In order to be representative of those ODs who will be entering the workforce in the next few years, Women In Optometry has created a WO Student Advisory board. These 18 students have agreed to share their perspectives, enthusiasms and concerns—and maybe find a mentor among WO readers along the way.
MEET THE STUDENTS
Isabelle Ampe, class president at Midwestern University- Chicago College of Optometry, first found her interest in eyes after dissecting a lamb’s eyeball in sixth grade. After earning her undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, Ampe started working as an optometric technician during her freshman year. “I was able to understand the importance of eye care and became fascinated by the disease management of optometry and the many ways optometrists change lives every day.”
Raman Badh is a second-year student at Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry. “From a young age, I always knew I wanted to work in a healthcare profession because of my innate desire to help people,” she says. “Optometry became my chosen path after two years of working as an optical assistant, where I discovered a profound passion for patient care and a genuine enjoyment of interpersonal interactions.” Anticipating the upcoming semester, she is enthusiastic about immersing herself in clinical experiences to further develop her skills in delivering quality eye care. “Moreover, I am excited about potential scientific advances in the field and am eager to contribute to its future growth.” Badh was born and raised in Canada, and she adds that traveling, trying new foods and spending time with friends and family enriches her life.
Alyssa Buren realized the importance of good vision when she got her first pair of glasses at age 10. The second-year student at Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University says, “the eye doctor was always a place that I left with some feeling of fascination. As I grew up and decided to pursue medicine, I was always drawn back to optometry and grew to love it even more through shadowing, job experience and school. I am so excited to join the WO student advisory board and have the opportunity to grow and connect with fellow women in optometry.”
Megan Corcoran, a Missouri native attending the University of Missouri St. Louis College of Optometry, took an interest in disease management and laser privileges in her home state. “I am most excited about where the optometry field is going,” she says. “I chose optometry because you are able to make seemingly small improvements that can make a huge difference in a patient’s life.”
Deanna Dale,a second-year student at University of Pikeville- Kentucky College of Optometry, enjoys connecting with herself and others and says she looks forward to impacting the lives of her patients in her career. “I love volunteer work and anything involving the outdoors,” Dale says. “I chose optometry because I’ve known from a young age how important vision is. I’m super excited to learn about different perspectives from each student on the WO student advisory board.”
Daisy Dominguez took her interest in diversity and enhancement of the optometric industry and turned it into her field of study at University of California- Berkeley’s Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry. “My interest in optometry started in ocular research,” she says. “I have been able to continue this path doing work with artificial intelligence.” She says she looks forward to seeing innovations in the field thanks to continually updated technology.
Gracie Dorschner says she looks forward to the opportunity to “give prospective and current students, and even current optometrists” ideas and inspiration through her involvement on the WO student board. After “falling in love” with patient care and the long-term relationships optometrists build with patients while shadowing a female-owned private practice in Minnesota, Dorschner has had the opportunity to partake in elementary school screenings and has found a new passion in the world of pediatric optometry while attending Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry.
As a Biology and Spanish double major during her undergraduate experience, Mariem Girgis says that she was influenced to choose a career where she would be able to combine her passions for science and communication, with her long-term passion for healthcare. “Optometry, for me, is this career,” she says of the opportunities ahead to work with a variety of different individuals, across various modalities of practice. “I am intrigued that optometry provides the perfect balance between incorporating the latest scientific advancements with personable, impactful patient care.” Now as a second-year student at MCPHS University School of Optometry, she adds that she looks forward to utilizing her skills and love for optometry to help improve vision and ocular health for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
Laudan Hatami is a second-year student at her hometown school, Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry. But before that, she was unsure of what she wanted to pursue as a career. “I did not know I wanted to pursue optometry until halfway through undergrad,” she says. After earning a degree in evolutionary anthropology from Duke University, Hatami says she found an interest in optometry while working at a pharmacy during summer break. “I really shine one-on-one with patients, so I’m excited to apply what I have learned so far about ocular disease. I am also thoroughly looking forward to starting my clinical experience in January 2024.”
Gabriela Malave stayed in Bloomington to attend Indiana University (IU) School of Optometry after completing her undergraduate studies at IU. Now in her second year of optometry school, she’s on her way to pursuing a career inspired by her childhood optometrist. She looks forward to the healthy work-life balance optometry offers women in a professional setting. She adds, “I am most excited to build relationships with my future patients and hopefully see them walking out of my clinic with a smile on their face!”
Ashlee Payne looks forward to serving underserved and underrepresented communities when she earns her white coat. The New England College of Optometry student and mother of two boys “chose optometry because of the rewarding patient experience,” she says.
Payne hopes to either start in a hospital or MD/OD setting, or eventually start her very own traveling full service clinic.” She hopes to provide affordable and convenient eye care to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access she says, and is “excited for the expanding scope of practice.”
Lauren Pohl, a second-year student at University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry, has always been interested in science and math. “I have always felt called to serve others, so healthcare has always been what I wanted to pursue.” While earning her bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from the University of North Texas, Pohl worked as an optometric technician her freshman year and says she “fell in love with optometry.”
“I saw the way optometrists change the lives of the patients they see. Now I’m committed to bringing clarity and vision to people’s lives through the field I’m deeply passionate about.”
Hope Santangelo chose optometry to change the lives of her patients and “improve how they experience the world around them.” The second-year student at The Ohio State University College of Optometry looks forward to a career that “prioritizes the patient and provides endless opportunities for professional growth. I am looking forward to representing my classmates on the WO student advisory board and learning more about the transition from student to doctor.”
Addison Tedford’s love for optometry blossomed when she discovered it “combined my desire to serve people with my love for science.” After completing her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences from Auburn University, she was accepted to optometry school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is now in her second year.
“I can’t think of a more rewarding career than one that allows us to care for the most precious sense of all—sight,” she says. “I am so excited to continue learning in the classroom and begin seeing patients in the clinic.”
Rebecca Treen found her interest in optometry while babysitting as a teenager. “When I was 16, I babysat for two optometrists who were enthusiastic and passionate about their job,” she says. “I loved the idea of specializing in a particular medical field that is pertinent to patients of all ages.” Now a second-year student at State University of New York, Treen says her passion for the field has only grown through her involvement in the school and community. “I look forward to relaying what I am learning to future patient care, specifically in treating and managing ocular disease to prolong good eye health and vision.”
Paige Wagar is a second-year student at University of Waterloo. The self-proclaimed “motivated, quirky and extroverted individual” chose optometry after she realized she found “immense fulfillment in connecting with and energizing those around me.”
Wagar enjoys “building connections with others and collaborating to provide personalized eye care solutions. I’m excited to be a part of the WO student advisory board because it offers a unique opportunity to contribute valuable insights and champion meaningful changes.”
Abby Wilhelmi is a second-year student at Illinois College of Optometry. Growing up in the small (and completely land-locked) town of Beach, North Dakota, “played a huge role in my decision to pursue optometry as a career because I saw the need for optometrists in a rural setting,” she says. “When I realized this profession not only gives patients the gift of sight through eyeglasses and contact lenses but also helps care for their overall health, I knew it was for me.”
Wilhelmi says that while she is enthusiastic about the number of new developments, “I’m most eager simply to use my skills and knowledge to give back to a small community or two. I’m excited to serve on the student advisory board for Women in Optometry, and I look forward to making connections through this organization.”
Helen Zhong, a Tennessee native, found her inspiration to become an optometrist during her time as a patient at The Eye Center in Memphis. After pursuing her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Zhong “discovered her passion for healthcare and a deep interest in ocular health and vision.” As she approaches graduation from Southern College of Optometry, she says she is “most excited about the advancements in low vision devices and the potential for vision improvement that emerging technologies offer.”