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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Kelly Frantz

Updated: Jun 13

Dr. Kelly Frantz has been teaching at ICO since 1986. With over 30 years of experience, she's seen ICO change and grow over the years. Read on to learn how she discovered optometry (she was only 12!), how she learned that teaching was her passion and how teaching at ICO has evolved and changed over the decades she has been here.

When did you become interested in optometry?

Well, I got into optometry by starting to learn about it all the way back in seventh grade. I had myopia like so many other kids, and I was intrigued how my optometrist helped me see more clearly. I was also into science. In seventh grade, they asked us to start thinking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. And so, I started researching optometry in my school library.

At that time, as you know, there was no internet. There weren't a lot of fancy resources, but I learned about the profession, asked my optometrist more about it, and continued to seriously consider it throughout high school. At that point, I wasn't thinking about optometric education, just doing eye exams. I didn't even know that much about optometry, but somehow, I just knew it was the profession for me.

How has ICO changed over the years? What is it about ICO that's made you stay for all these years?

The people -- the students, the other faculty -- it's a warm, inviting community, and I enjoy being with these folks. I find great satisfaction in teaching the students, the specialty I've gotten into, and the opportunities that ICO has provided me to engage in research, clinical care, and teaching. I’m very fulfilled staying at ICO, and I haven't wanted to go elsewhere.

Over the years, there have been a lot of changes. We’ve completely changed how we teach. The information has changed, but also the methods that information is relayed have changed. I remember when we used overhead transparencies, and then we graduated to a tray of 35-mm slides. Sometimes we even projected two slides simultaneously, which back then was a really big deal. Eventually, we embraced PowerPoint to create and project slides. Then, we began streaming our classes from the Lecture Center.

At ICO, some faculty are more heavily involved in clinic while others spend more time in labs. Dr. Frantz found her passion in teaching and teaches vision therapy to third years in the fall.

Video has also become an important didactic tool. I teach a lot in the laboratories, and so we need to do demonstrations. We used to do that just spontaneously explaining it to our students as they gathered around us. There was nothing archival for them to study later.

Now, we have videos that show how to do a lot of vision therapy procedures. These videos have evolved over the years. There used to be a DVD, but now they're on Brightspace. Students can watch them over and over again ad nauseam. They can study and practice for their practical exam as well as review them when they need to use those procedures in the clinic.

It sounds like you’re a person who really loves education and the innovation that comes from different generational needs and expectations. Would you agree?

I haven’t seriously thought about education my whole life, but my mother would say that I have. At six, I was playing school with my little brother. I’d sit him down and make him do worksheets that I made for him. For some reason, he cooperated even though he was only three. At PCO/Salus where I got my OD degree, I was a teaching assistant. I also did a residency at my optometry school to further explore the opportunity of teaching, and that's when I really decided, "Yes, this is for me."

That's what I've done ever since.

Over the years, Dr. Frantz has seen how teaching has evolved here at ICO. In particular, the use of video has made it much easier for students to return to the vision therapy procedures that Dr. Frantz teaches in her lab.

It's much more intriguing to me to do patient care when there are students involved because I have the excitement of sharing that experience with them. I like to see the light bulb go on for the students as they start to understand things and see something they learned about in the classroom now applied in clinic.

What's one thing that you would want incoming students to know about the field of optometry and also your field specifically?

I want incoming students to be aware of all the facets of optometry. I want them to know there are so many options within optometry and that becoming a doctor requires a lot of hard work.

They need to be ready psychologically for the journey ahead, to study diligently, and to juggle all the classes, laboratories, and clinic sessions with dedication. To be an excellent optometrist, there’s a lot to know. I believe ICO does an excellent job of producing well-rounded optometrists, since our students are exposed to all specialties.

For me, that meant getting involved in binocular vision and pediatrics because of my interest in eye alignment, movement, and my mathematical inclination. Binocular vision is essential because everyone relies on their eyes to gather information. Today so much of that information is relayed to us via digital devices. People need to work efficiently on these screens. By evaluating and treating focusing, eye alignment, and aiming, I can help people work more comfortably. Binocular vision issues have always existed, but they are now exacerbated by the amount of screen time people engage in.

There are so many paths you can take as an optometrist. Dr. Frantz chose binocular vision and pediatrics, and now teaches it as well.

Any closing thoughts on what it’s like to be a teacher at ICO?

Something really important about ICO is that we have a long history. So, we have a lot of experience in optometric education. We have a lot of very experienced faculty, and I think that can set us apart. When I'm teaching in a lecture or lab, I can draw on many years of experience. I know ahead of time which things are going to trip up the students, so I can explain it more than one way. Anticipating the problems that they might have; I try to be as thorough and accurate as possible in explaining what the students need to know. That comes in part from our long history and my own long history with the institution.

Then, there are our patients. Even a routine diagnosis in our clinic often brings with it a patient who has so many other issues that it becomes complex. We're managing more than a vision problem; we're managing the issues of the patient not having time to do the vision therapy we've prescribed at home or not wearing their glasses because they don't like how they fit, or the kids are teasing them at school. Those things need to be addressed. With children and vision therapy, there are those issues. With adults who have eye disease, there are issues of access to medication they might need or the ability to put drops in their eyes if they live alone.

We find that we're managing all kinds of complexities. The education the students receive is top-notch because of these experiences.


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