CAO Leadership

Our Vision: Healthy eyes and clear vision for all Canadians. For life.

Role of CAO and Optometrists

Organizational Information


Dr. Michael Dennis has a keen interest in diabetes and how it affects eyes. He has helped the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) to assist people living with diabetes. He attended McMaster University where he obtained his BSc in biology. He was accepted to the University of Waterloo, School of Optometry and graduated with his OD in 1981. Since then he has practiced in Prince George BC. He enjoys general practice and the opportunity to care for the people of Northern BC. Dr. Dennis is a past president of the BC Association of Optometrists and served on the board of the College of Optometrists. He is now serving as the BC councillor for the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

Past President 

Dr. Barry Thienes graduated from the School of Optometry at the University of Waterloo in 1975. He was on the Council of the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists 1979-93 and was involved with the rewriting of the Optometry Act of 1985. He has held a range of leadership positions including President of the SAO, Registrar of the SAO, Chairman of  the SAO Discipline committee as well as Chairman of Saskatchewan Optometric Foundation and Optometric Lliaison to National Health and Welfare for Saskatchewan. In addition to these contributions to the profession and his role on CAO's governing council since 2007, Dr Thienes has run a successful private Optometry practice in Saskatchewan since 1975.

Council Member - Canadian Association of Optometry Students (CAOS)

Brij Patel is completing his Doctor of Optometry degree at University of Waterloo and will be graduating in April 2018. He completed a Bachelor of Medical Science (Hon.) degree at University of Western Ontario in 2014. Brij is currently involved in several leadership positions and is the president of the Canadian Association of Optometry Students (CAOS). He represents all of the Canadian students studying in North America, and leads a team of twenty optometry students to develop programs that enhance the professional and clinical development of optometry students. Brij is very interested in vision therapy, sports vision and speciality contact lenses. He enjoys volunteering at community events and has recently participated in an eye care mission trip to Ecuador. Brij enjoys playing sports, reading and travelling.

Council Member - British Columbia

Dr. Surjinder Sahota graduated from the Doctor of Optometry program at the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) and was then accepted into a prestigious residency program at the Illinois Eye Institute in Ocular Disease/Primary Care. She had the unique opportunity to work with world renowned ophthalmologists from the University of Chicago. After completing her residency, Dr. Sahota went back to her hometown of Williams Lake to practice. Dr. Sahota has been the president of the British Columbia Association of Optometrists since February 2011 and has served on the board since 2008. She has a passion for public education and has worked with the public relations committee in helping educate patients about the importance of eye health and preservation of vision.

Council Member - Alberta

Dr. Aaron Patel has practiced primary eye care optometry for over fifteen years.  He has been located in Edmonton for twelve years and previously practiced in Portland, Oregon and Washington, D.C.  He graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science in 1997 and from Pacific University College of Optometry in 2002.  Prior to opening the Alberta Eye Health Clinic in 2006, Dr. Patel practiced in several different optometry clinics, including a Lasik center, a pediatric eye care clinic and a hospital setting.  Dr. Patel is very happy to see new patients with any type of eye health or vision concerns and has a special interest in helping people suffering with dry eyes.   Prior to joining the CAO Council as the member for Alberta, he was past president of the Alberta Association of Optometrists.  Dr. Patel makes annual humanitarian visits to provide eye care in less fortunate countries, including Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, Belize, Jamaica and the Philippines.

Council Member - Saskatchewan

Dr. James Ross is a 1978 graduate from the University of Waterloo and has practiced in a group practice in Regina Saskatchewan since that time. He has a strong interest in children's vision. Dr. Ross is a past provincial president of the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists. He is a past Registrar and Chairman of the Board of Examiners of the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists. Dr. Ross has served on a wide spectrum of provincial optometric committees including everything from public mediation to political action. He was a member of the Canadian Examiners in Optometry for several of their formative years. Dr. Ross thoroughly enjoys the new level of care brought to the optometric community by our constantly improving diagnostic and treatment technology.

Council Member - Manitoba - CAO Vice President

Dr. Michael Nelson received his Optometry degree in Waterloo, ON and completed a family practice & low vision residency at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He served as the continuing education chair for the Manitoba Association of Optometrists (MAO), and was the president of the MAO from 2000-2003. Recently he was the co-chair for the Canadian Association of Optometrists Congress hosted in Winnipeg in 2011. His interests lie in low vision, contact lenses and management of ocular diseases. He loves to keep up-to-date on the latest in ocular research, diagnostic equipment and lens technology. Dr. Nelson is also the clinical director of Eye Canada a center dedicated to eye research and helping individuals with vision impairments.

Council Member - Ontario

Dr. Joshua Smith received a Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Waterloo in 2013, having previously completed a Bachelor of Science (Hon.) degree at Mount Allison University in 2005 and a Master of Science degree at the University of Calgary in 2008. He currently works in private practice in Alexandria, ON and is proud to have lived in eastern, western, and now central Canada. Dr. Smith served in leadership positions in student government throughout his university career and is presently the Board Lead for Advocacy for the Ontario Association of Optometrists. He has participated in three eye care mission trips to Central America and is interested in optometry's expanding role as the primary provider of eye care in Canada and abroad. Dr. Smith is also a referee with the Ontario Soccer Association and is heavily engaged in the performing arts. 

Council Member - Québec

Dr. Martin Spiro completed his doctorate of optometry at the University of Montreal. He was the recipient of the Optometric Association’s prestigious student of the year award. Dr. Spiro holds a bachelor of science in human physiology from McGill University, where he also completed an internship in cancer research. In the optometric field, Dr. Spiro’s clinical research was also honored by the Allergan Society’s prize of excellence. With strong passion for eye care and an emphasis on inter-personal skills, Dr. Spiro is an active participant in the optometric community. He has on numerous occasions represented his peers at various optometric functions across the continent and has collaborated in humanitarian efforts travelling to South-America to provide eye-exams. Dr. Spiro enjoys practicing with Optika in an environment of exceptional care and service.

Council Member - New Brunswick

Dr. Harry Bohnsack practices in Fredericton, NB along with his wife and partner Dr. Paula Steffler. A UWSO graduate, Dr. Bohnsack started his practice in Oakville, ON. He relocated to Fredericton NB where he has practiced for close to two decades in a full-scope setting. Dr. Bohnsack has served the NBAO as Media and Public Relations Chair for many years, as President from 2003-2005, and currently serves as Government Relations Chair and CAO Delegate. His other interests include music, travel, languages, books and gardening. He has been a member of Rotary for 25 years and has served in various capacities including club president. 

Council Member - Nova Scotia

Dr. Henry Smit graduated from the School of Optometry at the University of Waterloo in 1979. Upon graduation he moved to Nova Scotia and worked in Halifax for one year before opening a practice in Truro. In addition to practicing fulltime, Dr. Smit has been actively involved in the Nova Scotia Association of Optometrists, serving on the NSAO Council from 1980-1991 (president 1987-1989) and from 2006 to the present time. He was the chair of the NSAO Discipline Committee from 1981-1983 and editor of the NSAO Newsletter from 1990-1995, He has served as Nova Scotia's representative on the Council of the Canadian Association of Optometrists since 2006 and was elected to the executive committee in July 2013.

Council Member - Prince Edward Island

Dr. Angela Arsenault graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in 2010. Prior to this, she received her Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Prince Edward Island. Since graduating she has been practicing in both Summerside and Alberton PEI. Dr. Arsenault has been actively involved with the PEIAO as chair of the Children’s Vision Committee since 2010. She became the PEIAO representative on the Canadian Association of Optometrists council in 2015.

Council Member - Newfoundland & Labrador

Dr. Doug Côté received his Optometry Degree from the University of Waterloo in 1978. He has been practicing in Port-aux-Basques, NL since graduating where he has a solo practice. He has been an NLAO Councillor from 1981-1996 and 2004 to the present and a CAO Councillor from 1985-1999 and 2004 to the present. He served as CAO Secretary-Treasurer from 1994 to 1995, President-elect from 1995 to 1996 and President from 1996 to 1997.

Chief Executive Officer

Laurie Clement has spent the greater part of her thirty year career in non-governmental organiza­tions, the past ten at the Executive Director level. Her prior 15 years of experience were with the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), the national professional voice of 150,000 registered nurses in Canada. For the past ten years, she served as Executive Director for two national, charitable organizations. At the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, alongside a staff of 3 and a board of 20, she had the opportunity to build an organization from the ground up. Her strengths lie in: leader­ship, collaboration, strategic planning, operational and financial management, communications and marketing. Fluent in Canada's two official languages, she is also conversant in Spanish.