Building Foundations: Anthony F. Di Stefano, OD '73

tony-destefano.jpgDr. Di Stefano is a 1973 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). As a PCO student leader, he served as Class President for four years and Student Council President from 1972 to 1973. Recognizing the importance of graduate education, he completed a Master of Education (MEd) from Temple University concurrently with his OD degree. Dr. Di Stefano was recognized for his early and strong interests in public health and was awarded both a PCO Graduate Fellowship and the William C. Ezell Fellowship in 1973 to attend the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health where he earned his Master of Public Health (MPH) in 1974. He formally joined the PCO faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor of Public Health. Then PCO President Dr. Norman Wallis tapped Dr. Di Stefano’s MPH skills and in 1975 appointed him as special assistant to the President for Strategic Planning. In this role, he led the development of PCO’s first Five Year Strategic Plan in 1976, which would form the foundation for PCO’s future growth.
 
Dr-Di-Stefano-March-2010-008.jpgIn 1978, Dr. Di Stefano was appointed assistant dean for Academic Development, assuming primary responsibilities for diversifying PCO’s academic profile by establishing new graduate and professional degree programs as well by advancing the institution’s research programs. Through a series of externally funded initiatives, PCO began to establish the foundation for today’s University status. During these early developmental years, Dr. Di Stefano led the faculty in this growth by successfully competing for a number of grants including: Glenmede Trust to establish the Master of Science in Vision Rehabilitation; HEW Special Project grants to establish optometry preceptorship and externship programs; HEW Public Health and Aging Training grants; and the NIH Biomedical Research Development Grant. Working under the new PCO president Dr. Thomas Lewis, Dr. Di Stefano helped mold a core of faculty academic leaders and new program initiatives, which ultimately grew into Salus University.
 
From 1989 to 2014, Dr. Di Stefano served as vice president and dean of Academic Advancement and Academic Affairs. Among his accomplishments were the conceptualization and development of the Institute for the Visually Impaired (IVI) and the development of PCO’s long-range strategic plans. During this time, Dr. Di Stefano was the architect of many of the new accredited degree programs and innovative program delivery methods, including the transformation of the Optometry program through such initiatives as Curriculum 2000 and the three-year Accelerated Scholars Program. His strong commitment led to a vibrant research program distinctive among private schools of optometry, which ultimately led to the establishment of the University’s PhD Program in Biomedicine.
 
L-R: Drs. Lewis, Di Stefano, Haffner and MittelmanDr. Di Stefano’s sustained commitment to Institutional growth and expansion ultimately led to the establishment of Salus University in 2008. With the Pennsylvania College of Optometry serving as its founding College, Dr. Di Stefano led the institution through a rigorous review and approval process, ultimately being granted University status by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Recommending the name “Salus” to the institution, Dr. Di Stefano sought to underscore its overarching mission to advance society’s health and well-being through education, research and service programs. This strategic foundation continues to serve as the platform for the University’s continued growth and diversification beyond the thirteen accredited graduate and professional degree programs currently offered through its four colleges: the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), the Osborne College of Audiology, the College of Education and Rehabilitation, and the College of Health Sciences. 
 
Throughout his 45 years at the institution, Dr. Di Stefano has been guided by his deep commitment to public health values, both domestically and internationally. Through the expansion of the Center for International Studies, now the International and Continue Education (ICE) Department, he strengthened the institution’s international degree and non-degree programs, including the Master of Science in Clinical Optometry, which continues to make historical contributions to the advancement of optometric education globally.  
 
monaco_stefano.jpgDr. Di Stefano’s global commitment is uniquely exemplified by his service as executive director and senior public health strategist to the World Council of Optometry (WCO) from 1996 to 2008. His accomplishments included: the transformation of the International Optometric and Optical League (IOOL) to the WCO; achieving official relations status between the WCO and the World Health Organization (WHO); the development and implementation of the World Conference on Optometric Education (WCOE) and the World Congress on Optometric Globalization (WCOG); and the publication of the inaugural Global Competency-Based Model of Scope of Practice in Optometry and a Global Case Statement for Optometry.   
 
Dr. Di Stefano was the architect of the University's Public Health Programs, which included the launching in 2010 of the University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program. Salus University’s public health degree and certificate programs were specifically designed to bridge the gap in public health training in programs such as Optometry, Audiology, Blindness and Low Vision Studies, Physician Assistant Studies, Occupational Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology, which Dr. Di Stefano helped to establish at Salus.
 
He has extensive teaching experience in the areas of community health, epidemiology, healthcare policy and organization, and optometric jurisprudence. He has served as a consultant for the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to evaluate professional degree programs at schools and colleges nationwide. His professional and publication history have been in the fields of health policy, international health, health planning, program development, evaluation and administration.

MPH Commencement 2015
Drs. Monaco and Di Stefano with MPH Graduates, October 2015 

Dr. Di Stefano has been recognized for his distinguished work by organizations such as the World Council of Optometry (Distinguished Service Award), the American Public Health Association (Distinguished Service Award), and the College of Optometrists in the United Kingdom (Honorary Fellowship in the College of Optometrists). The FCOptom is the College’s highest award, an acknowledgement of commitment to the profession, experience and accomplishments. In 2014, Dr. Di Stefano was awarded the University’s Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award.