Terrorist attack claims the life of a compassionate optometrist

September 1, 2010

Tom Little, OD, was one of 10 people ambushed and killed Aug. 5, 2010, while on a humanitarian mission in Nuristan province, Afghanistan.

Boston-Tom Little, OD, had already sutured eyelids and treated raging ocular infections for years before he sought formal training as an optometrist.

However, others in the region did not share his sense of compassion. Dr. Little, an NECO graduate and an adjunct faculty member of the college, was one of 10 people ambushed and killed Aug. 5 while on a humanitarian mission in Nuristan province, Afghanistan.

Searching for better technical skills and credentials, Dr. Little applied for NECO's Advanced Standing International Program, which acknowledged his experience and education. However, like other students, he endured 12-hour class days and four clinical quarters with a genuine interest in learning correct procedures, said Clifford Scott, OD, MPH, president of NECO. Faculty and fellow students respected him greatly, Dr. Scott added.

"I always thought it was very interesting because Tom had more experience than his clinical instructors, but that never came across," Dr. Scott said.

Upon completing the program in 2008, Dr. Scott said that "he went back with increased energy to perpetuate the [optometry education] by setting up teaching programs in hospitals."

On July 1, Dr. Little met with Dr. Scott to discuss setting up a long-distance education program between NECO and Kabul.

Dr. Little and his wife, Libby, raised three daughters in Afghanistan. Libby Little returned to Afghanistan to bury her husband there and continue their work, Dr. Scott said.

"I think everyone knew that Tom and Libby took this on as a personal mission for them and for the people they work with and the organization they represented, to try to upgrade the level of care that is being given for people who don't have a government or an economy that can support them," Dr. Scott said.

"We are saddened to hear of the tragic death of Dr. Tom Little while providing vision care to the people of Afghanistan," Susan Thomas, American Optometric Association spokeswoman, told Optometry Times. "We applaud the good work of his organization and respect the courage of Dr. Little and his colleagues for championing the cause of service to humanity. We extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Dr. Little."