Top California eye surgeon receives Distinguished Eagle Scout Award

California eye surgeon John Hovanesian, who has literally written the books on innovative techniques in ophthalmology, received the prestigious Distinguished Eagle Scout Award at a special ceremony last week in Newport Beach, Calif.

The award, the highest honor presented by the National Eagle Scout Association, honors Eagle Scouts who have made major contributions in their professional fields. NESA accepts nominees once 25 years have passed since earning Eagle.

Hovanesian, 51, joins an illustrious list of previous DESA recipients that includes Gerald Ford, Neil Armstrong and Steven Spielberg.

The Orange County Council, based in Santa Ana, Calif., honored Hovanesian at a special leadership breakfast on Nov. 9. Guests learned that just over 2,200 Distinguished Eagle Scout Awards have been presented since 1969. That’s an average of less than 50 per year.

Hovanesian, the doctor

Hovanesian specializes in cataract, LASIK and corneal surgery at Harvard Eye Associates. He’s a member of the clinical faculty at the UCLA Stein Eye Institute, has published two textbooks in ophthalmology and has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles. He holds leadership positions with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

Hovanesian uses his impressive talents to give back, too. He’s involved with the Armenian EyeCare Project and travels each year to Armenia to perform the newest surgical techniques and teach others.

He also has traveled as a volunteer surgeon to Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Fiji to treat patients there.

“There is no better mantra for a surgeon than to help other people at all times,” Hovanesian says. “When we put our patients’ best interests first, we are bound for success.”

Tanya and John Hovanesian

Hovanesian, the Scout leader

Somehow, despite a rigorous work schedule, Hovanesian finds time to serve as a Scout volunteer.

“Almost every day is filled with Scouting, from rushing home for a den meeting to staying up late researching how to prepare my boys for Philmont this summer,” he says. “It’s all very rewarding.”

Hovanesian has two sons and a daughter. His older son is about to earn Eagle, and his younger son is in a Webelos den that “constantly challenges me and makes me laugh out loud.”

His Scouting life is about to get even busier. When the BSA’s Scouts BSA program launches in February, Hovanesian’s 13-year-old daughter plans to join a troop and follow in her dad’s footsteps toward Eagle.

“And my wife, Tanya, and I are gearing up to be the leaders of her troop, so she and a group of her friends can do it,” Hovanesian says.

Hovanesian, the Scout

“Scouting has had greater influence on me than any other activity of my youth,” Hovanesian says.

He grew up in Farmington, Mich., where he enjoyed campouts and hikes with Troop 179.

“We had a really spirited, though sometimes unorthodox, patrol: the Gremlins,” he says. “Being a patrol leader taught me that leaders need first to be servants. Working with other Scouts, I learned that doing the right thing is more important than always having all the right answers.”

Hovanesian says becoming an Eagle Scout taught him he can do almost anything if he sticks it out. That reminder came in handy as he worked toward becoming a doctor.

“These lessons helped me make it through the long hours of medical school and residency and to build — along with outstanding and like-minded partners — one of eye care’s most respected practices,” he says.


Thanks to the Orange County Council’s Melissa Dundovich for the post idea.