AAO CEO David W Parke II, MD, steps down after 12 years

After more than a decade at the helm of the American Academy of Ophthalmology as its CEO, David W. Parke II, MD, has announced that he will be stepping down from the position.

After more than a decade at the helm of the American Academy of Ophthalmology as its CEO, David W. Parke II, MD, has announced that he will be stepping down from the position.

In announcing that he would be stepping down as AAO CEO, Parke pointed out that leadership transitions are healthy and important and that the organization is “in a strong position with robust programs, strong governance and financial integrity.”

Tamara R. Fountain, MD, AAO president, noted that under Parke’s leadership, the Academy has seen success and endured challenges, gaining strength throughout his tenure.

“From the founding of the IRIS Registry and the creation of the new public museum to leading the Academy and its members through COVID-19, he has embodied and vastly expanded the strengths of the organization,” Fountain said in a statement.

Peter J. McDonnell, MD, chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times,® and director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, noted that Parke has provided solid leadership for the organization.

“Everyone knows David Parke and everyone I know considers him to have been a wonderful steward for the American Academy of Ophthalmology,” he said.

McDonnell noted that among Parke’s achievements, he has been able to build upon the AAO’s reputation for service to the profession and the public with an emphasis on integrity.

“As a result, our Academy has a much higher percentage of membership amongst eligible professionals (i.e. ophthalmologists) than do its comparable professional organizations,” he said.

The AAO under Parke has reached out to young ophthalmologists and McDonnell noted he has encouraged their involvement in plotting the future course of the Academy and the profession, and placing an emphasis on addressing the needs of our young members in educating themselves about professionalism.

“He also has promoted diversity within our profession and the Academy, as strikingly illustrated this year when a woman president of the AAO (Anne Coleman) was succeeded by another dynamic woman leader (Tamara Fountain),” McDonnell said.

McDonnell also has noted that Parke has overseen the growth and quality of the AAO’s annual meeting.

The pandemic aside, the annual meeting is considered a highlight of the year by me and most of my ophthalmologist colleagues, whether they practice inside or outside the US,” he said. “Striking the right balance in terms of creating a place for industry at the meeting while satisfying the vast majority of attendees that the Academy sessions are free from commercial bias.”

McDonnell noted that Parke has “set a high bar for his successor to match and I for one am grateful for his years of service to the Academy.”

Additional highlights of Parke’s tenure include:

  • Developing the Academy’s IRIS Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight), the nation's first—and now the world’s largest--comprehensive eye disease registry. It has amassed to date data on nearly 60 million patients and 350 million patient visits. The IRIS Registry is transforming the profession by providing insights on eye disease and empowering ophthalmologists to effectively improve their practices and their patients’ lives.
  • Guiding members through COVID-19 by providing a mix of resources for physicians and advocacy for the tools their practices required to survive, ensuring patient access and care.
  • Raising an unprecedented amount of funding to support the profession, including the first publicly accessible museum dedicated to vision and eye health, including the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye. Other notable programs supported by the foundation, include The H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., MD, Center for Quality Eye Care, EyeCare America and a series of online resource centers to enhance physician education and improve patient care around the globe, including the David E. I. Pyott Glaucoma Education Center​, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Pediatric Ophthalmology Education Center​, and the Munnerlyn Laser Surgery Education Center​.
  • Launching the Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring program to increase diversity in ophthalmology by helping students underrepresented in medicine learn about ophthalmology and become more competitive ophthalmology residency applicants.
  • Expanding the Academy’s family of journals to include Ophthalmology RetinaOphthalmology Glaucoma, and Ophthalmology Science, its first open access journal.
  • Collaborating with the ASCRS (American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery) to develop Eyecelerator, a series of conferences and programs that accelerate innovation in ophthalmology.
  • Rebranding the Academy, updating and modernizing our logo and tagline to speak to the importance and value to patients and communities of the care provided by our members.
  • Engaging the public through EyeSmart to provide the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries.

“Dr. Parke’s successor will inherit a fiscally-sound, well-staffed and influential member organization,” Fountain said in her statement. “I am confident the new CEO will put his or her own brand on the office and advance the mission of the Academy – to preserve sight and empower lives.”

In the coming weeks, Fountain will convene a committee and launch the search, with the expectation of installing a new CEO before the end of the year. The committee is looking for an ophthalmologist member who will preserve the culture of the organization while charting new paths forward for the profession.

Parke said helping to lead the AAO and serve his colleagues and their patients has been, and always will be, the highlight of his professional career.

“It is an honor to work with the dedicated professionals who staff the Academy and who volunteer in its initiatives,” he said in a statement. “I could not be prouder of the work they do and its impact. I pledge to remain active in whatever way best serves the organization and my beloved profession.”

Prior to becoming Academy CEO, Parke served for 17 years as president and chief executive officer of the Dean McGee Eye Institute and Edward L. Gaylord Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology in the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

Parke has held leadership positions on multiple professional boards including as President of the Academy and as President of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies. He has authored or co-authored over 100 articles, served on the editorial board of two ophthalmic journals and has received numerous biomedical research grants and professional honors.

Parke has lectured widely on topics in retinal diseases and surgery, academic professional development, medical liability insurance and risk management, healthcare policy, and medical organizational leadership and management.