Optometry Awards of Honour

Each year, the School of Optometry & Vision Science recognizes our own through the presentation of the Optometry Awards of Honour.

Through leadership, advocacy and community service, recipients have made outstanding contributions to their communities and to optometry. Their dedication to the advancement of vision care has improved the lives of people across Canada and around the world.

2023 Alumni Awards of Honour recipients

2023 Early Career Alumni Award

Dr. Shaina Nensi

Dr. Shaina Nensi completed her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Waterloo in 2016. Following graduation, Dr. Nensi completed a residency in Pediatrics and Vision Therapy where she received additional training in the areas of pediatrics, neuro-rehabilitation, vision therapy and eyecare for special-needs populations. Dr. Nensi serves as the Vice-President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists board and was an integral part of the OHIP negotiating team, advocating to increase access to care for patients. Dr. Nensi is passionate about giving back to both her local and global communities. Read full bio

2023 Alumni Awards of Honour

Dr. Johnathan Lam

Dr. Johnathan Lam graduated in 1999 from the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry & Vision Science. During his time at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Lam completed an ocular disease internship at Omni Eye Services in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Lam then returned to British Columbia and began practicing in 100 Mile House at the practice of Dr. Morgan Hughes and Dr. Deborah Jennings (UW '92) and in Williams Lake with Dr. Dan Derksen (UW '91). In 2001, Dr. Lam moved back to his home town of Nanaimo to join Dr. David Myrfield (UW '74) and Dr. Michael Kellam (UW '86). Dr. Lam is an accomplished optometrist and has played a significant role in the field of tele-optometry. Read full bio

2023 Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Dennis Ruskin

Dr. Dennis Ruskin graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in 1976. Upon graduation, he established his practice in Toronto. Dr. Ruskin became a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in 1989. Throughout his career, Dr. Ruskin participated on numerous committees of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, was active with the Vision Institute of Canada and served as an examiner for the Canadian Examiners in Optometry (now the Optometry Examining Board of Canada). Most notably, since 1989, Dr. Ruskin gave generously of his time and talents to the College of Optometrists of Ontario. Read full bio

2023 Vision Champion Award

Dr. Paula Garshowitz

Dr. Paula Garshowitz graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in 1980. Following graduation, Dr. Garshowitz went into private practice for 20+ years. In 2003, Dr. Garshowitz joined the College of Optometrists of Ontario as Assistant Registrar, and ultimately served as Registrar, from May 2011 to June 2019. During her time as Registrar, the College enjoyed a sustained period of stability and growth, and earned respect among Ontario health regulatory colleges, other optometric regulatory authorities, and key stakeholders including the Ministry of Health and the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science. Read full bio

2023 Vision Champion Award

Dr. Gordon Hensel

Dr. Gordon Hensel completed his Doctor of Optometry in 1980 after completing a BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta. Upon graduation, Dr. Hensel immediately became involved in the profession by being elected to the Council of the Alberta Association of Optometrists (AAO) at his first Annual General Meeting. Dr. Hensel went on to serve as the youngest President of the AAO from 1985-1986 and achieved his Fellowship in the American Academy of Optometry that same year. In 2002, Dr. Hensel became the Registrar of the Alberta College of Optometrists, a position that he held until retirement in 2022. Read full bio

2023 Vision Champion Award

Dr. Leland Kolbenson

Dr. Leland Kolbenson graduated from the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in 1976. Upon graduation, Dr. Kolbenson opened a practice in Tisdale SK. He is currently practicing in Golden BC with his daughter Rebecca (OD ‘13) Over the following decades, Dr. Kolbenson contributed greatly to the profession through various committee, council and association positions. Dr. Kolbenson served in Saskatchewan for more than two decades in positions including President and Registrar for the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists. Read full bio

2023 Vision Champion Award

Dr. Lorne Ryall

Dr. Lorne Ryall completed his Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo in 1988 after graduating from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree (1981) and a Master of Sciences degree (1984). Dr. Ryall joined the Manitoba Association of Optometrists Council in 1993 and served as Assistant Registrar, before taking on the role of Registrar in 1994, a position that he held until April 2021. Read full bio

Previous recipients

Award process

Award selection will be made by a committee including the director of the School of Optometry & Vision Science (or delegate), the associate director of advancement, and at least 2 external appointees. All applications will remain active for the duration of 2 award cycles.

The School welcomes nominations for the Alumni of Honour Award from alumni, students, staff, retirees and members of the public. Self-nominations will not be considered. The nominees must hold a Waterloo optometry degree(s) (OD, MSc or PhD).

To nominate an alumnus or alumna for the Optometry Award of Honour, please complete the nomination form, including all mandatory fields. The nomination form is posted on this page early each year.

Privacy statement

The University of Waterloo respects your privacy and that of the person you are nominating. Information collected here will only be used for award purposes. Read the University’s privacy policy online or contact Kelsey Gagnon for details.