Optometry Students



Click here to download pdf of Optometry Students

Sarah Brehm, OD

Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla

Getting into optometry was very personal for Sarah Brehm, OD. Her entire family, except for her, has retinitis pigmentosa—and she always looked up to her family’s optometrist. She also thought that helping a broad spectrum of people in a primary care setting would be a great way of life.

Brehm worked with the Foundation for Fighting Blindness VisionWalk by serving as the school’s team captain. She also worked with student optometric associations lobbying the state legislature in Tallahassee to allow ODs to prescribe oral medications.

She is currently in a primary-care resident at SUNY, to round out her clinician skills. Eventually, she would like to work in a primary-care practice, and is interested in working with low-vision patients. She would also like to get SUNY involved in VisionWalk.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“At NOVA, Sarah distinguished herself and graduated with her Doctor of Optometry degree with highest honors, bestowed upon only three students this year. She was the president of Gold Key Honor fraternity and the recipient of many clinical awards including: GP Clinical Excellence Award, the William Feinbloom Low Vision Award, Heine Award of Excellence in Optics, and the Lombart Instruments Optometric Award.”

Jessica Carson, OD
University of Missouri—St. Louis College of Optometry
St. Louis, Mo.

For Jessica Carson, OD, the ability to co-manage systemic diseases is a reason she chose optometry as a career. “It’s also a profession that’s constantly evolving, with new treatment and technology for vision disorders and eye disease,” she explained.

Her resume is filled with a wide variety of experiences with professional optometric organizations and honor societies. However, her most rewarding experience was her volunteer clinic trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, with I Care International. “We treated more than 1,200 patients in four days—many who never had clear vision or medical treatment for eye disease. It reminded us the most important reason we want to be optometrists—to give the gift of sight.”

Carson has a residency at the VA Medical Center Eye Clinic in Fayetteville, Ark., and looks forward to studying treatment and management of glaucoma, cataracts, diabetes, AMD, and other diseases, and learning minor surgical and select laser procedures.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Dr. Carson graduated first in her class, and was president of the Beta Sigma Kappa Honor Society here. She was also an active student ambassador, who mentored incoming students and helped shape the career paths for many students considering optometry careers.”

Kelly Chajka, OD
SUNY College of Optometry
New York

While she had a Masters degree in vision science and perceptual learning, Kelly Chajka, OD, wanted more personal interaction with people, and decided, “Optometry was a good clinical fit since I could also do research.”

At SUNY, she was involved with a variety of extracurricular activities, including being secretary of the school’s VOSH chapter, which took her to El Salvador on a humanitarian mission. She also worked with the Urban and Global Mission Alliance to bring eye exams to patients in the Dominican Republic. She was also involved in the AAO student council for four years, and was president in her fourth year.

Chajka hopes to eventually work at a practice in her native Syracuse, N.Y.-area and integrate vision therapy and rehabilitation into it.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“We are very proud of Kelly. She combines academic and clinical excellence, a love of research and a genuine desire to help others. She is emblematic of the best qualities of our graduates. We are confident that she will achieve great success in the future.”

Britta Hansen, OD
School of Optometry, University of California—Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.

“Optometry seemed the best way to see patients who come in happy and leave even happier,” said Britta Hansen, OD. She shadowed some ODs for a month and felt, “It was a very positive experience and I felt I would fit in very well into the profession.”

Hansen was involved with student groups, and she represented the school at the AOA and at legislative meetings in Sacramento. “We helped legislators understand our level of education. In California, we have not been able to use therapeutic treatment of glaucoma, but now, there are more aspects that can be treated by ODs if you have the right certifications.”

Down the road, she would like to be in a group practice, and wants to focus more on ocular sciences and specialty contact-lens fittings.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Dr. Britta Hansen epitomizes the best of the best in the profession of optometry. As a graduate of the Class of 2011 at Berkeley Optometry, she was recognized for her leadership and dedication by being selected by Berkeley Optometry Faculty and her fellow classmates as the 2011 Gold Retinoscope recipient.”

Brigitte Keener, OD
Southern College of Optometry
Memphis, Tenn.

“Optometrists had a love of patient care and they spent more time with their patients than other doctors did,” said Brigitte Keener, OD, when talking about shadowing medical professionals. “Communications between doctor and patient is most important, and ultimately, that’s how I chose optometry.”

At SCO, she was involved with ASOA and SVOSH. As president of the student government, “I had a chance to influence our school, and my goal was to emphasize service,” she said. Starting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Memphis, she got the SCO faculty, staff and students to paint a school. She found ways to involve people that didn’t require a monetary commitment, so more people could participate.

Currently, Keener has a post-graduate residency at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, and, would like to go back to academia and be in private practice. “My ultimate scenario would be to do part-time at each.”

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Brigitte Keener, OD, ranks among one of the more dedicated student leaders: Her tenure as SGA president coincided with a strategic increased emphasis on college-wide service. She led a student delegation that shared updates from the student perspective at a well-attended faculty/staff campus-wide meeting. She is on track to be a leader in our profession.”

Melissa Liepins, OD
Illinois College of Optometry

“I was a lifelong optometry patient—I started wearing glasses in the third grade” said Melissa Liepens, OD. “I thought it was a great opportunity to be in health services but still have time for a family and reach my goals, and help patients at the same time.”

At ICO, she was in a variety of honor societies and professional organizations, but one group she found particularly helpful was the Private Practice Club. As its president, she gained valuable leadership experience. The club imparts practical information to students that doesn’t always make it into the classroom. “Many students get caught up in academics, and don’t learn about networking and post-graduate opportunities.”

Her work with the club helped lead her to her job at Advanced Rockford Eyecare. Eventually, Liepens would like to be a private practitioner. “A multimodal practice that let’s me do a bit of everything would be great.”

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Melissa Liepins, OD graduated summa cum laude and was our salutatorian in 2011. Her notable accomplishments have included membership in the BSK, Gold Key, and Tomb and Key Honorary Societies. She was president of the ICO Private Practice Club, and the VSP, Student Association, and Trustees Scholarships.”

Jessica Lucas, OD
Northern State University Oklahoma’s College of Optometry
Tahlequah, Okla.

She planned on getting into the medical profession, but after volunteering at some hospitals, Jessica Lucas, OD couldn’t picture herself working in many areas of the profession. She then decided to shadow some optometrists. “That’s when I realized that was the profession I was seeking.”

While at NSUOCO, Lucas worked with Women in Optometry, the Private Practice Club, and the AOSA, was on the school’s curriculum committee, and served as a liaison to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. She and a classmate also had an article published recently in the Journal of Optometry and Vision Science.

Lucas would like to get into family practice, and would like to focus on vision care for infants and children. “Many optometrists don't feel comfortable with those age groups. There are many preventable conditions that can be treated early on.”

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Jessica maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her optometric education, and she has outstanding clinical skills. She has demonstrated her professionalism and commitment to service and we look forward to watching her impact the lives of many. Her combination of intelligence, clinical skill and compassion will make her an exceptional optometrist.

Kacie Monroe, OD
Indiana University School of Optometry
Bloomington, Ind.

“I was always interested in the sciences. I majored in biology as an undergraduate, and I talked to my own doctor and my own optometrist,” said Kacie Monroe, OD. “A female optometrist I met said that being an OD was a good way to specialize without spending 12 years in school.”

She wound up working in a retail optical store and for an ophthalmologist. At IU, she spent three years working with the school’s VOSH chapter, and was its president the last year. “We saw 1,200 patients during a mission to Guanajuato, Mexico, where we have a clinic. People there would take a four-hour bus ride one way just to get eye exams.”

Monroe is currently working for Fitzgerald and Associates in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She’s very happy in a private practice, and is pursuing a 100-hour course for certification in vision therapy. She also wants to do more to serve pediatric patients.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Dr. Monroe has been an active member of our school, serving in leadership positions with our chapter of VOSH. She confirmed her dedication to service by traveling to Guanajuato, Mexico, to participate in a week-long mission to provide care to the indigent and underserved of that region.”

Lauren Nelson, OD

University of Houston College of Optometry
Houston, Texas

Lauren Nelson, OD, distinguished herself as a first-year student, and continued to do so throughout her academic career, graduating with honors and receiving numerous awards and accolades.

“I had the opportunity to shape the profession by serving on the admissions committee. It was such a valuable experience,” Nelson said. She also worked as a teaching assistant for several courses, and enjoyed helping incoming students.

She is a member of Beta Sigma Kappa, Student Texas Optometric Association, American Optometric Student Association, Student Optometric Practice Management Association and SVOSH. She also found time to serve on numerous committees and volunteered at the Houston Food Bank.

Currently, Nelson is about to start working part-time for four different optometrists in the Beaumont, Texas area. She is interested in learning more about pediatric eyecare in a private practice setting.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Lauren distinguished herself as a first year student, and continued to do so throughout her academic career, graduating with honors and receiving many awards and accolades. We know she will continue to distinguished herself as a leader and role model within the profession.

Amanda Powers, OD
New England College of Optometry

“My optometrist was my mentor,” Amanda Powers, OD, tells VM. “I worked for the optometrist near my school and I fell in love with working with patients—and, the eye interests me, so much.”

While at NECO, Powers went to the state legislature as part of a Massachusetts Society for Optometrists group to lobby for the glaucoma bill. “We got farther than we had before—this is the only state where ODs cannot prescribe glaucoma medications.” As part of the school’s VOSH chapter, she helped patients in the Dominican Republic. Back home, she organized “parking lot fundraisers” to help VOSH, by using NECO’s parking lot as a parking alternative for Red Sox fans going to nearby Fenway Park.

She is currently doing a residency at a VA hospital in Brockton, Mass., and would like to one day be part of a group practice, and learn more about ocular disease and glaucoma.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Dr. Powers was president of the Student Council, the highest student-voted office. She received two awards at commencement that recognize leadership, ability, and commitment to the field: The Dr. Hyman R. Kamens Scholarship and the Dr. F. Dow Smith Award. She is outgoing and optimistic and we know she will continue to have a positive effect on the profession.”

L.A. Lossing, OD
Ohio State University College of Optometry
Columbus, Ohio

“I met with a lot of different health care professionals during my junior and senior years as an undergraduate,” said L.A. Lossing, OD, but optometry offered the best working environment for optometrists and a higher degree of patient interaction was important.

Working with SVOSH gave her great exposure to other professionals, and to ocular conditions not commonly seen in the U.S. In three years, she went to Peru, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. “Each trip was different and each trip was great.” Another major part of her OSU years was being part of the optometry fraternity Epsilon Sigma Epsilon. “It was a great way to meet students who were not in your classes. We had a good mix of academics, outreach and socializing.”

She is currently doing a residency at VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt. Two areas she would like to explore further are ocular disease and pediatrics.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“L.A. proved her leadership abilities in several student organizations. She is the past president of the OSU Optometry professional fraternity, Epsilon Psi Epsilon, and she was also heavily involved in the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA). She served as the class representative to AOSA from the class of 2011, and attended two AOA Congressional Conferences in Washington, DC. She was also involved in Student Volunteers for Optometric Service to Humanity (SVOSH), and participated in several trips to underprivileged areas abroad.

Carla Gilbertson, OD
Michigan College of Optometry
Ferris State University

Carla Gilbertson, OD, got interested in optometry because she wanted a profession with direct patient care. “I really like working with people and optometry gave me the opportunity to help patients improve their quality of life,” she told VM.

While at the Michigan College of Optometry, she worked as her class' representative in the student government. “It allowed me to learn a lot about everyone in my class and I got to organize large events like golf tournaments, dances and other fundraisers. I was also a member of student VOSH where I went to Honduras on a mission trip where we provided eyecare to 600 patients.”

Currently, she has a residency in primary care and ocular diseases at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center in Michigan. In the future, she can see herself staying at the VA hospital, or working in private practice, and would like to learn more about ocular diseases.

HER SCHOOL SAYS…“Dr. Carla Gilbertson was an outstanding student with exemplary service to her peers. She was selected by her peers to be the recipient of the Daniel Peterson Memorial Award, which is given each year to the graduating senior who has shown outstanding professional and ethical attitude demonstrated through leadership and service to the class, college and profession.”