Salus University is used to having its annual in-person holiday party disrupted by the lingering after effects of that Grinch-like pandemic, and out of an abundance of caution, 2022 was no exception.

Service Awards22 LogoAn integral part of that celebration is the presentation of the University’s Length of Service Awards, and that, too, was affected. The awards, presented to the Salus employees for their years of service, were given virtually this year.

At the top of the service awards was Thomas Lewis, OD ‘70, PhD, FAAO, past president of the University.

After Dr. Lewis graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), he started a doctorate program in human anatomy at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University.

During the second year of that program, he asked his advisor if he could spend a couple of days teaching at PCO if he promised to spend the weekends working on his thesis. The advisor agreed. And, Dr. Lewis began his teaching career at PCO in August 1972. Fifty years later, he’s still here.

Dr. Lewis was among the University’s employees recognized by Salus president Michael H. Mittelman, OD ‘80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE. “This is the time of the year when we like to celebrate the achievements of our staff, faculty and programs,” said Dr. Mittelman. “I believe we are truly a family, and I believe that is what makes Salus so special.”

After attainting his doctorate, Dr. Lewis spent a year on a post-doctorate research fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in the department of ophthalmology.

In 1975, PCO’s third president, Norman Wallis, OD, PhD, FAAO, hired Dr. Lewis as a full-time faculty member and department chair.

Dr. Lewis recalls the mid-1970s as an exciting time at PCO. The College was building The Eye Institute (TEI), and dealing with changes in the direction of optometry with the introduction of pharmaceutical agents for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. That in turn was driving the curriculum of the College.

Tom Lewis headshotIn addition, when states started passing legislation to expand the scope of optometry, PCO was selected to spearhead the educational efforts.

“I spent a lot of my time helping to coordinate all the courses that we were offering around the country,” said Dr. Lewis. “Early on we were in 28 different states where we provided basic education trying to expand the scope of practice for optometry to include the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease.”

During that five decades, he was named PCO’s fifth president and served in that capacity from 1989 to 2008. In 2008, he led the transition of PCO to Salus University and served as president of the University from 2008 to 2013. Since then, he has remained active teaching at PCO/Salus.

But 50 years is a long time to be in the same spot. Dr. Lewis attributes his longevity at the institution to the fact that his family had set down deep roots in the Philadelphia area. When declining many offers to move to other institutions, “I would say to myself and my family, ‘You know my job at PCO is just not finished.’ We were always in the middle of something, whether it was program expansion, facility expansion, scope of practice expansion,” he said. “I just never felt my job was done and that’s sort of what kept me here.”

Dr. and Mrs. Jeff NymanIn addition to Dr. Lewis, others honored with the Length of Service Awards included two 45-year employees, Jeffrey Nyman, OD, FAAO, who joined the faculty in 1977 and is now director of the Emergency Service at TEI in Philadelphia; and Nancy Griffin, who started as an administrative assistant in Student Affairs and has worked for the Office of the Registrar and Admissions during her tenure.

“When I started, TEI opened and it was a very exciting time,” said Griffin, who is now associate director of Admissions. “I have enjoyed my time at Salus and the opportunity to work with such talented individuals throughout the years.”

Others honored include:

40 years: Marcy Graboyes, MS, coordinator of Social Services at the William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center and associate professor in the Blindness and Low Vision (BLVS) department; and Mitchell Scheiman, OD, PhD ‘16, FAAO, director of graduate programs, Biomedicine.

35 years: Robert Atkinson, Technical Services manager; Jean Marie Pagani, OD ‘87, FAAO, director of the internship program; and Maria Parisi, OD ‘85, associate dean for Optometric Clinical Affairs at PCO/Salus.

30 years: Donald Kates, CPA, vice president for Finance.

20 years: Alexander Dizhoor, PhD, Hafter chair in Pharmacology; Elena Olshevskaya, PhD, instructor; and Igor Peshenko, PhD, assistant professor.

15 years: Alycia Miller, director of specialty care, TEI; Dana Major, animal care technician; Kerry Lueders, MS ‘99, COMS, TVI, CLVT, director of Low Vision Rehabilitation (LVR) programs; June Dunwell, secretary, Office of Student Affairs; Monica Scirrotto, MS, Admissions director.

10 years: Alfred Luton, custodial technician; Maureen Owens, MBA, controller; Martin Pienkowski, PhD, associate professor, residential education; Steven Lee, maintenance technician; Jayne Mangini, administrative assistant, Occupational Therapy program; Michelle Britchkow, OD ‘09, assistant professor; Jamie Lindsay, assistant director, Externship program; Girija Sundar, MPhil, PhD, CCC-A, FAAA, director of Distance Education programs; Lauren Sponseller, PhD ‘18, MSOTR/L, MEd, chair of the Occupational Therapy program.

Five years: Jessalyn Mifflin, Assessment and Technology coordinator, PCO; Siva Meiyeppen, OD, FAAO, assistant professor; Teresa Warryton, housekeeper; Amie Leighton, project manager; Jacquelyn Todaro, administrative assistant, Osborne College of Audiology; Adler Noel, security officer; Gregory Benjamin, PhD, MPH, adjunct assistant professor; Julia Sullivan, patient service representative; Eric Smith, MA, CCC-SLP, clinical educator; Jacqueline Pittam, MEd, MS, CCC-SLP, clinical educator, SLI; Navpreet Hehar, OD, FAAO, assistant professor; Stephanie Leburg-Jett, OD ‘16, FAAO, assistant professor; Shaughn Donley, security officer; Cindy Major, assistant bursar; Sumathi Parthasarathy, assistant professor, coordinator, Clinical Compliance; Doan Trang Kwak, OD, FAAO, assistant professor; Erin Sherman, OD ‘16, assistant professor; Danille Doherty, Clinical Education program assistant, PA; Clifton Debisette, security officer; Clare McLaughlin, financial aid officer.

And Santa didn’t forget about the annual holiday raffle winners, although he didn’t get to greet each of them in person. Winners of the raffle drawing, which was conducted virtually, included:

Jim McParland, Institutional Services clerk — TCL 55-inch Roku TV.

Helene Kaiser, OD ‘89, FAAO, director, Traineeship program — All-new Kindle (2022).

Ronald Perez, Facilities — Beats wireless headphones.

Nicole Williams, patient access coordinator, TEI administration — GoSports corn hole set of all-weather bean bags.

Cara Orr, PAC, assistant professor, Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program — Fitbit fitness and health tracker.

Anna Intartaglia, Communications and Marketing coordinator — Regulation size wooden corn hole boards set.

Jeffrey Nyman — Bluetooth outdoor wireless speaker with LED lights.

Julia Sullivan, patient service representative, TEI — JBL Boombox 2.