AROA Awards

2024 Arkansas Optometric Association Award Recipients

Joe Sugg, OD

2024 Optometrist of the YearDr Joe Sugg

Dr. Joe Sugg, based in Heber Springs, has been named the 2024 Arkansas Optometric Association Optometrist of the Year. This prestigious award recognizes a single optometrist for their exceptional accomplishments and ongoing dedication to the association. Dr. Sugg's outstanding achievements in the field, coupled with his history of exemplary service to the association, distinguish him as a deserving recipient of this honor.

Dr. Joe Sugg, a distinguished optometrist based in Heber Springs, embodies the epitome of professionalism and altruism within his field. His colleagues commend his selfless dedication to serving his community, colleagues, and patients, setting a remarkable standard for optometry in Arkansas. Dr. Sugg's journey began in 2009 when he joined the Heber Springs Eye Care Center, eventually assuming ownership of the practice. Under his leadership, the center received the Southern College of Optometry’s Hayes Center Practice of Excellence Award in 2015, a testament to Dr. Sugg's commitment to excellence.

Driven by a passion for advocacy, Dr. Sugg played a pivotal role in the passage of Act 579 of 2019, demonstrating his tireless efforts in shaping legislation for the benefit of patients and the profession. Furthermore, his contributions to the financial stability of the Arkansas Optometric Association and his extensive involvement in various committees underscore his dedication to advancing the field.

Dr. Sugg's impact extends beyond professional realms, as evidenced by heartfelt testimonials from his staff, who commend his unwavering support, guidance, and creation of a positive work environment. His active engagement in community initiatives, including serving as past president of the Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce and involvement in Renew Church of Heber Springs, reflects his commitment to making a difference beyond the confines of his practice.

A graduate of Arkansas State University and the Southern College of Optometry, Dr. Sugg's accolades include being named the Arkansas Optometric Association Young OD of the Year in 2013 and receiving the Special Service Award in 2020. His exemplary leadership, both locally and nationally, and his dedication to his family exemplify his unwavering commitment to service and excellence in all facets of his life.

Aaron Tollett, ODAaron Tollett

2024 Young OD of the Year

Dr. Aaron Tollett has been named the Arkansas Optometric Association (AROA) 2024 Young Optometrist of the Year, recognizing his outstanding contributions and leadership within the optometry profession. This accolade is designated for young optometrists with a minimum of four years of practice experience, typically awarded between the fourth and tenth year of service, who exhibit exceptional promise and active involvement in AROA leadership.

Since his student days, Dr. Tollett has demonstrated unwavering dedication to the AROA. He is currently serving on the AROA Board of Directors and volunteers for various committees and special projects. Notably, he has served on the AOA Leadership and Development Committee and currently serves as the American Optometric Association Federal Advocacy Representative for Arkansas, displaying remarkable enthusiasm and commitment.

Despite the demands of a young family and a burgeoning practice, Dr. Tollett has selflessly devoted his time to advancing the interests of the optometric community. From his tenure as president of the Arkansas student organization at Southern College of Optometry to his current role as a board member, he has consistently prioritized the needs of the Association and its members.

Operating a thriving practice in his hometown of Nashville, Arkansas, Dr. Tollett has provided essential eye care services to an underserved community, eliminating the need for residents to travel long distances for treatment.

Dr. Tollett's passion for organized optometry is evident through his extensive involvement, including leadership roles in various committees and organizations such as the AROA Board of Directors, AOA-PAC Committee, and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce.

Recognized as the 2019 American Optometric Student Association Student of the Year, Dr. Tollett's commitment to excellence and service continues to inspire and uplift the optometric community.

Rusty Simmons, ODRusty Simmons, OD

Lifetime of Excellence Award

Dr. Rusty Simmons, a distinguished optometrist with over four decades of service, has been honored with the prestigious 2024 Lifetime of Excellence Award by the Arkansas Optometric Association. This recognition celebrates Dr. Simmons' unwavering commitment to ethical practices, professional excellence, and compassionate care throughout his career.

Throughout his tenure on the association's board, Dr. Simmons played pivotal roles in various committees, including chair positions for critical committees such as Nominating, Awards, and Career Guidance. His proactive engagement as a student liaison provided invaluable mentorship and networking opportunities for aspiring optometrists, shaping the future of the profession.

Dr. Simmons' advocacy efforts extended beyond administrative duties. He played a key role in legislative pursuits, notably contributing to the passage of Act 1438, which mandated school vision screenings and follow-up exams, ensuring the visual health of Arkansas' youth.

At Simmons Eye Care in Benton, Dr. Simmons has provided exemplary services, carrying on his father's legacy. He has served as the Vision Source Administrator of Arkansas since 2005. and earned the AROA Distinguished Service Award in 2012.

Beyond his professional commitments, Dr. Simmons actively engages with local organizations such as the Saline County Christian Community Care Clinic, Lions Club, and Saline County Chamber of Commerce, enriching his community. He also participates in global initiatives like Optometry Giving Sight, demonstrating his dedication to providing eye care to underserved populations worldwide.

Supported by his wife and their three children, Dr. Simmons embodies the values of integrity, compassion, and excellence. His exemplary career serves as an inspiration for future generations of optometrists, setting a high standard of professionalism and service.


Bryant Ashley, ODBryant Ashley, OD

Lifetime of Excellence

Bryant Ashley, O.D., has been honored with the prestigious Lifetime of Excellence Award, a testament to his unwavering commitment to ethical, professional, and compassionate optometric care throughout his distinguished career. This accolade recognizes optometrists who, in the later stages of their service or retirement, have demonstrated exemplary character and a willingness to serve the Arkansas Optometric Association (AROA) and its members selflessly, setting a standard for all practitioners to aspire to.

Dr. Ashley's legacy of service extends beyond his clinical practice at Family Eye Care in North Little Rock. Throughout his tenure, he has exemplified dedication to his profession and community, serving as a beacon of ethical practice and leadership. His involvement with the AROA spans decades, including a term as president from 1998 to 1999 and subsequent roles on the board, contributing significantly to the advancement of optometric standards and advocacy efforts.

Notably, Dr. Ashley's tenure on the Arkansas State Board of Optometry, where he served as president from 2018 to 2024, underscores his commitment to regulatory excellence and public welfare. His leadership in this capacity has left an indelible mark on the profession, serving as an inspiration for future generations of optometrists.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Dr. Ashley remains actively engaged in community service, volunteering at IHM Catholic Church and serving as a member of the North Little Rock Lions Club. His dedication to providing vision screenings for local schools further demonstrates his commitment to the well-being of the community.

Dr. Ashley's numerous accolades, including the AROA Optometrist of the Year in 2006, and the Distinguished Service Award in 2008 and 2022, reflect the esteem with which he is regarded by his peers. Married with two children, his influence extends beyond the professional realm, leaving a lasting legacy of excellence and service.


Perry Amerine, ODPerry Amerine, OD

Myron Shofner Award of Excellence

Perry Amerine, OD, has been honored with the Arkansas Optometric Association Myron Shofner Award of Excellence, recognizing his exceptional legislative contributions. Dr. Amerine, a mentor in the optometry field, epitomizes professionalism and has actively engaged in legal legislative endeavors throughout his extensive career with the AROA.

With over 40 years of dedicated practice, Dr. Amerine has played a pivotal role in legislative achievements, notably the passage of TPA for optometry and Act 579 of 2019. His influential relationships with legislators have been instrumental in shaping optometric legislation.

Beyond legislative endeavors, Dr. Amerine has demonstrated selfless dedication to advancing optometry. Serving on the AROA board and as a past president, he has contributed significantly to the profession's growth and development. Beginning his career in rural Arkansas, Dr. Amerine now oversees three practices in central Arkansas.

Dr. Amerine's commitment extends to his military service, where he served as Commander of the 188th Medical Group in the Arkansas Air National Guard, earning accolades for his exceptional leadership.

His contributions span various political and community roles, from serving as County Chairman to being a charter member of the Paris Jaycees. Dr. Amerine's active involvement in organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and Rotary Club underscores his commitment to community service and leadership development.

Recipient of numerous awards, including the Arkansas Optometrist of the Year and the United States Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, Dr. Amerine's impact extends far beyond his profession. His leadership, advocacy, and dedication to serving others exemplify the values of integrity, excellence, and community engagement.


Brandy StewartBrandy Stewart

2024 Paraoptometric of the Year

Brandy Stewart of Heartland Eye Clinic has been honored with the prestigious 2024 Paraoptometric of the Year award. Recognized for her outstanding dedication to optometry and community service, Brandy exemplifies excellence in paraoptometry.

The award is bestowed upon paraoptometrics who demonstrate exceptional service to optometry and the Arkansas Optometric Association (AROA), coupled with significant community involvement and personal endorsement from an ArOA member. Brandy's enthusiasm for optometry is infectious, evident in her exceptional patient rapport and advocacy.

Brandy's commitment to patient care is unparalleled. She goes above and beyond to ensure each patient feels valued and receives the necessary support, from coordinating referrals to advocating for medication coverage and connecting patients with community resources. Her dedication extends beyond vision care, demonstrating a genuine concern for patients' overall well-being.

Brandy's passion for paraoptometric education is evident in her active participation in AROA events and conventions. She not only absorbs knowledge but also shares insights with her colleagues, contributing to the advancement of paraoptometry in Arkansas.

Beyond her professional commitments, Brandy is deeply involved in philanthropic endeavors, volunteering with Junior Auxiliary and local food banks, and supporting various community initiatives. Dr. Wright, her employer, echoes her dedication to service, encouraging staff involvement in charitable activities and fostering partnerships with organizations like Services for the Blind to assist patients in need.

Brandy's impact extends far beyond the clinic walls, embodying the spirit of service and compassion. Her unwavering commitment to optometry, community service, and patient advocacy make her a deserving recipient of the Paraoptometric of the Year award.

Rabbit Rabbit! And Happy Birthday to these beginning of February AR ODs 🎉🎉

Posted by Arkansas Optometric Association on Thursday, 1 February 2024

Rabbit Rabbit! And Happy Birthday to these beginning of February AR ODs 🎉🎉

Posted by Arkansas Optometric Association on Thursday, 1 February 2024

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