In her recommendation letter to the Salus University Presidential Medal committee, Erin Kenny, OD, FAAO, chief of the William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center housed at The Eye Institute (TEI), called Sarah Appel, OD, the Institute’s “best-kept secret.”
“She has so much knowledge and does an exemplary job sharing it with the interns and her colleagues. There is not one day during staffing (where we review the patients scheduled that day) that Dr. Appel does not bring a new insight into my clinical practice. Her experience and passion are evident with every patient review,” wrote Dr. Kenny.
Well, Dr. Appel is no longer a secret to the Presidential Medal committee as it named her one of the 2021 Presidential Medal award winners. As is the custom, Salus president Michael H. Mittelman, OD, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE, did the honors of informing Dr. Appel of the award. Knowing that Dr, Mittelman welcomed feedback from the faculty, that’s what Dr. Appel was expecting — an exchange of ideas — when she joined a Zoom meeting with him from home.
What she got was more than that.Dr. Sarah Appel receiving Presidential award from  Dr. Mittelman
“Needless to say, I was not expecting to hear that I was chosen to receive the Salus University Presidential Medal of Honor Award and was stunned when I found out,” she said.
Dr. Appel is director of the Pediatric Low Vision Services at The Eye Institute, co-director of the Special Populations Assessment and Rehabilitation Center (SPARC) and is a professor in the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus Advanced Studies program.
In her recommendation letter, Dr. Kenny explained how the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) showed her how much of an impact Dr. Appel has made on the optometric world.
“She has had numerous roles at the Academy: lecturer, mentor, course reviewer, author and chair of several low vision diplomate committees. When I sat in my diplomate interview after the written exam, it finally hit me how she has changed the low vision world across the nation,” wrote Dr. Kenny. “There was not one diplomate in that meeting that she did not directly teach or did not have a mentor that was taught by her. She has changed so many educators’ lives, let alone interns. Her previous interns and residents are chiefs of service and faculty members all across the optometric academic world in the United States.”
A tireless educator, Dr. Appel has published and/or lectured in every year since 1980 and continues to serve on countless committees. Her commitment to low vision has been a life-long passion and in the world of academia, and she has touched countless numbers of students and patients, according to Dr. Kenny.
Dr. Appel considers her 40-plus-year career a labor of love and said receiving the Presidential Medal means a great deal to her.
“As a faculty member of both of these illustrious institutions (PCO and Salus) and a member of the remarkable William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center staff, I have had the opportunity to positively impact my patients’ health and welfare, teach and mentor wonderful students and residents and contribute to the field of low vision rehabilitation,” she said. “For that, I will be forever grateful.”