A Woman of Many Skills: Dr. Audrey Smith

Audrey-Smith-BLVS-award.JPGAudrey Smith, PhD, CLVT, COMS, professor emeritus, is a well-known staple among the Salus community. It’s not surprising, as her popularity is a by-product of nearly four decades plus her innate leadership and “go-getter” attributes. 

Dr. Smith first came to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) in the 1970s as a low-vision specialist, when PCO added a low-vision component to its West Philadelphia clinic, prior to the establishment of the William Feinbloom Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation at The Eye Institute in 1978.

By 1983, PCO established Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS) degree and certificate programs with Dr. Smith at the helm. Once an optometry-only school, the College found itself paving the path for additional health science and rehabilitation programs. In the beginning, Dr. Smith was able to secure grants to fund BLVS. “Audrey managed over the years to get grant after grant,” said Thomas L. Lewis, OD, PhD, professor and president emeritus of Salus. “She figured out how to get it done and just did it.” Grants received and written by Dr. Smith - totaled more than $13.5 million - was and still is a testament to her dedication and “go-getter” attitude. 

1983-masters-2_2.jpgAs she led the department along with her BLVS colleagues, she was responsible for writing much of the material utilized. She also brought innovation to BLVS through the development of one of the first fully-online programs in the nation in the field of visual impairments, through the establishment of the first Consortium for Sensory Disabilities – a collaborative agreement funded by the U.S. Department of Education which brings multiple universities together to educate doctoral students – and the establishment of the first master’s program in Low Vision Rehabilitation in the country. “Audrey is the embodiment of a visionary,” said Fabiana Perla, EdD, COMS, CLVR, chair of the BLVS Department. “She can come up with innovative ideas and see opportunities for growth pretty much before anyone else around her. She is the architect of CER [the College of Education and Rehabilitation] as we know it, as it was mostly her vision and hard work that made it possible for [then] PCO to complement its BLVS program offerings with Occupational Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology, making the CER the fastest growing College at the University.”

As mentioned above, today, BLVS is a part of the University’s College of Education and Rehabilitation that also houses Occupational Therapy and Speech-Language Therapy. Prior to her sabbatical in 2016, CER had been awarded a total of more than $40 million in grant funding – under Dr. Smith’s leadership.