions within and outside of organized medicine to assist the Academy’s advocacy efforts. He worked collaboratively and tirelessly with state ophthalmology societies across the country in furtherance of patient advocacy and supported Surgical Scope Fund Committee members and staff to fundraise for patient advocacy and state-based advocacy initiatives.

    As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Heitman spearheaded grassroots efforts to protect the high standards of eye care for veterans. Furthermore, he has made over 20 service trips to Haiti and Ecuador, helped establish Surgeons for Sight and Safe Eyes America and continues to advocate and serve the underserved as a volunteer of the ASCRS Foundation’s Operation Sight project.

    Dr. Heitman’s long history of legislative advocacy and exemplary service is an example for ophthalmologists on the importance of physician advocacy.