Doctor eyes vision studies

  • Published
  • By Frank McIntyre
  • Public Affairs
The man who has helped Team Vance stay focused for the last four years has a clear vision on his near future. His eyes are on a doctorate in vision science.
Maj. (Dr.) Martin LaFrance, 71st Medical Operations Squadron optometrist, was selected by the Air Force Institute of Technology to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham under the civilian institutions program.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to return to school and the potential doors this may open in the future," Dr. LaFrance said after being notified of his selection for the developmental education program.
Although looking forward to his new assignment, leaving Vance Air Force Base will be bittersweet for the Utopia, Texas native.
"I truly enjoy seeing our patients and have been humbled by the opportunity to do so. As the sole optometrist in our clinic I've been blessed to see patients of all ages, active duty, family members and retirees. It has provided a deep sense of community.
"The (71st) Medical Group is so small and staff members possess a tremendous sense of ownership that I feel all have become extended members of my family."
His dedication and sense of ownership was recognized by the clinic's leadership.
In the nomination package, Lt. Col. Janice Wallace, former 71st Medical Operations Squadron commander said, "Major LaFrance's clinical acumen, meshed with unique managerial techniques, places him a cut above his peers. He successfully served as interim flight commander for seven months during Operation Iraqi Freedom for my largest and most diverse flight.
"He was my No. 1 choice to serve as the medical services flight commander, where he forged three diverse elements into one cohesive patient-care team producing immediate/exceptional results, Colonel Wallace said. "He has diligently worked to transform our optometry, life skills and health and wellness clinics, modernizing with state-of-the-art equipment and creating processes to improve efficiency and customer service."
"I will profoundly miss Vance and Enid, Oklahoma. I could not have found a better place to call home. I feel blessed in my work environment having experienced the best of leadership at all levels with people guiding me in the right place at the right time," Dr. LaFrance said.
He's had plenty of time to get acquainted with the area, having served at Vance four years, which is rather unusual for an officer.
Seeming more like home may have been because he and his wife, Kelli, added the couple's two children, son, Matthew and daughter, Amy, to the family during their tour.
Team Vance won't be the only "family" he'll leave behind
"I will also miss the First United Methodist Church in Enid. The congregation and church leaders remind me and my wife of the warmth we enjoyed growing in our hometowns," Dr. LaFrance said.
An Alabama campus may seem like foreign territory to the Texan with a doctor of optometry degree from the University of Houston and undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University. But the degree he'll earn will have an impact on his future.
"Being selected to attend any developmental program is a great opportunity for young officers," said Col. Lee Hall, director of assignments at Air Force Personnel Center. "This year's selects are among the first company-grade officers selected for these competitive development programs under the new force development initiative."
Development and assignment teams use each officer's development plan to understand both the officer's and commander's desires about the next best developmental assignment and future career plans. Assignment teams match officers to the right developmental opportunity at the right time in their careers based on the needs of the career field and guidance from their development team, Colonel Hall said.