By: Heidi Marchand, PharmD
My office serves as a bridge between FDA and a wide range of health professional, patient, consumer, tribal and industry audiences. Among our top priorities is collaborating with public-health minded groups and individuals to help us better understand and respond to the needs of stakeholders.
One such example is the work we’re doing with the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Entertainment Industry Council (EIC) on the Decorative Contact Lens Campaign Project. The goal of this important work is to inform young people about the potential risks of using decorative contact lenses improperly.
These lenses change the appearance of the eyes to give them a “cool” look – like making them look like vampire or cat eyes. They could change the eye color. But they can cause serious eye damage if they’re not fitted by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Failure to properly clean and care for the lenses could cause vision-threatening infections.
Recently, Helene Clayton-Jeter, O.D., Health Programs Coordinator, who leads the project for my office, was honored by AOA for her superlative work on this project. Dr. Clayton-Jeter, who for years was a practicing optometrist, was instrumental in providing valuable insights that helped shape this public health message.
Dr. Clayton-Jeter is the first recipient of the Leadership in Public Health Award, which AOA plans to give annually hereafter to a member optometrist who has provided innovative and far-reaching solutions to public health challenges, augmented the optometrist’s role in public health, and advanced the provision of health care services by optometrists to Americans.
The project is set to be launched next spring, just in time for spring breaks and end-of-school-year celebrations. This is a time when students are more likely to purchase and use decorative contact lenses. By reinforcing the importance of using these lenses only under the supervision of a health care professional, we hope the project will protect the health and preserve the vision of the many young people who are otherwise apt to use decorative lenses unsafely. Working closely with Dr. Clayton-Jeter on this project were the FDA’s Office of Communications and Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which regulates contact lenses.
While making the formal presentation, Michael Dueñas, O.D., AOA’s Chief Public Health Officer, said this award is a testimony to Dr. Clayton-Jeter’s personal commitment and dedicated work toward the advancement of innovative and effective solutions in safeguarding the health of the American people.
I am very proud of Dr. Clayton-Jeter’s achievements and the integrity that she brings to her work every day at FDA.
Heidi Marchand, PharmD, is FDA’s Assistant Commissioner in FDA’s Office of Health and Constituent Affairs