When Satya Verma, OD ‘75, FAAO, DPNAP, Diplomate
, found out at the end of March that he had been named as one of the 2020 inductees into the National Optometric Hall of Fame, he thought it made a pretty nice 75th birthday present.
When Dr. Verma was enrolled in middle school, there was a mix-up about his date of birth in the school records. Although he was born on May 26, some printed school records showed his birth date as March 26. The discrepancy has been difficult to sort out over the ensuing years.
“One year in March, when Tom Lewis was president (of Salus), his secretary called me and said, ‘He wants to see you.’ So I went to his office and he looked at me and said, ‘Happy birthday!’ And, I didn’t say anything for a second,” recalled Dr. Verma, associate professor and director of externships for the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). “And, he said, ‘Wait a minute, you don’t look excited. It’s your birthday, right?’ And I said, ‘Yes and no.’”
Dr. Verma said he still receives a birthday card from the president’s office in March. “I just set it aside until May,” he said. “In a way, I get to sort of celebrate two birthdays every year.”
Still, being named to the National Optometry Hall of Fame is humbling for Dr. Verma, and he’s honored to add that to his long list of awards and accomplishments as he closes in on his 50th year at Salus University, which he will celebrate in 2021.
For 22 years, the National Optometry Hall of Fame has recognized and honored doctors of optometry who have made significant and enduring contributions to the optometric profession. In 2019, Salus president Michael Mittelman, OD ‘80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE
, was inducted into the group, although a scheduling issue prevented him from participating in the ceremony.
During his career, Dr. Verma has received numerous accolades.
He has served PCO and Salus in various capacities that include: secretary and president, Faculty Organization of PCO (FOPCO); chair, Protection of Human Subjects Committee; member, Learning Resources Committee; Judicial Committee; Academic Standards Taskforce; Accelerated Doctor of Optometry Program Taskforce; Tenure Committee; and chair, Tenure Committee.
He currently serves as chair of the Educational Policy and Curriculum committee, member of the University’s Diversity committee, University Development Day committee, University Retirement Advisory committee, Board of Trustees/Academic Leadership/ Mentorship Group; and chair of the Committee on Academic Promotion (PCO).
Dr. Verma started the first low vision service at PCO’s clinical facility and wrote the first lab manual for low vision. He was clinical supervisor for the Philadelphia Interdisciplinary Health and Education Program (PHIHEP), Contact Lens and Low Vision service and has been part of the Externship Program since its inception. He also developed the Clerkship Program for second-year students.
He started the Community Eye Care Service program, clinical teaching for students and providing eye care to the homebound elderly population in Philadelphia, the first of its kind. He also developed and has been teaching an elective course in geriatric optometry for Salus PCO students.
Dr. Verma started the first External Residency Program and developed up to 10 residency programs. And, he has lectured extensively over the years in the area of contact lenses, low vision and geriatric optometry.
Currently, Dr. Verma is an instructor in the externship program for third-and fourth-year PCO students and also teaches the elective course, Developing and Managing Geriatric Optometry Practice in the Managed Care Environment.
In addition, he was selected as a Delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging and for a Primary Care Health Policy Fellowship at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) – one of only four optometrists ever selected for the honor. And, he’s the only optometrist in Pennsylvania who was honored twice by the Chester Delaware County Optometric Society and the Pennsylvania Optometric Association and went on to receive the American Optometric Association’s “Optometrist of the Year” award.
During 2019, Dr. Verma received the Nicholas A. Cummings Award from the National Academies of Practice (NAP). He also received the Presidential Medal of Honor from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry/Salus University during its centennial celebration. In addition, he was elected as the Secretary of the Board of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, the fourth largest area agency on aging in the United States.
“It is unbelievable that I have spent 49 years of my professional life at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry/Salus University (PCO),” said Dr. Verma. “I feel blessed first to be an optometrist and second to have made PCO my professional home. I am proud to be a part of the optometric fraternity, my second family that has given me so much more than I may have contributed. And hopefully I can continue to do whatever I can for the betterment of our profession.”