Current Position: Associate for an optometrist with six offices across Chicagoland, including locations in the Rogers Park, Uptown and Englewood neighborhoods
Family Life: Single, no children
ICO Class Of: 1991
When and how did you decide to become an optometrist?
When I was a little kid and I would read or color, I’d bury my left eye under my arm on the table. My mom would tell me to straighten my head. I’m what we call a monofixator, not quite strabismic. I don’t fixate well with my left eye. I had a wonderful experience doing vision therapy with my eye doctor as a child. She had a little Mickey Mouse occluder, and she had me wear a patch and we did vision therapy exercises, which back then consisted of nothing but saccades. This was in the ’70s, so vision therapy wasn’t very sophisticated, but I really enjoyed it. As we continued to do more vision exercises with lenses, the doctor would open her trial lenses. Those lenses looked like a pot of gold to me. She made me feel so good and special. I wanted to help others in the same way.
What challenges did you experience as you pursued your chosen career?
I went to undergrad at Augustana College. When I was there, I got a D in organic chemistry, and I didn’t take microbiology II. So, I took a year off and worked at Red Lobster and Pearle Vision, and took micro and organic chemistry at Moraine Valley Community College. I even got an A in organic. ICO accepted me the following year.
I became incredibly involved at ICO: I was a note-taker, class president first and second years, an RA second year. It was incredibly time-consuming but I loved all of it. But spring quarter of second year was difficult. Immunology was another setback for me. It was a different environment, the training was more like boot camp. Today’s students are so lucky, they have a more nurturing environment now.
Were there any classes or professors that stood out for you?
Dr. Gary Porter taught ocular anatomy. He didn’t read notes, he got up there and told a story. Dr. Susan Cotter taught strabismus, which was reputed to be a difficult class. But she really had a way of teaching this hard material. Strab was our first real clinical class. We took it spring quarter of third year. Our classes before that weren’t eye-oriented; they were subjects like neuro and pharm. We weren’t in clinic at all during first and second years!
What did you do following graduation?
I blanketed the city with resumes, and I ended up working retail optometry at a Montgomery Ward store at the North Riverside Mall. I worked there for two years, and then I became an area sales manager, managing five stores. I was making 150 percent of goal. I knew my percentages and how to make things more profitable. I did that for five years and that was amazing. Then, I had an opportunity with Sears, a free-standing office, and I went back to just being an OD. I’m grateful for that experience. They taught me about sales goals, and the importance of setting daily and weekly goals.
How have you stayed connected to ICO over the years?
I regularly attend continuing education functions. I like to sit in the Lecture Center seat I purchased–it’s front-row center, and you’re pretty much eye-level with the professor. I also make referrals to the IEI for cornea and contact lens, pediatrics and advanced care. I love referring patients to the IEI and I am so fortunate it’s in my backyard. I get patients excited about the experience. I love to brag about ICO to my patients. I point to my diploma on the wall and say, ‘That’s where they teach you to get one of these.’
What advice do you have for current optometry students or those considering the profession?
Optometry offers a lot of diversity in terms of how you can give back: You can go into the military, do a residency, work for a VA clinic, do corporate optometry, enter an OD/MD practice. There are so many different facets to being an eye doctor! Think about all your options while you’re in school and give yourself the opportunity to experience as many as you’d like.