Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into optometry. What drew you to ICO?
I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare, but for a long time I didn’t know which career was right for me. I wanted to do meaningful work and healthcare felt like the right field to do this. When I learned about optometry, I realized it was the perfect fit for me. This is in part because I myself have experienced its incredible impact.
I’m moderately myopic, and I vividly remember my optometrist fitting me for contact lenses so that I could continue playing college basketball without worrying about glasses. Personally, I was fascinated by the idea of helping people improve their vision and the impact that good vision can have on a person's quality of life.
I’m born and raised in Chicago, but I ended up leaving for college. I interviewed at quite a few optometry schools, but I kept returning to ICO, not only because of my family, but because of how great the clinic is here.
My time at ICO was so special, and it's where I made some of the most meaningful friendships of my life. We've been through so much together - weddings, funerals, vacations, and more. It's a bond that I cherish deeply, and I feel truly grateful to have made such wonderful friends during my time at ICO. The community that ICO has built fosters lasting connections, and I'm so grateful for the relationships that I've built there.
After graduating, I pursued a residency in low vision rehabilitation at PCO/Salus. I returned to Chicago and started working in the field of low vision rehabilitation. When I started working at ICO, I realized it sparked other passions in me. I love being able to teach other fledgling doctors the importance of low vision rehabilitation and how we an optometrist can impact patients’ and improve their quality of live. I wanted to be able to train the next generation of optometrists and continue to make a positive impact on people's lives.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I have had in my career and the people who have supported me along the way. It has been a rewarding and fulfilling career.
What's one thing you would like incoming students to know about the field of optometry? (And your specific area of optometry)
Low vision rehabilitation is all about helping people who have lost some or all of their vision to improve their functional abilities and live their best lives. In other words, how to maximize their remaining vision. We aren't able to fix the health of their eyes, but rather we focus on how they can best utilize the vision they have left. That can involve using all kinds of services, devices and technology. This includes magnification devices, assistive technology, or even smartphone apps that help people with vision impairments achieve their specific goals.
When we work with patients at the low vision rehabilitation clinic, we start by determining what their goals are. For some, it might be reading large print or using a computer, and for others, it might be effectively navigating airports or their environments at home. Once we understand their goals, we use our knowledge to help them find the best solutions. Every patient is different, and so we use all the information we have available to find the best solution for them. For some, that might mean a simple magnifier, but for others that could be using a biopic telescope, or even employing apps that connect them to someone who can help them navigate a specific area. What makes low vision rehabilitation interesting is just how many things we have available to help patients. It's really interesting and rewarding to be able to help people in this way. Low vision rehabilitation is often life-changing. It’s easy to be passionate about what you do when you are making such an impact with each patient.
Another thing I want to emphasize is just how close knit our optometric community is. Optometry is a small field, but it's one that's incredibly powerful. Through organizations like VOSH and my work as a faculty member, I've been able to connect with so many passionate people. We share a common goal of improving people's eye health, and it's a truly rewarding experience to be able to work together towards that goal. It's an honor to be a part of this community, and I'm grateful every day for the opportunity to help people through optometry.
You're very active in the VOSH community. Why do you think these organizations are important? Why do you choose to participate in them?
I've been fortunate to meet many amazing people who have selflessly given their time and energy to help others. My mentor, Dr. Alfred Rosenbloom, got me interested in VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity). I did my first VOSH trip with him to Morocco.
We too easily get stuck in our day-to-day routines; we don’t always recognize the impact we are giving. On VOSH trips locally or internationally, something as simple as a routine refraction can be incredibly impactful. Throughout my many years of practice, I've witnessed countless moments where simple skills like retinoscopy and refraction have changed people's lives for the better.
Showing just how much of an impact we are having is one of the most important lessons that I want to impart to our students. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I challenged our students to find community organizations we could work with to provide relief. They found several organizations, and at every clinic we did, we easily worked with over 100 patients. We were able to provide comprehensive eye care and new eyeglasses to people who were struggling financially and otherwise would not have been able to afford it.
How do you see optometry changing in the next few years and how do you hope to be part of it?
Optometry has opened up a wealth of opportunities for me to connect with people from all over the world who share my passion for helping others. Through organizations like VOSH and my work as a faculty member, I've been able to build a strong network of colleagues who are dedicated to improving people's eye health and advance the profession of optometry globally.
Optometry is truly a special field. Every day, we have the privilege of helping maintain ocular health, help people see better, feel more comfortable, and live their lives to the fullest. It's a profession that allows us to
make a real difference in people's lives, and it's
one that offers a great balance between work and life.