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Dr. Schlange joined the ICO faculty in 1965 following a residency in children’s vision. He has sustained an active didactic and clinical teaching commitment throughout his career at ICO and provided a leadership role in many areas, with emphasis on development of the pediatric and binocular vision curriculum and clinical services. He developed an Eye Movement Lab with an active research program. He was a key faculty member developing the clinical programs for pediatric, infant and developmentally disabled patients. He began a three-year speaking program to 100 area schools and organizations, with a goal of enhancing educators’ understanding of vision and learning and services optometrists could provide to facilitate this. He has demonstrated a commitment to the profession through active participation in local, state and national optometry groups including AOA and IOA. In the 1980s, he was the HEW Liaison for Midwest Region 5 for developing federally funded programs for optometrists, including Medicare. He was a founding father of Beacon Therapeutic School for children with learning and behavioral disorders. He is active in mentoring groups fostering an appreciation of learning, community service and support for special needs people. During these years, he has sustained a passion and love for teaching and patient care, mentoring and supporting thousands of ICO students and graduates.
ICO has an excellent academic and clinical program, providing graduates with the knowledge and clinical skills required for comprehensive eye care in all medical setting. Top board scores and extensive post-graduate opportunities are outcomes that attest to this exceptional program. Student life has many social and enrichment opportunities on-campus and also within the city of Chicago. Life-time learning is a reality at ICO with the many post-graduate and alumni programs.
While completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Zoltoski fell in love with research. Her early experiences in sleep anatomy research led her to pursue a PhD in pharmacology and neurosciences at Wake Forest University. In her postdoctoral training positions at University of California, San Diego, and Brock University, she realized she wanted a career where she could combine teaching and research. She came to ICO in 1997 to teach biochemistry, with courses in neuroanatomy and evidence-based health care to be added later. She also has established an active research laboratory working with clinicians on a wide variety of topic ranging from dry eye to vision therapy. Her main focus has been changes in lens ultrastructure with age and accommodation, for which she has received federal funding to pursue this research. Her background has provided her with the training necessary to add this important component to ICO. She has been fortunate enough to mentor more than 100 students, and feels that her research is successful today in large thanks to the excellent clinicians as well as her students at ICO.
My transition to ICO was a rough one. I had never done any teaching or research related to the eye and felt as if I had landed in a foreign country without really knowing the language. When I was hired to teach biochemistry, I was not even confident I knew why optometrists needed to know biochemistry. By the end of my first week here, I had learned why they needed to know it, but it took me a bit longer to be able to convey those important ideas to the students. At the end of my second year, I was given the opportunity to attend a course designed to assist medical educators in becoming better instructors. I turned my course on its head, and I finally enjoyed teaching by using cases to help the students see the value of what they were learning. About the same time, I was fortunate to find some colleagues in the Chicago lens research community to accept me into their lab and my research found a new meaning as well. More recently, I have been able to bring some of that research back into ICO so that I am now more able to combine my research and teaching, as I set out to do so many years ago.
Students at ICO have not only the educational/clinical community to gain experiences from, but they also have the larger Chicago community. ICO offers programs that strive to increase cultural awareness and diversity within the school and the clinic, as well as vision screenings, health clinics, and tutoring programs that allow the students to reach out to our neighbors in Bronzeville, as well as across the Chicagoland area. It is the diversity, not only in our clinic, but also in our student body, that makes ICO an unending educational experience.
Dr. Erica is an assistant professor at ICO, teaching third- and fourth-year optometry students in a primary care setting with a focus on ocular disease. In addition, she teaches the refraction course for the optometry sequence for first-year students. When not at work, Dr. Ittner can be found riding her bicycle around Chicago and enjoying the amazing food in this city.
ICO provides an excellent educational experience and learning environment. As an ICO alumna, I can personally attest to the superior education received by our students. The comprehensive didactic and clinical experience of ICO students and graduates continues to impress me and I am proud to be a graduate of ICO.
Dr. Wyles is an assistant professor ICO and is the Primary Care Educational Coordinator. She received her optometry degree from the Southern California College of Optometry and completed a residency in hospital-based primary care optometry at the Crownpoint Indian Health Care Facility in Crownpoint, New Mexico. Dr. Wyles is an attending optometrist in the Primary Care Service of the Illinois Eye Institute and teaches several didactic and elective courses. She has authored papers and co-authored a chapter in a text book. She has participated extensively with the National Board of Examiners in Optometry as a committee member for the Applied Basic Science Exam and previously served as the ICO site coordinator for the Clinical Skills Examination. Dr. Wyles is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.
The Illinois College of Optometry offers a unique blend of a rigorous didactic education with a strong clinical experience. The Illinois Eye Institute is an incredible educational clinic that provides the opportunity to our students to experience all that they have learned in the classroom.
Dr. Castells is a graduate of the State University of New York College of Optometry where he also completed a residency in urban family practice. He is currently teaches extensively in the didactic curriculum at ICO. He also provides clinical-based education and patient care as an attending optometrist in the Primary Eye Care Service of the Illinois Eye Institute. Dr. Castells lectures regularly on a variety of eye care issues and has a number of publications.
There are only a few optometry schools in the country that offer the challenging patient population served by the Illinois Eye Institute. One of the main reasons I came to ICO was to work with students in caring for this challenging and often underserved population.
Dr. Gabriel received her optometry degree from ICO in 1989 and completed a residency in primary eye care at Northeastern State University College of Optometry in Tahlequah, Okla., in 1990. She joined the ICO faculty in 1990 and currently serves as attending staff in the Pediatric/Binocular Vision Service, Primary Care Service and the Chicago Public Schools-based community program of the Illinois Eye Institute. She teaches and coordinates the laboratory for part of the optometry sequence (accommodation and binocular vision) as well as the physical diagnosis lecture and laboratory. Dr. Gabriel is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, an associate member of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, and a member of the American Optometric and Illinois Optometric Associations.
ICO provides an excellent education, both clinically and didactically. What you learn in the classroom and the laboratory prepares you well for our challenging patients in all the various clinics of the Illinois Eye Institute. You will have an opportunity to give back to the community through some of our community based programs as well. It’s a great place to interact with a varied student body, faculty and patient population!
Dr. Angela To grew up in Canada and received her undergraduate degree in Natural Science with a concentration in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Calgary. She received her degree in Optometry from the Illinois College of Optometry and proceeded to complete her residency training in Pediatric Optometry and Vision Therapy at the Southern California College of Optometry.
Dr. To has recently joined ICO as a full-time faculty member with clinical and laboratory teaching responsibilities in the Pediatrics and Vision Therapy Department as well as didactic instruction in the Optometry sequence. She is involved with the Pediatric Outreach Program, in which she, along with 4th year clinicians, performs comprehensive exams on one to five year old children in different Head Start Preschools around the city.
I returned to ICO as it not only enabled me to promote and foster learning in an academic setting, but it also provided me the amazing opportunity to work alongside my former professors. I love working with students in a one on one environment and enjoy the fast paced clinic setting that ensures all students see a large volume of diverse and complicated patients each shift. I also love being back in the culinary and goldmine that is Chicago.
Dr. Pihos completed a residency in primary eye care at ICO in 2001. She joined the faculty following her residency and has enjoyed teaching at ICO ever since. She is active in the classroom, laboratory and clinical care settings. Dr. Pihos is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. She also served as the primary care residency coordinator at ICO from 2005-2009.
ICO is a great place to be. The administration and faculty are passionate and dedicated to providing students the best education possible. There is a diverse and active student body that takes advantage of all ICO and Chicago have to offer!
Dr. Keith joined the ICO faculty in 2009. Since then, he has primarily served in the clinic teaching students while seeing patients. He is chief of the Sidney Hillman Health Centre Eye Clinic, a fourth-year clinical rotation. He has also actively taught in several laboratories and in the classroom. Dr. Keith was among the first group of optometrists to be board certified by the American Board of Optometry. He also is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. In addition to his work at ICO, he is an instructor on the KMK team, an educational company that teaches a review course to optometry students preparing for their national boards and to optometrists preparing to take the board certification examination. Dr. Keith has had many influences on his philosophy of doctoring and teaching, one being his residency at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. While a resident he learned the teachings of Willis Hurst, MD, who said, “Mature persons realize they owe the world something. Certainly, the Earth would be a better place if each of us delivered a needed service to others. Service, I believe, is the arithmetic sum of knowledge plus caring."
Following residency, I wanted to stay in a high-volume medical optometry environment and have the opportunity to make an impact on my profession by teaching optometry students. Working at ICO while seeing patients at IEI allows me to do just that. The clinic at ICO exposes students to very complex cases in all of the specialties of optometry, which is a win/win for the students who are learning, the attendings who enjoy teaching, and the patients who seek our care.
Dr. Saeed joined the ICO faculty in 2006 after completing her residency training in low vision rehabilitation and ocular disease management. Since then, she has been involved in both clinical care and didactic teaching in the area of geometric and physical optics and low vision rehabilitation. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and enjoys designing and participating in clinical research projects related to low vision rehabilitation.
The Illinois College of Optometry offers our students the most thorough and extensive clinical experience by involving them in clinical care from their first professional year. Being involved in didactic teaching myself, I know how much ICO emphasizes critical thinking and clinical applications of all concepts learned from day one. From student’s perspective, the course content is more meaningful and interesting when clinical applications are emphasized, allowing them to appreciate the relevance of the subject matter. When I selected ICO as a student in 2001, the College’s exceptional results in National Board Examinations and extensive clinical training were the key factors that helped me in making my decision. After completing my training at ICO and now serving as a faculty member, I know that I made the right choice. ICO still strives to provide the best education in optometry.