Q&A with Felix Barker OD, MS, FAAO
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Q&A with Felix Barker OD, MS, FAAO

Dr. Felix M. Barker, professor emeritus and former Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) trustee, has been an educator, researcher, administrator, and mentor. He is an accomplished investigator and has had his grant-funded research writings widely published. He began his career at PCO in 1978 as the chief of Primary Care Services at The Eye Institute (TEI). He subsequently served as director of Residencies, Clinical Science department chair, director of the PCO Laser Program and interim dean of Optometry before becoming dean of Research. In this capacity, Dr. Barker actively engaged with investigators in order to advance TEI’s Research program. As the dean of Research, Dr. Barker made significant changes to how the institution structured the program in order to elevate PCO’s research profile and capacity.

a-felix-barker-and-mhm-pic1He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), and a distinguished practitioner of the National Academies of Practice as well as a William C. Ezell Fellow. He was the editor of the Journal of Optometric Education, chair of the Education and Primary Care Sections of the AAO and also served as chair of the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Council on Research.

Dr. Barker served as an associate director of Research of the Rehabilitation and Reintegration directorate of the Veteran’s Administration (VA)/Department of Defense (DoD) Vision Center of Excellence, where he worked to facilitate clinical practice recommendations and the prioritization, development, and funding of vision care and vision rehabilitation research efforts within the VA, DoD and non-federal communities. An active advocate of community service, he founded the Salus University Lions Club student chapter. Dr. Barker also received Salus University Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Award in 2014.

Below is a Q and A with Dr. Barker who received the Salus University Presidential Medal of Honor earlier this year at the Centennial Gala.

Please tell us a little bit about your experience at Salus/PCO.

a-felix-barker-and-wife-pic1Pierrette (Dayhaw-Barker) and I came to PCO in the late summer of 1978. We had met at the Optometry College at the University of Houston and recently married and joining the PCO faculty was a great opportunity for us for a number of reasons. Firstly, finding two positions at one institution was difficult in those days. We were also very fortunate that PCO was in a strong program development process being led by President (Norman) Wallis, including an aggressive faculty recruitment for the next generation and the building of the new “Eye Institute,” which has become a model for clinical Optometric Education.

We were also fortunate to have joined the faculty at a time when the potential for personal and professional growth was high. Pierrette and I came because of our interest and skills in medical physiology and medical eye care which were in demand at that time. Not only were the faculty and facilities in a renewal phase, but the College was staking out a critically important leadership position within national optometry concerning the expansion of optometry’s scope of practice. This vision of the future of optometry as a leader in medical eye care, would ultimately project PCO’s forward looking educational programs into nearly every state of the union. As faculty we all felt strongly that we were part of something much bigger than our individual careers.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time here?

My favorite memories were those involving the students and clinical faculty colleagues with whom I had the privilege to work. Every day was a unique journey of discovery with the students always causing me to learn more and more about topics I thought I already knew. The immense pleasure we all felt in seeing our future colleagues grow as clinicians was a universal benefit that I know all of us enjoyed. There was also great camaraderie within the faculty and the College community at large. The many social events were tremendous opportunities to solidify these critical relationships that made us a College. We also enjoyed making many lasting new friends around the world, through our involvement with the international program.

What was your most impactful experience during your time here?

a-felix-barker-and-dr-trego-pic1Together with our colleagues, Pierrette and I were privileged to be involved in a number of growth and development activities that have had substantial impact upon the profession. Of course there was The Eye Institute and the groundbreaking clinical curriculum which put our students and graduates at the “head of the pack” in terms of preparation for medical eye care. We provided by far the greatest energy and reach to spreading this imperative throughout the United States and the current momentum toward expanded surgical scope of practice had its inception in this effort and the establishment of PCO’s Light and Laser Institute. PCO/Salus continues to be a leader in research. On the international front, PCO has been a consistent leader, with European Optometry modeling its future practice after ours.

What do you hope for the next 100 years of Salus or where will Salus/PCO be in the next 100 years?

In 100 years, optometry will not be recognizable because our scope will have evolved dramatically, but PCO and Salus University will still be leading the educational, research and public service delivery to be a primary vehicle of that achievement.

What have you been up to since leaving Salus/PCO?

a-felix-barker-and-wife-pic2Pierrette and I have retired from Salus in stages over the past 10 years. As emeritus faculty we have stayed as involved as we could, given that we have moved to South Carolina to our new home. We are both pretty active in professional affairs within optometry and I am still working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, assigned to the DoD Vision Center of Excellence.

What advice would you give for a junior faculty member or current student?

To our future colleagues I would say that the future is not easy to predict, except that the need is and will continue to be great for eye care services. Look to the future with excitement and embrace change as the profession advances.