Paying Tribute to an Optometric Visionary

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO November 20, 2012

Once upon a time, a group of optometrists in the San Francisco Bay Area had a dream—to offer high-quality, cost-effective eye care as a prepaid benefit. Prior to this historic beginning, optometry was not part of third-party healthcare. The group reasoned, if companies or unions could purchase group prepaid health plans at a lower cost, why not vision? So, in 1955, this group of visionary doctors founded California Vision Services (CVS), the forerunner of VSP Vision Care.

Sadly, the last living founder of CVS, Roy Brandreth, OD, passed away this past weekend. In every sense of the word, Dr. Brandreth and his colleagues were pioneers in the development of our great profession, optometry. The inclusion of optometric services as a part of an employee benefit package was fundamental to better understanding of the importance of eye care. Certainly, the frequency of examination and the importance of vision in overall health were greatly enhanced as doctors and patients were connected through the CVS vision benefit. 

Dr. Brandreth was an alumnus of the University of California Berkeley School of Optometry (1953). He maintained a private, independent practice for 30 years and served as a clinic director for UC Berkeley from 1982 to 1988. Upon his retirement, the students established the Roy Brandreth Award, which is given annually to acknowledge a faculty member who—in the judgment of the graduating class—best exemplifies true professionalism and most influenced the students to strive for clinical excellence.

Dr. Brandreth published several manuals and a widely used textbook on biomicroscopy. He was most certainly committed to both professional and community service. But I would submit that his greatest legacy will forever be the connection of doctors and patients through a prepaid benefit. Today, VSP connects over 58 million patients with 28,000 network doctors.

As I see it, Dr. Brandreth and his group of optometric colleagues are to be commended for having elevated optometric services as a part of prepaid employee benefits. Clearly, this established the foundation for optometry’s emergence as an integral part of healthcare and continues to be an important direct access channel for our profession.

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