On January 1, 2024, Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD, will add a temporary new title to her already impressive curriculum vitae. She’ll become interim executive vice president and provost of The Ohio State University, serving as the institution’s chief academic officer while a search is underway for a permanent leader. She will continue serving as interim dean of the College of Public Health, a role she took on in July.
She is passing the mantle of dean of the College of Optometry, a role she’s had since 2014, to newly named interim dean Jeffrey Walline, OD, PhD. Dr. Walline will lead until she concludes her service as interim provost.
A WILLINGNESS to SAY YES
Dr. Zadnik says, “I realized I could not do full three full-time jobs!” And while it may on one hand have seemed logical that she also step aside from the duties in the College of Public Health, she had made a commitment to that college and wanted to see her service through until that college’s dean search concludes. With regard to the College of Optometry, “we have such a high-quality person in Dr. Walline,” she says, knowing that it will be in great hands.
“In any interim job, you want to keep the trains running on time. I also feel driven by the adage of scouts and outdoors people – you leave a campsite better than you found it. So I’m not here to set completely new goals but to help resolve issues that need to be addressed.”
Dr. Zadnik says that the invitation to serve as interim executive vice president and provost was a surprise to her. “I did not have that on my Bingo card this year,” she says, laughing. Yet each experience outside of optometry has allowed her to see more of how the university operates. “When I came into the College of Public Health, it was a learning experience because their graduate programs recruit from undergraduate programs. There’s no undergraduate program in optometry, so I had not had much exposure to that.”
FIRST OD IN THIS ROLE AT UNIVERSITY
When she starts her new role as interim provost in January, Dr. Zadnik will continue to represent her discipline as the first optometrist in that role at Ohio State. “Being at one of the largest public universities in the country and seeing how the seven health colleges work together is inspiring. I look out my office window, and I can see the College of Medicine; the College of Nursing is across the street, and the College of Pharmacy is just down the hill. To have an optometry program with those kinds of connections –along with non-health deans–is wonderful,” she says.
Among her many credentials and accolades, Dr. Zadnik is a past president of the American Academy of Optometry and the Association of Schools and College of Optometry. She chaired the NEI-funded Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Ethnicity and Refractive Error (CLEERE) Study for 20 years and the Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Keratoconus (CLEK) Study.
Her passion for education has been a driver throughout her career. “I am grateful for this opportunity to help steward and move forward the incredible work of our faculty, staff, and students at Ohio State – all of who fuel Ohio State’s fundamental mission to teach, learn, and discover,” she says.
Listen to an earlier WO Voices podcast with Dr. Zadnik as she talks about the career choices she’s made, balancing marriage, motherhood and an impressive legacy of research, writing and inspiring students — as well as her love for quilting, her creative outlet.