Maj. Kerry Phelan, 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron optometry flight commander, will be awarded the Armed Forces Optometric Society Junior Optometrist of the Year 2016 on Nov. 8 at the AFOS annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
Phelan had already been awarded the AFOS Air Force Junior Optometrist of the Year 2016 on Feb. 23 at the Southern Council of Optometrist Federal Service Optometry Conference in Atlanta.
Lt. Col. Thomas Massa, 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander, said Phelan is the epitome of the Air Force officer and an outstanding spokesman for military health care and optometry.
In her first assignment at the United States Air Force Academy, Phelan was selected by United States Southern Command to direct optometry services for the Belize medical mission.
She provided needed eye care to over 900 patients, which included refractions, dispensing eye water, treating anterior segment pathology and referrals to the appropriate specialty.
“Everyone needs optometric services; however, they don’t always have access. Poor vision and eye health can affect a person’s quality of life,” said Phelan. “By participating in humanitarian missions, I can help provide eye care and glasses to these populations. Nothing beats the joy on the face of a patient who has clear vision for the first time and knowing they will benefit for years to come.”
The award citation states that based on her success in Belize, she was hand-picked to lead optometry operations for the Cobra Gold Medical Civic Action Program mission to Thailand. It was estimated the team provided $250,000 in eye care service to over 1,400 local civilians and 53 Thai military members.
“I love my job and taking care of our service members, retirees, and their family members,” said Phelan.
“Being stationed at Scott AFB, I have the opportunity to serve members in the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. My optometry team and I ensure our patients have healthy eyes and required glasses, allowing them to complete their missions stateside and overseas.”
In June 2010, Phelan was deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. She was assigned to both the detention facility at Parwan and the Craig Joint Theatre Hospital at Bagram Airfield.
She provided routine and acute care to 1,200 detainees and a combined military and civilian population of 3,000 personnel. She was the lead consultant for 12 forward operating bases and taught four ophthalmic injury and disease classes to the Afghan National Army medics.
Phelan said, “I strive to be the best possible optometrist and continue on my path of becoming a well-rounded Air Force officer.”
Phelan became the Air Force representative on the AFOS executive council in 2014 and currently serves as the secretary and treasurer. Her performance as an officer and optometrist has been recognized with 12 quarterly awards at the squadron, group and wing levels. She also won the Squadron Company Grade Officer of the Year award, the Command Optometrist of the year 2008-2010 and the AF CGO Optometrist of the year in 2010.