Meet Dr. Gregory Goodrich, Chair of the Upcoming Conference on Vision Loss in Older Adults and Veterans

head shot of Gregory Goodrich

Dr. Gregory Goodrich received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology in 1974 from Washington State University, when he also began his career with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He retired in 2014 after having served as supervisory research psychologist assigned to the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, California, and as the program coordinator for the Optometric Research Fellowship Program in Palo Alto.

Since retirement, he has become a volunteer at the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center and serves on a committee for the Blinded Veterans Association. He is also a member of the Governing Board for the Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field, housed at the American Printing House for the Blind.

In addition to his volunteer activities, Dr. Goodrich is currently a research consultant on several projects. His primary areas of research are low vision reading, low vision mobility, and outcome studies. Most recently, his research has focused on the treatment of polytrauma veterans with visual loss returning from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of Sorting Things Out in Traumatic Brain Injury and Veterans, Brain Injury, and Vision on the VisionAware website.

AER 2015 conference banner

Dr. Goodrich has been an active member of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI or AER), serving as its president and past president. Currently, he is the conference chair for the upcoming AERBVI Conference on Vision Loss in Older Adults and Veterans, which will be held November 4-6, 2015 in Norfolk, Virginia. Here is more information about the conference from an AERBVI news release:

Join AERBVI at this first-of-its-kind conference for professionals in the vision field to share what they’ve learned working with older adults and veterans who have experienced vision loss.

In recent years, the field of vision rehabilitation has rapidly grown in the United States. As veterans return with eye injuries from their tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, the demand for vision specialists within the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs has risen. Meanwhile, the private sector continues to serve the growing population of older adults with vision impairments due to age and other health-related issues. As a result, the increased demand for vision rehabilitation services has generated tremendous growth and change in the field.

AER is thrilled to bring together vision rehabilitation professionals from the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as those in the private sector, to share information about working with adults affected by trauma-related and age-related vision loss. This conference gives vision professionals the opportunity to share their collective wisdom to better serve adults with vision loss.

Maureen Duffy: Hello Greg. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. My first question is about your academic background and life’s work. How did you develop your interest in experimental psychology? And how did that help you in your work with the VA?

Greg Goodrich: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to talk with you again. My interest in experimental psychology actually began with monkeys. Dr. Francis Young, my major professor, had a large colony of rhesus macaque monkeys that he used for vision research, and my first job with him was feeding the monkeys and cleaning monkey cages. It wasn’t glamorous, but that job connected me to Francis and also to Dr. George Leary, a born-and-raised Londoner and a natural-born teacher.

Their mentoring got me interested in studying the visual sensory perceptual system. They also alerted me to the job opportunity with the VA in Palo Alto, but that is too long a story to get into here, other than it was that job that got me into the field of low vision and blindness.

MD: I’m also very interested in the AERBVI Conference on Vision Loss in Older Adults and Veterans, which you are chairing. How did the idea for this conference come about?

GG: The idea was the brainchild of the AERBVI staff. They noted that the VA serves older veterans, as well as veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The service needs of older individuals and veterans cross a broad range of topical areas, including aging, low vision, orientation and mobility, recreation, technology, psychosocial, research, and the relatively new area of brain injury-related vision loss.

So I felt the broad appeal of the theme would interest many professionals and provide content not readily available in other conferences. In short, as soon as they mentioned the idea I was enthusiastically on board!

MD: Can you tell us more about some of the featured speakers and sessions?

GG: Recently, I reviewed the papers and posters accepted for the conference and I’m very pleased with their breadth and relevance to both civilian and veteran populations. We also have exceptional general session speakers.

head shot of Janet LaBreck

Janet LaBreck (pictured left), Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), is one. Ms. LaBreck has been a longtime advocate for the blind community and previously served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. In 2013 she was confirmed by the United States Senate as Commissioner of RSA. She will bring a unique perspective as consumer, advocate, and national policy-maker to her talk, “Increasing Employment Opportunities for Those Who are Blind and Visually Impaired.”

head shot of John Crews

Another keynote speaker is Dr. John Crews (pictured right), who is a Health Scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Crews is a respected senior researcher in our field and an excellent speaker. One of his research interests, and the topic of his talk, is health-related quality of life, which encompasses the primary factors hindering or promoting the quality of life of people with a visual impairment. Dr. Crews’ research was featured recently on the VisionAware blog and can provide interested readers with a preview of his conference presentation, entitled “Health-Related Quality of Life among Older Adults with Vision Impairment: Findings from the 2006-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.”

head shot of BJ LeJeune

Our third keynote speaker is B.J. LeJeune (pictured left), who is a widely recognized speaker. A Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT), Ms. LeJeune is the Training Supervisor at the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University. Her keynote presentation is titled “Things I have learned living with someone who has a traumatic brain injury (TBI): More confessions of a VRT.” Her perspective as a professional and wife of an individual with TBI gives her an opportunity to share her unique insights with other rehabilitation professionals.

MD: I’ve also heard that the conference will be honoring professionals who have been inducted into the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field and have made significant contributions to services for blind veterans. Can you tell us more about that?

GG: Thanks for asking about this. I’m extraordinarily pleased that the conference gives us an opportunity to highlight the Hall of Fame in general and those inductees who provided exemplary services to veterans. In the process of serving veterans, these individuals greatly advanced services for all individuals living with low vision or blindness. The list is too long to name every inductee who will be featured, but included are such luminaries as Warren Bledsoe, Donald Blasch, and Richard Hoover.

During the entire conference we will have posters of each of these notable people on display. Attending the conference will provide an opportunity not only to learn about these individuals, but also to learn how our field originated and was shaped. I think it is a “not to be missed” opportunity.

MD: Where can our readers get more information about the conference, such as registration deadlines and costs?

GG: AERBVI members have already received mailings; anyone else who is interested can get additional information and register by logging on to the conference website. The conference hotel is the Norfolk Waterside Marriott and reservations ($129.00 per night) can be made on the conference website or directly through Marriott hotels.

In either case, be sure to mention the “AER Conference on Vision Loss” to get the conference rate. The Marriott is a wonderful hotel on the water in Norfolk, Virginia and for history buffs it is a short walk to where the World War II battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin is docked. As a Navy veteran (I spent some time in Newport News next to Norfolk), the Wisconsin is one attraction I’ll definitely spend some non-conference time enjoying!

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