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The Stories That the Eyes Tell

Optometry student takes an artistic approach to education and future plans

Caroline Quan is a proud advocate for creating a cohesive relationship between the fields of the arts and sciences. “With art and all that I do in optometry, it’s about the story telling. The eyes and its blood vessels are telling a story about the rest of the patient’s body,” she says. There are so many elements that fascinate her from the ability to see a naked blood vessel and diagnose systemic diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis as well as the art of writing a prescription and ultimately putting together all these elements from refraction and ocular health evaluations to enable patients to vividly see the world around them.

Quan, who will graduate from the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) at Marshall B. Ketchum University in 2022, describes herself as a visual learner who tries to add a little bit of art into everything she does. Her notes from class are full of hand-drawn diagrams and are color coded for easy understanding, and she’s even created ink sketches and tiny plastic models of the eyes, later turned into jewelry, to learn her ocular anatomy requirements in a very hands-on way. “Optometry is the perfect platform to explore my multiple passions,” she says. “It’s so exciting and unique and constantly evolving.”

She loves to draw and paint using vibrant colors from painting landscapes to Disney-inspired pieces and other daily-life subjects that capture her interest. Quan says that it’s not just about the final piece, but also the experience of getting there. Her YouTube channel features several videos that she’s filmed of her artistic process, including this clip of her retina painting that was made in honor of World Sight Day.

She chose optometry during her undergraduate studies when she started working at her childhood office, Cerritos 2020 Optometry in Cerritos, California. Her doctor there, Annalisa Fernando, OD, suggested that she consider it. “I was always interested in optical illusions and the visual science of how we process and perceive colors.” Dr. Fernando introduced her to the possibility of going into prosthetics after showing her a video of an ocularist who painted eyes so carefully and with so much detail that it was difficult to tell the difference compared to a real eye. While Quan chose optometry for this next step, prosthetics are an area she wishes to explore further once she graduates.

Quan is involved with the professional committee at SCCO with a focus on connecting students to local societies, and she’s also a peer advisor working with first-year students to help them maximize their own experience. She never passes up an opportunity to lend her artistic abilities to support other organizations on campus and in the community.

She says that she’s excited for what’s ahead. Quan’s brother is a first-year optometry student now at SCCO, and they dream of opening a practice together one day where she could also start an art program in conjunction with her practice to educate children about the science behind color and sight.

Find more of Quan’s art on her Instagram page.

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