ECLA History


During the 1962 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology in Las Vegas, the concept of a contact lens association was informally discussed by Abraham Schlossman, MD; Louis Daily, MD and William Stone, MD. Dr. Schlossman provided the impetus to give birth to the organization. Since the following AAOO meeting was to be held in New York, Dr. Schlossman sent a letter to a group of fifty ophthalmologists who had demonstrated an interest in contact lenses, inviting them to a dinner meeting during the forthcoming Academy meeting, at which time the possibility of the formation of a contact lens study group was to be evaluated. Thirty ophthalmologists attended the "Founder's" meeting on October 21, 1963 at the Essex House Hotel in New York City.

The primary issue of discussion was the role of the ophthalmologist in the fitting of contact lenses. Several of the founders expressed their concern regarding the growing number of medical complications resulting from contact lens wear. There ensued considerable discussion as to whether ophthalmologists should personally fit contact lenses, or whether fitting should be relegated to non-physician practitioners. After much discussion, there was general agreement that the fitting of contact lenses was indeed a medical discipline, and that there existed a need for a national organization to foster the development and dissemination of scientific knowledge in this new discipline. At the suggestion of Frederick H. Theodore, MD the new organization was named, "The Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists".

The first president was Abraham Schlossman, MD who served in this position for three years. The other officers were: Chester J. Black, MD, Vice President; G. Peter Halberg, MD, Corresponding Secretary; Louis Daily, MD, Recording Secretary and Herbert L. Gould, MD, Treasurer.

Dr. Schlossman stated: "It was a fragile baby in the beginning. It could have failed. Fortunately, there existed an educational need. Doctors wanted to learn how to fit contact lenses." A major premise, from the onset, was the principle that the fitting of contact lenses to the human cornea is a medical act and therefore is an integral part of ophthalmology.

The Academy generously permitted the fledgling organization to exist under its wing. Following the initial meeting, immediate problems arose. Due to the assistance of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, these problems were swiftly resolved. "Ever since, as Dr. Halberg said "a symbiosis has existed between the Academy and the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists."

G. Peter Halberg, MD of New York, who served as Corresponding Secretary for more than a decade, is generally credited with molding ECLA into the organization that it has become. ECLA's former Executive Vice President, Dr. Dabezies of New Orleans, observes that, "In the early years, G. Peter Halberg was the glue that held ECLA together". Also during the founding period of ECLA, Whitney G. Sampson, MD, was instrumental in developing the organizational format of ECLA, into the organization into which it eventually became.

On May 7, 1964, ECLA was incorporated as a non-profit organization in Albany, New York. The objectives cited in the certification of incorporation were as follows:

  1. To encourage, stimulate, and assist its members, all of whom shall be duly licensed physicians engaged in the medical specialty of ophthalmology, to engage in research with respect to the fitting and prescribing of contact lenses and ophthalmologic problems attendant thereto.
  2. To provide channels for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge among its members and other members of the medical profession with respect to the ophthalmological problems involved in the prescribing and fitting of contact lenses and the medical management of such patients.
  3. To encourage physicians, medical students, medical technicians, and members of medical schools and hospitals to interest themselves in research and reporting with respect to the ophthalmological problems involved in the fitting and prescribing of contact lenses by granting awards, scholar -ships, and other assistance.

The first scientific program of ECLA was held the following year, on October 19, 1964, during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology.

In 1965 the secretary of the XX International Congress of Ophthalmology asked ECLA to organize the first International Medical Contact Lens Symposium which was held at Feldafing, outside Munich, Germany, on August 13, 1966. One hundred twenty ophthalmologists from five continents attended. A joint meeting was held in the summer of 1968 with the Japanese Contact Lens Society. In 1969 ECLA was one of the founding members of the American Commission on Allied Personnel in Ophthalmology, which is now called the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.

The first journal for ECLA was published in September/October, 1967 and was entitled The Contact Lens Medical Bulletin. The Editor-in-Chief was Whitney G. Sampson, MD. In 1969 Whitney G. Sampson, MD and G. Peter Halberg, MD became Chief Editors. On January 1, 1972, Jack Hartstein, MD became the Editor and the name of the publication was changed on January 1, 1975 to The Contact Lens and Intraocular Lens Medical Journal. The name was changed again in 1983 to The ECLA Journal with Dr. R. Linsy Farris as Editor. The latest name change to Eye and Contact Lens occurred in 2003 with Dr. H. Dwight Cavanagh as Editor. Here is the complete listing of all Journal Editor Editor-in-Chiefs to the present:

EYE AND CONTACT LENS: Science and Clinical Practice

Penny A. Asbell, MD, MBA 2012-Present

Desmond Fonn, M. Optom. 2007-2012

H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, Phd 2003-2007

THE ECLA JOURNAL (supplanted by EYE AND CONTACT LENS: Science and Clinical Practice)

H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, PhD 2002-2003

Peter C. Donshik, MD  1993-2002

Elizabeth J. Cohen, MD  1988-1992

R. Linsy Farrais, MD  1983-1987


Jack Hartstein, MD  1975-1982

THE CONTACT LENS MEDICAL BULLETIN (supplanted by the Contact Lens and Interocular Lens Journal)

Jack Harstein, MD  1972-1974

G. Peter Halberg, MD  1969-1971 (Drs. Halberg and Sampson Chief Editors

Whitney G. Sampson, MD  1969-1971 together during 69-71)

Whitney G. Sampson, MN  1967-1968

ECLA's Mid-Winter National Meeting was spawned in 1973 under the Presidency of Whitney G. Sampson, MD of Houston, TX. Dr. Sampson proudly states that the materialization of the National Meeting was "the major contribution of my administration as President". The idea for the meeting was born in discussions between Dr. Sampson and Dr. Dabezies, who was then serving ECLA as Corresponding Secretary. Dr. Dabezies had long been concerned that there was not enough time available at the evening session during the Academy meeting to cover adequately all the scientific material. Dr. Dabezies recalls that when he first proposed the idea, many people retorted, "the last thing the world needs is another meeting". Many thought that there was not enough interest in contact lenses to justify a national meeting and that the meeting would fail. In addition, there was the problem of funding; ECLA did not have the financial resources to promote a major meeting. However, Dr. Dabezies persisted, and found a firm supporter in Dr. Sampson. Their efforts materialized in the first National Meeting that was held in January, 1974 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dr. Dabezies served as the first Program Chair. This meeting soon became the premier contact lens meeting worldwide. Accompanying the growth of the meeting, there was a plethora of scientific presentations of excellent quality. The proliferation of scientific knowledge, in this newly emerging field, was overwhelming.

On January 1, 1976, after completing his year as President, Oliver H. Dabezies, Jr., MD became the first ECLA Executive Vice President. Ms Marie Salassi, who had worked for him on a part-time basis since 1966, became the first full time ECLA Secretary. Over the years her job gradually increased from Secretary to Administrative Assistant, to Assistant to the Director, to Manager of Scientific Programs.

When ECLA needed the services of a part-time bookkeeper, Ms Nancy Lopiccolo became the ECLA Bookkeeper on a part-time basis. In 1982, because the workload continued to increase in the ECLA Executive Office, Ms Joyce Hanemann was hired as a part-time typist. In 1986 she became a full-time employee, and how holds the title of Office Administrator. From October, 1994 until January 1, 1996, Mr. David Kellner was hired as a consultant to act as Director of Communications.

By the mid-1970s, ECLA was attracting about 300 physicians to its Scientific Program during the AAO Meeting. This meeting was held at a hotel site, independent of the official AAO Scientific Program. In 1979, the ECLA Program was held on Sunday night preceding the opening of the Annual AAO Meeting. Thus, ECLA Night at the AAO Meeting was begun and many now consider the ECLA Sunday session as the opening of the Annual AAO Scientific Meeting.

At the 1982 ECLA Board Meeting, Dr. Dabezies proposed that ECLA sponsor a multi-author book, which could be periodically updated (by discarding old chapters and substituting new chapters in a loose-leaf binder). Dr. Dabezies was assigned the position of Chief Editor. Commonly referred to as "The ECLA BOOK", the first edition of Contact Lenses: The ECLA Guide to Basic Science and Clinical Practice, was published in 1984 by Grune and Stratton, Inc. The second edition was published in 1989 by Little, Brown and Company. In 1993, Peter A. Kastl, MD, PhD took over the Editorship of the BOOK. This 3rd Edition debuted at the January 1995 ECLA Annual Meeting. Published by Kendall Hunt, Inc. it is perfect bound in three volumes plus an index and is now "THE ECLA BOOK".

On January 1, 1983, the journal for ECLA became The ECLA Journal and R. Linsy Farris, MD became the Editor. One of his first tasks was to find someone who could help put The ECLA Journal closer to New York. David Kellner was selected and he came up with a cover design and format which has continued to the present time. In addition David's firm, Kellner/McCaffery Associates became the publisher for most of ECLA's written material and a very close working relationship between ECLA and Kellner/McCaffery Associates has evolved. Eisabeth Cohen, MD was the Editor January 1, 1988 to January 1, 1993. She expanded the number of Associate Editors. The emphasis in The ECLA Journal has remained on contact lenses and related anterior segment issues. One of the most valuable features of The ECLA Journal has been its inclusion in Index Medicus. Peter C. Donshik, MD became the Editor, January 1, 1993.

In 1985 at the first retreat held during the Summer Board Meeting, the ECLA Board decided to explore the possibility of an eventual merger with the International Society of Refractive Keratoplasty. With such a merger, it was proposed that the journals be combined and that the Annual Meetings be combined. Unfortunately, ISRK did not own the rights to their journal; so, the journals could not be combined. Combined meetings were held in 1987-1989. During the second retreat held during the 1988 Summer Board Meeting, the possible merger of the two organizations and the continuation of the combined Annual Scientific Meetings as discussed by the ECLA Board and it was decided that it was not in the best interest of ECLA to merge with ISRK or to continue to hold a joint meeting. The results of that retreat included a listing of strengths and weaknesses of ECLA and the long and short-term ECLA goals. This retreat is in the Archives of the ECLA Home Office.

In 1987, after 10 years as ECLA's Executive Vice President, Oliver H. Dabezies, Jr., MD decided to step down. The ECLA Board decided that, rather than have a part-time physician Executive Vice President, it would be in the best interest of ECLA to have a full-time non-physician Executive Director. A Search Committee was formed and Edmund J. Perret, II was chosen to be the first full-time Executive Director of ECLA. It was also decided by the Board to keep the ECLA Central Office in New Orleans, rather than move it to Washington, DC, but to have it in a location different from Dr. Dabezies' office. The location of the ECLA Central Office has been at 523 Decatur St., Suite One, since June, 1987.

Under Mr. Perret's direction, in 1988, the ECLA Bylaws were extensively revised. In 1989 a formal budgetary process was developed. Also in 1989 a ECLA Membership Needs Assessment Survey was completed to identify member needs and interest in order to enable ECLA to improve member services and address the needs of the membership. A copy of the summary is in the Archives of the ECLA Home Office. In 1990, a ECLA Board Member Policy was developed. In 1991 ECLA developed a five-year plan.

In June 1991, Mr. Edmund Perret passed away after a lengthy illness. A Search Committee was convened by President, James E. Key, II, MD and in September ten finalists were interviewed in New Orleans. John S. Massare was the first choice of all the interviewers. He became the second full time Executive Director in late November, 1991.

In 1991, ECLA initiated a series of 5 regional courses each year dealing with Basic Contact Lens Fitting. Under the initial direction of Richard G. Lembach, MD and Peter C. Donshik, MD and sponsored by an educational grant from Vistakon, these courses have grown in success and popularity every year. Nine courses were held in 1996 and six were planned for 1997. A syllabus book developed in conjunction with these courses has become an important ECLA publication in itself. In 1995, ECLA held its first International Basic Contact Lens Course in Sao Paulo, Brazil with the support of SOBLEC, the Brazilian Ophthalmological Contact Lens Association. This course closely followed the U.S. Regional Course format, with the syllabus book being translated into Portuguese. This course was sponsored by Bausch & Lomb.

Many new ECLA programs were initiated since 1992. A Front Office Patient Information video sponsored by Bausch & Lomb was produced in 1992. New titles of the popular ECLA Patient Information Brochure series as well as Spanish language versions for existing titles were produced resulting at present in 18 different titles. A very popular new publication, The ECLA Pocket Guide to Contact Lens Fitting under the Editorship of James E. Key, II, MD was debut at the 1995 ECLA Annual Meeting. The Pocket Guide was sponsored by an educational grant from CIBA Vision Corporation. The Book AIDS and the Eye, edited by Susan M. Stenson, MD and Dorothy Friedberg, MD debuted at the 1995 ECLA Annual Meeting and was sponsored by an educational grant from Syntex, Inc. The 3rd Edition of Contact Lenses: The ECLA Guide to Basic Science and Clinical Practice also debuted at the 1995 ECLA Annual Meeting.

ECLA received a three-year grant from Bausch & Lomb in 1993 to develop a model curriculum in contact lenses for ophthalmologist residents. The AUPO and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are assisting ECLA on this project. This project, under the direction of Melvin I. Freeman, MD, was a successful one for ECLA with over 102 residency programs utilizing the Educational Package. An evolution of the model curriculum occurred in 2006 with ECLA partnering with JCAHPO to develop an interactive computer-based educational program, the Contact Lens Learning Systems CD ROM project. Initial funding for the project was made possible from unrestricted educational grants from the ECLA ERF, the JCAHPO Foundation and Vistakon, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.

The 1988-1994 ECLA Annual Meetings were held at Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. In 1995, the ECLA Annual Meeting moved to the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and attendance was the highest in many years. At the meeting a new Mission Statement for ECLA was adopted along with Strategic and Functional goals. This new Mission Statement, goals and strategic action plans grew out of a Strategic Planning Meeting the ECLA Board of Directors held in 1994 in New Orleans. It was recognized at this meeting that ECLA should take a leadership role in all areas of refractive eye care. ECLA's new Mission Statement is: "The Mission of ECLA is to advance quality medical eyecare for the public by providing comprehensive ophthalmologists and other eyecare professionals with education and training in contact lenses, refractive surgery, optical dispensing and related eyecare science.

In December, 1996, the ECLA Home Page on the worldwide web made its debut. Honor Awards and Senior Honor Awards were established staring with the 1996 ECLA Annual Meeting. The purpose of these awards is to recognize and honor those faculty individuals who have shared their expertise over many years. In July, 1997, the ECLA Office moved from its Decatur Street address to a larger location at 721 Papworth St., Suite 205 & 206, Metairie, LA.

The 1996, 1997 and 1998 ECLA Annual Meetings were held at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. These Meetings represented the top three attended meetings in ECLA history. ECLA held a very successful International Contact Lens Course on May 2, 1997, in Cancun Mexico. This International Contact Lens Course was jointly sponsored by Allergan, Inc. and Vistakon.

ECLA lost a beloved employee on July 6, 1997, when ECLA's bookkeeper Ms Nancy Lopiccolo passed away. A new employee, Ms Patricia Peterson, was added to the ECLA staff on August 3, 1998. She holds a new position entitled Manager, Membership and Organizational Development.

The ECLA Education and Research Foundation (ECLA ERF) was founded in late 1997 and incorporated in the State of Colorado. Drs. Sampson, Dabezies and Doughman were instrumental in its founding. The first Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the ECLA ERF was Donald J. Doughman, MD. The mission of the Foundation is "to support education and the advancement of research and technologies related to contact lenses, anterior segment vision care services, and public eye health care." In 2000, the ERF established three named Lectureships, the Oliver H. Dabezies, MD Lectureship, the Harold A. Stein, MD Lectureship and the Richard L. Lindstrom, MD Lectureship. In 2003, the ERF established a Scientific Symposium, which is currently being held biennially on even years.

A second edition of the ECLA Pocket Guide to Contact Lens Fitting sponsored by CIBA Vision was produced in 1998. The Pocket Guide has turned out to be ECLA's most popular publication with over 3000 copies of volume one distributed to date. Significant efforts to expand ECLA's International membership and educational programs were initiated in 1998. This effort culminated with the addition of 500 SOBLEC ophthalmologists as Reciprocal International Members of ECLA.

ECLA's educational programs continued in 1998 with Vistakon sponsoring five Basic Contact Lens Courses and Wesley Jessen sponsoring five Practice Management Seminars. In January, 1999, ECLA held its Annual Meeting at Caesars Palace. Caesars had recently built a new state-of-the-art meeting facility, which accommodates ECLA's Annual Meeting in an excellent fashion. Also in 1999, thanks to an educational grant from Bausch & Lomb, ECLA expanded its residency model curriculum in contact lenses into the International Arena in both Chile and Brazil. In 1999 ECLA initiated the development of a major new ECLA educational project sponsored by Transitions Optical, the Residency Model Curriculum in Optical Dispensing. This three-year project will closely follow the model established by the very successful contact lens education project and will provide a standardized residency educational program in optical dispensing. The first phase of this project was successfully completed in 1999 with the publication of the ECLA Guide to Spectacles and Dispensing: A Primer for Ophthalmologists.

It was ECLA's concept to include international symposia into the ECLA Annual Meetings. In 1990 ECLA invited the European Contact Lens Society of Ophthalmology (ECLSO) to present a symposia at ECLA's 1991 meeting. Due to the excellent presentation by ECLSO in 1991, ECLA invited the Japanese Contact Lens Society (JCLS) to present a symposia at ECLA's 1993 meeting. Again, the symposium was extremely successful. In 1997, ECLA invited the Brazilian Ophthalmological Society of Contact Lenses and Cornea (SOBLEC) to present a symposium at ECLA's 1998 meeting. These symposia have been continued to the present time.

The 1999, 2000 and 2001 ECLA Annual Meetings were held at Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. These were held on a Monday through Wednesday format. It was decided for the year 2002 Annual Meeting to go back to a Thursday through Sunday format and to move the Annual Meeting out of Las Vegas to Anaheim, CA. ECLA continued with its ongoing educational programs in the year 2000. Gary N Foulks, MD, assumed the presidency of ECLA on February 4, 2001. A new project, production of the ECLA Residents Manual on Refraction, Spectacles and Dispensing was begun and the manual completed in July 2001. This major educational project was sponsored by an educational grant from Transitions Optical.

Two long time ECLA employees retired in the year 2001. Marie Salassi retired in February and Joyce Hanemann retired in June. Also, in March 2001, Patrician Peterson left the employ of ECLA for a new position. A new office assistant, Linda Johnson, was brought into the ECLA family at the end of 2001. Linda is a CPA and brought many valuable skills to ECLA.

The 2002 ECLA Annual Meeting was held in Anaheim, CA, January 31 - February 3, 2002. This was the first time in many years the annual meeting was not held in Las Vegas. With the retirement of Marie Salassi, ECLA utilized the services of Real World Conventions to handle the administrative tasks associated with putting on this major meeting. The year 2002 marked the beginning of tenure for a new Journal Editor. H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, PhD, took over the reigns from Peter C. Donshik, MD, who completed his second and final term as Journal editor. Along with this change came a new publisher, Lippencott Williams & Wilkins (LWW). Starting in April of 2002, the Journal was able to be accessed online.  

The 2003 through 2006 ECLA Annual Meetings were held at the Contact Lens and Eyecare Symposium (CLES). CLES was a meeting put together by the Contact Lens Institute (CLI) that brought together three organizations interested in contact lenses, ECLA, the AOA Contact Lens Section of the AOA and the CLSA.

In the fall of 2005, the ECLA office was affected by Hurricane Katrina. As a result, the office in New Orleans was shut down in late 2005 and ECLA contracted with JCAHPO to handle management services for the organization effective January 1, 2006. Under JCAHPO's management, the organization has reorganized and positioned itself for future growth.

In the fall of 2006, ECLA produced a new publication entitled The ECLA Pocket Guide to Vision Care Terminology. This publication provides brief definitions of the commonly used terms in the field of vision correction, i.e., contact lenses, optical dispensing and refractive surgery and was sponsored by an educational grant from CIBA Vision.

ECLA partnered with JCAHPO in 2006 to the present to produce a series of interactive computer based modules on contact lens knowledge. The Contact Lens Learning Systems was supported in part by educational grants from Vistakon, the ECLA ERF and the JCAHPO Foundation. This state of the art adult education project has received high praise for its interactivity and ease of use.

ECLA, with the sponsorship of Bausch and Lomb, held a symposium on contact lens safety in May 2008, with a resulting publication in the association's journal.

ECLA held a major meeting in Montreal, Canada in September 2009 entitled the International Contact Lens Summit. 

Those who have served as President of ECLA are as follows:


  1. Abraham Schlossman, MD 1963/66
  2. Chester J. Black, MD 1967
  3. Joseph A. Dixon, MD 1968
  4. John A. Dyer, MD 1969
  5. Richard P. Kratz, MD 1970
  6. Donald A. Fonda, MD 1971
  7. James H. Allen, MD 1972
  8. Whitney G. Sampson, MD 1973
  9. Herschell H. Boyd, 1974
  10. Oliver H. Dabezies, Jr., MD 1975
  11. Jorge N. Buxton, MD 1976
  12. G. Peter Halberg, MD 1977
  13. Jack Hartstein, MD 1978
  14. Herbert E. Kaufman, MD 1979
  15. Richard H. Keates, MD 1980
  16. Paul R. Honan, Jr., MD 1981


  1. Joseph A. Baldone, MD 1982
  2. James V. Aquavella, MD 1983
  3. Harold A. Stein, MD 1984
  4. Herve M. Byron, MD 1985
  5. Perry S. Binder, MD 1986
  6. H Dwight Cavanagh, MD, PhD 1987
  7. R Linsy Farris, MD 1988
  8. R Hugh Minor, MD 1989
  9. Richard G. Lembach, MD 1990
  10. James E. Key, II, MD 1991
  11. Peter C. Donshik, MD 1992
  12. Melvin I. Freeman, MD 1993
  13. James D. Atwood, MD 1994
  14. Penny A. Asbell, MD 1995
  15. Donald J. Doughman, MD 1996
  16. William D. Mathers, MD 1997
  1. Zoraida Fiol-Silva, MD 1998
  2. William T. Driebe, Jr. MD 1999
  3. Susan M. Stenson, MD 2000
  4. Gary N. Foulks, MD 2001
  5. Bruce H. Koffler, MD 2002
  6. Peter R. Kastl, MD, PhD 2003
  7. David W. Lamberts, MD 2004
  8. George A. Stern, MD 2005
  9. William H. Ehlers, MD 2006
  10. S. Lance Forstot, MD 2007/8
  11. Jean Pierre Chartrand, MD 2009/10
  12. Michael H. Goldstein, MD, MBA 2010/12
  13. Warren R. Fagadau, MD 2012/14
  14. Deborah S.Jacobs, MD 2014/16
  15. Deepinder K. Dhaliwal, MD, LAc 2016/18