Dr. J. Patrick Cummings
Past AOA President Pat Cummings, O.D., died July 11, 2009 doing something he loved—flying planes. Dr. Cummings’ other love was being a father, though his son’s life was also tragically cut short when he died in a car crash at age 18. In tribute to father and son, the Cummings family has established the Dr. Pat & Patrick Cummings Memorial Fund through Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation.
The memorial fund will allow the legacy of two amazing individuals to live on through the impact it can have on others’ lives.
“Not often in our lives are we involved with a peer who has always been there to offer a helping hand,” said Irving Bennett, past-president of the foundation’s board. “We had that with Pat Cummings, a truly great optometrist and a great leader. His feeling for eye care for the public went far beyond his devotion and commitment to his profession. There are programs in place that have his name written all over them. Speaking for Optometry Cares, we have indeed lost a great one.”
Dr. Cummings’ distinguished career in optometry began after he graduated from the Pacific University’s College of Optometry and joined a private group practice in Sheridan, Wyo.
He was also a consulting optometrist at the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Sheridan for more than 20 years and was on staff at the Sheridan County Memorial Hospital. In addition, he was an adjunct clinical faculty member for Pacific University’s College of Optometry.
Dr. Cummings was a charter member of the AOA Contact Lens & Cornea Section and Sports Vision Section. He was first elected to the AOA Board of Trustees in 1994 and served as the 81st president in 2002-2003.
After serving as the AOA president, Dr. Cummings moved to Florida and joined Vistakon® where he was the vice president of the Professional Development Group in the America’s Region.
“Pat joined Vistakon® in December 2003, bringing with him significant clinical and organizational leadership experience to the organization,” said Dave Brown, president of Vistakon® Americas. He added, “Pat was an extraordinary man, widely respected and admired by his colleagues and peers. He will be greatly missed by those of us who knew him.”
It was no secret that public health was an area close to Dr. Cummings’ heart, and his philanthropic nature was evident through his work.
“Pat Cummings was a skilled doctor, a gifted leader of the AOA, a powerful voice for the profession in his work at Vistakon®, and a tireless champion for public health,” said Former AOA President Randy Brooks, O.D. “More than that, he was my good friend. My heart goes out to his family and to all within the optometric family who mourn his loss and remember his many contributions. We have lost a great leader and a truly remarkable human being. We will remember two contributions in particular: the AOA’s Healthy Eyes Healthy People® program and the InfantSEE® program. Pat was deeply concerned with the issues surrounding public health. He used his position at the AOA to advocate for the eye care and health needs of patients across the country. He used his leadership skills and passion in service of those who were most in need. In doing so, he raised up our whole profession.”
Dr. Cummings was one of the first supporters of the InfantSEE® program and actively championed the cause of no-cost eye assessments for optometry’s youngest patients.
“Pat Cummings was a major part of the initiation and development of InfantSEE®,” said Glen Steele, O.D., chair of the InfantSEE® Committee. “I forever remember him standing before the House of Delegates and stating, ‘It’s the right thing to do.’ Pat stood by the committee throughout its existence and helped open doors with Johnson & Johnson at levels we only dreamed about at startup. What a person who will be missed in many ways—but most as a friend!”
Dr. Cummings’ commitment to the Healthy Eyes Healthy People® program was reflected in the scholarship fund originally set up in memory of his son in 2003.
Dr. Cummings and his son, who had just graduated from high school, had an extremely close relationship that was honored through the $3,000 scholarship presented to an optometry student selected from all applicants who submitted papers regarding how they would contribute to Healthy Eyes Healthy People®.
“I am saddened to hear of Dr. Cummings’ passing,” said Julie Belanger, O.D., the first recipient of the Patrick Everet Cummings Memorial Scholarship. “His generous scholarship was critical to reducing my overall educational debt. Finances were a consideration as whether or not to pursue residency, and I am very glad I was able to.”
Dr. Cummings’ achievements extended to the greater community as well.
Many civic and professional organizations honored his accomplishments. The Sheridan College presented the Golden Opportunity Outstanding Alumni Award to him in 1998. He was named the Jaycee of the Year in 1980 and was recognized twice as the Wyoming Optometrist of the Year. He was recognized as the Great Western Optometrist in 2000.
“The profession clearly lost one of the finest gentlemen who was ever a member,” said Michael Jones, O.D., past AOA president and executive director, who served with Dr. Cummings for nearly 20 years. “He will be sorely missed by many people.”
“The entire optometric and eye care communities are devastated with the news of Pat Cummings’ tragic death,” said Dr. Bennett. “It is rare for a person of Pat’s stature to come our way. Personable, articulate, talented, compassionate, philanthropic, enthusiastic—these were only some of his outstanding attributes. Our profession, our association, our society are better because he spent some of his short life with us.”
Dr. Cummings is survived by his wife Becky; son Josh; daughter Abbra; granddaughter Mia; mother Ivy; brother Mike; sister Mary; and nieces and nephews.
Donations can be made to the scholarship fund established through Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation in Cummings’ honor. Donations may be sent to: Dr. Pat & Patrick Cummings Memorial Fund, Optometry Cares —The AOA Foundation, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141.