praxisawardThe University Ethics Program of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences awarded Jennifer Staple-Clark, CEO of Unite for Sight, with their seventh annual Praxis Award in Professional Ethics this past Thursday.

The Praxis Award, an award inaugurated  in 2007, highlights and celebrates the contributions of a professional or academic in the field of professional ethics.

“We wanted to have an opportunity to honor and celebrate one who is a professional, who exemplifies the ethical ideas of his or her profession,” said Mark Doorley, director of the ethics program and chair of the Praxis Selection Committee. “You would assume that everybody is ethical, but we live in a world where it is important to remember that you can be an ethical professional and still be very successful.”

The process of choosing a recipient for this award is one of high levels of discussion and deliberation done by the Praxis Selection Committee. The primary step is to request for ideas for nominees from faculty and staff. Once the nominations are decided, the recipient is chosen from the list of nominees by the Praxis Selection Committee which is made up of faculty from each of the colleges and the Villanova Law School.

The number of nominees varies throughout the year, but regardless of the number, each candidate is evaluated very intently by members of the Committee.

 “Each person presenting a candidate has to provide a résumé and cover letter, a narrative of why this person deserves to be recognized with the award, and then the recipient is chosen,” Doorley said.

An ideal recipient of the Praxis Award must have accomplished one or more of the following achievements: excellence in  fulfilling and embodying the ethical ideals of his or her profession, the ability to connect professional work to a broader understanding of the common good, the aptitude to promote and embody ethical integrity in a professional field, excellence with respect to research in the field of professional ethics and excellence in terms of influence on the field of professional ethics in a positive manner through writing, teaching, consulting and/or professional leadership.

Once the recipient is chosen, they are provided with a venue in which they can discuss the importance of professional ethics in their field which is open to faculty and staff as well as students.

“We always consider the student body when choosing a recipient,” Doorley said. “We want someone who the students can interact with and learn how they themselves can implement ethical ideals in their future occupations.”

This year’s award recipient,  Jennifer Staple-Clark, is being awarded for commitment to global health and her efforts in removing barriers for high-quality eye care.

In 2000, during her sophomore year at Yale University, Staple-Clark envisioned an organization that expanded the availability of eye care for those less fortunate or unable to access it.

In 2003 when she graduated from Yale, Staple-Clark expanded upon her vision for Unite for Sight.

“The reason for her receiving the award primarily is her dedication to providing a service for developing countries and actually going to these places to ensure that Unite for Sight achieves that,” Doorley said.  “She went into it with a commitment that she is not going to work in a community unless there was a way to make eye care service sustainable.  If Unite for Sight is going to go into a community and provide medical services such as eye care,  she won’t do it unless she can make such health care needs available regularly.”

Her commitment to helping develop excellent eye care services in developing areas has made a huge impact on medical practices in North America, Africa and Asia.

According to Unite for Sight’s website, Staple-Clark’s vision has now become a reality through an organization that since its founding has provided eye care to “1.5 million people in North America, Asia and Africa.”

For example, in Ghana, Unite for Sight sponsored over one-third of the cataract surgeries performed by Ghanaian eye clinics. These local clinics, due to the promise made by Staple-Clark while in her dorm room sophomore year, now provide the most innovative and advanced quality of eye care to some of the world’s poorest people.

Staple-Clarke also gave a talk that was open to faculty and students that discussed the global health problem and the way organizations like hers can help eliminate this obstacle and ensure that everyone who needs health care can access it. This talk stressed the impact her company has made, but also the power similar companies have to make a strong impact on the health industry worldwide.

“Her story provides younger generations with an example of the impact people can make no matter what age you are or where you are,” Doorley said.  “All it takes is to be proactive and ethical, and that is the kind of role model students need to have today to make the world a better place for everyone.”


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