Lester Caplan Obituary, Death – Lester Caplan, OD, M.Ed, FAAO, a pioneer in clinical contact lens research and a professor emeritus at the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Optometry, has died. He died on December 2nd, at the age of 98. Caplan, born in 1924, established his optometric practice in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950. During this time, he also served as a part-time consultant to the director of the Indian Health Service (HIS). For his contributions to the integration of optometry into the Indian Health Service, he was called the “Father of Indian Health Service Optometry.”
Caplan, who was 55 at the time, was looking for a change and opted to pursue his academic objectives. He stated that the relationships he developed with optometry colleges over his long stint with the Indian Health Service recruiting optometry services aided him in that endeavor. He had five offers before settling on UAB. Caplan joined the faculty of the UAB School of Optometry in 1979. In the 1980s, he was the School’s chief of Contact Lens Services, associate dean for Clinical Services, and the founder of the Externship Program. He was honored with the Melvin Waxman Award for his long-standing dedication to the optometry profession.
He left UABSO in 2002, but he remained active in many elements of the School for many years after that. Caplan stood out as an example of how a researcher’s enthusiasm and competence in a certain subject might assist students who are taught by that researcher. He talked at UABSO during a time when the market for soft contact lenses was limited. Certain pupils will remember Caplan for teaching them the foundations of contact lenses. He tasked his students with researching each lens, including its properties, the amount of oxygen it allowed, and its water content.
During his optometric career, Caplan worked as a senior consultant for the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, as well as a consultant for the Clinic Directors/Administrators Special Interest Group (SIG) and the Externship Directors SIG. He was also a founding member of the Association of Clinic Directors of Optometry Schools and Colleges. His awards include the American Optometric Association’s Optometrist of the Year Award, the Carel C. Koch Memorial Award, the American Academy of Optometry’s Life Fellowship Award, and the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators.