Presidential Medal of Honor 2024: Paul B. Freeman, OD β€˜74
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Presidential Medal of Honor 2024: Paul B. Freeman, OD β€˜74

It’s turning out to be a banner year for Paul B. Freeman, OD '74, FAAO, FOVDR. Not only is he celebrating his 50th anniversary of graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University, but he is also adding to his long list of accolades the 2024 Presidential Medal of Honor Award from his alma mater.

When notified he was a recipient of the award, it prompted him to reflect on his career and his time at PCO as a student 50 years ago.

Dr. Paul Freeman in his exam room“I looked back on my four years of optometry school and (again) realized that I received a good education,” Dr. Freeman said. “I had an opportunity not only to go to the best optometry school, but also to work outside of school in areas I was interested in; overall, it was a great experience.”

Dr. Freeman has spent his career focused on vision therapy and low vision rehabilitation. When he graduated from PCO, his goal was to improve the quality of life for his patients in any way he could, and five decades later, he’s still doing that.

“Even today, my job is primarily how I can enhance somebody’s quality of life with optics and vision therapy,” said Dr. Freeman. “When I started working in the areas of vision therapy and low vision, both being an extension of my primary care optometric knowledge base, I wanted to help people perform the best they can, see the best they can, and function the best they can, with the ultimate goal of improving their quality of life.”

Dr. Freeman was nominated for the award by his 1974 classmate, Henry Greene, OD ‘74, FAAO, himself a recipient of the 2023 Presidential Medal of Honor. In his nomination letter, Dr. Greene wrote that Dr. Freeman has dedicated his career to the profession of optometry, not only in service to patients, but also by promoting academics and the care of the visually impaired.

“He is a popular and energetic lecturer and has presented at nearly all the schools and colleges of optometry. He has influenced a number of young people to enter the profession,” wrote Dr. Greene in his nomination letter. “I admire his tireless efforts, energy, and tenacity in promoting the profession.”

Dr. Freeman is a Low Vision Diplomate and has served on the boards of both the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) Low Vision Section; the American Optometric Association (AOA) Low Vision Section where he was a founding member; and the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA) where he chaired several committees, including the Low Vision Committee.

Dr. Paul Freeman examines SpidermanCurrently, he is program co-chair for the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (now the Optometric Vision Development and Rehabilitation Association) of which he is also a fellow. In the larger community, Dr. Freeman served on the Pennsylvania State Board of Optometry and currently serves as the optometric member of the Medical Advisory Board to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, where he was instrumental in legalizing bioptic driving in the state.

From 1999 through 2012, Dr. Freeman served as editor of Optometry, the Journal of the AOA, where he championed causes important to the profession with his editorials. He is currently co-editor of PracticeUpdate, Elsevier’s free access website, with content not only for optometrists and ophthalmologists, but other healthcare professionals as well. He also serves as editor of Optometric Clinical Practice, an online journal which provides another avenue for optometrists to publish their work.

All that, and he still gets what he called “a five-day weekend.” He sees patients one day a week at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and splits time a second day between the Keystone Blind Association and the Beaver County Association for the Blind, both in the western part of Pennsylvania.

“I’m semi-retired from clinical practice but I’m certainly not retired from the world of optometry,” said Dr. Freeman. “After 50 years, I still enjoy what I’m doing.” And, during his free time, he likes to go to a little place he and his wife have at the Jersey Shore.

Dr. Freeman and four other medal winners will be honored at the annual recognition reception at 12:30 p.m., Sunday, June 2, at PineCrest Country Club in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Kathleen Fraser Freeman, OD ‘81, FAAO, and their daughter Julia plan to attend the event.

Dr. Paul Freeman and family“I think part of the beauty about receiving an honor like this is showing my daughter, who is now a third-year veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania, that if you do a good job, sometimes people take notice. There are any number of ways that can be done, and this is one of them,” said Dr. Freeman.

Being a PCO alum laid the solid foundation for a fulfilling career, according to Dr. Freeman. He is grateful to those who mentored him early in his career and takes every opportunity to share his acquired clinical experience, not only by lecturing at professional meetings, but also in teaching students.

“I had it pretty good. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s not always a lot of fun,” he said. “But when I look back, I realize how fortunate I was to go the route I went, to meet the people I met, have the education I had, and then be able to share my knowledge of what I do with others.”