Courtney Bloodgood, OD
Northeastern State University,
Oklahoma College of Optometry
Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Courtney Bloodgood learned early about what it meant to be an optometrist by working for her father, Bill Whitesell, OD, at his practice, Whitesell Optometry.

Bloodgood was president of her class and was also the recipient of many awards. Those included the Beta Sigma Kappa Silver Medal, NSU Academic Achievement Award (top optometry graduate, 4.0 GPA and highest National Boards score), Golden Retinoscope (most outstanding clinical skills, selected by the clinic faculty) and Outstanding Practice Management/Optometric Education Student Project.

Bloodgood’s 5-State Student Symposium Case Presentation won first place, and she received a Lynn A. Cyert Excellence in Pediatrics Scholarship. She also was a VSP 2013 Award Winner, received a BVA 2013 Excellence in Patient Care Award and she was 2013 Good-Lite Award Winner.

Her plans after graduation? To join her dad at his practice in her hometown of Spring Hill, Kans. Whitesell has just opened a second location in the state in Garnett under the Vision Source banner.

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “Courtney encompasses everything you want in an optometrist—she is intelligent, personable and a great clinical doctor.”

Matthew Bovenzi, OD
SUNY College of Optometry
New York, New York

Matthew Bovenzi, OD, took an interesting path toward optometry. He said he first became interested through classes in visual perception and the visual system during his undergraduate studies at Cornell University. (At Cornell, Bovenzi graduated with a B.A. in Biological Sciences and a B.A. in Music).

A Naval ROTC candidate, he then served four years as a Surface Warfare officer in the U.S. Navy prior to optometry school. “I enjoy helping others; I’m fascinated by the human body and the eyes specifically: optometry was and is the perfect career to marry these interests of mine.”

While at SUNY, Bovenzi not only took part in 90 service hours for SVOSH, but founded/created a database to manage donations from over 900 contacts, and service hours by over 120 students.

He served as vice president of the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society, was a Gold Key International Optometric Honor Society treasurer, and took part in a range of activities from Major League Baseball East Coast Pro Showcase to other AOA/AOSA activities including representing SUNY in the Varilux Student Bowl.

He also worked at Visionary Eye Associates, in Rochester, N.Y. and was honored with a series of scholarships and recognition awards.

Said Bovenzi, “Although my residency next year, which is what I’ll be doing after graduation, is in Family Practice & Ocular Disease at the East NY Diagnostic & Treatment Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., I am fascinated and interested by all aspects of optometry.”

HIS SCHOOL SAYS… “He is a well-rounded leader. Matt tutored students for free and invented alternative methods to solving problems that students called the ‘Bovenzi Method.’ Not all faculty liked this. He also won a talent show where he sang and played the keyboard—impressive. And, he is an excellent clinician.”

Cory Collier, OD
Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

While an undergrad at the University of Central Florida, Cory Collier had the opportunity to shadow doctors in numerous health fields. “After shadowing an optometrist, I instantly knew it was for me. In my eyes, optometry presents an amazing opportunity to affect patient’s lives in a positive way. In general, optometrists have the privilege of getting to know their patients, building relationships with families and the community, all while helping their patients perform better in their daily lives. It is the perfect balance of science, patient interaction and small business.”

Collier was an active member of the Beta Sigma Kappa Honor fraternity and served as the mock pre-proficiencies coordinator. He achieved Nova Southeastern University Optometry’s highest score in the NBEO Part 1 and passed with honors in all of his clinical rotations. During the college’s Senior Awards ceremony, Collier received the Dr. Lester E. Janoff Scholar Award, the Beta Sigma Kappa Silver Medal and the Dean’s Award.

Interestingly, on May 10 of this year, Cory married his high school sweetheart, Kara Deibe, OD, also a graduate of the NSU Optometry Class of 2014. After dating all through high school, college and professional school, the two married eight days before graduation and are now OD and OD.

Collier plans on completing a residency in Primary Care with Emphasis in Cornea and Contact Lenses at Nova Southeastern University next year. “Following the completion of my residency, I aspire to return to the west coast of Florida where I would like to be a partner in a private practice with my wife, Kara Collier. Our goal is to have a full scope private practice with emphasis on speciality contact lenses and binocular vision (Kara’s residency emphasis).

HIS SCHOOL SAYS… “Dr. Collier was our class valedictorian…”

Alicia Havens, OD
Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry
Glendale, Arizona

Alicia Havens’ interest in optometry started early. Dr. Donald Jarnagin (now dean of the Arizona College of Optometry at Midwestern University) was Havens’ OD growing up, and she went to see him every year as a child, as she slowly became more and more myopic. “Going to see him annually was always one of my favorite things to do. Vision and ocular health has always been an important topic in my family, as my grandmother suffered from binocular wet macular degeneration that took the majority of her eyesight in her 70s.”

Dr. Havens has long been an achiever, academically. Valedictorian of her high school graduating class, she finished this year as 2014 Class Valedictorian. She’s a member of Golden Key International Honour Society as well as Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society and for the past three years served as secretary of Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society.

During her time at Midwestern/Arizona, she interned regularly at various practices throughout the Scottsdale/Phoenix/Glendale area. Starting in July, she will begin an optometric residency in ocular disease with Dr. Paul Ajamian at Omni Eye Services of Atlanta, affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Optometry.

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “A committed student, with a range of achievements, Dr. Havens is our Class Valedictorian for 2014.”

Haley McCreery, OD
University of Missouri
St. Louis College of Optometry
St. Louis, Missouri

McCreery, OD, had been out of undergraduate school for a few years with a B.S. in mathematics before she decided to pursue optometry. She had worked on and off for an optometrist in her hometown since high school. “After working in every position within his office over the course of the years, I decided that a career as an optometrist would fit me well and be rewarding.”

Her school noted that McCreery was an outstanding student, teaching assistant, mentor and tutor, pointing out that she served as a “drop-in” tutor—she would be available several hours a week to tutor all interested first-year students with questions pertaining to all courses.

At the graduation ceremony, she was UMSL’s most honored graduate. As a result of graduating at the top of her class academically she was awarded the Dean’s Award, the Silver Medal Award and was voted on by the faculty as the Student Marshall. In addition, she was recipient of the Clinical Binocular Vision and Vision Therapy award and the Missouri Optometric Foundation William R. Jackson Jr., OD Memorial Scholarship.

Going forward, McCreery plans to start work full time at a private practice in Rolla, Mo., under the employment of Dr. Amanda Bahr. “I always wanted to go into private practice, since that is the mode of practice I was first introduced to. I look forward to a full scope practice and the variety that will come with it in a small town.”

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “She always had a very positive and professional demeanor and was a true privilege to teach.”


Debi Sarma, OD
New England College of Optometry
Boston, Mass.

Debi Sarma, OD, said she’s always had a passion for people, for science and for public health. “Somehow, optometry just seemed to be a natural fit for me. Once limited by my own difficulties with sight as a young child, I feel particularly passionate about promoting vision health and educating others on the positive role good eyecare can have in communities, particularly for those who are underserved.”

Sarma, her school pointed out, was a “major force” in the production of her class yearbook. She also embodied the school’s goal of “long-term diversity recruitment,” by teaching a specially designed class, Your Eyes and Public Health, to high school students in a UMASS Boston summer program. She was also a panelist on a career day program for high school students, also at UMASS Boston.

After graduation, Sarma will be doing a residency in Community Health Optometry at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center in Dorchester, Mass.

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “As class president, she energized her class and class officers.”

Phillip Yuhas, OD, MS
The Ohio State University College of Optometry
Columbus, Ohio

Yuhas explained that his motivation to study optometry sprung from a belief in the value of providing high-quality primary eye-care. “In today’s medical landscape, a premium is placed on specialization, and too often primary care services in all medical disciplines fall by the wayside. This approach frequently prohibits those who need care access to the medical system.

“As optometrists, we are in the unique position to be the exception to that trend. Not only are we well trained to address the visual and ocular health needs of our patients, but we are also oftentimes the gateway to the medical system for our patients. Our ability to detect ocular manifestations of chronic systemic diseases enables us to get that patient the care they need from another medical specialty.”

Yuhas was honored as 2014 Graduate of the Year at OSU’s recent commencement ceremonies, an award given to the most outstanding member of each graduating class based on clinical excellence, academic achievement, leadership and professional promise. The honor is based on nominations of faculty and staff who have worked with OSU students in classrooms, laboratories and in clinics.

He was also able to demonstrate leadership skills as president of the OSU Student Chapter of the American Academy of Optometry and as a member of the Gold Key International Optometric Honor Society and the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society.

Yuhas is currently pursuing a PhD in Vision Science at OSU’s College of Optometry where he will perform biomedical research and teach in the patient care clinics at the College. “My research is focused on developing an objective pupil test to screen for ocular diseases (e.g. glaucoma) and certain neurological diseases (e.g. traumatic brain injury). Research is the engine that drives our profession forward and we need good clinicians teaching the future generations of optometrists, especially as our scope of practice continuously increases.”

HIS SCHOOL SAYS… “He is dedicated to elevate patient care to the highest level and has a passion for contributing to the current body of knowledge that will impact the quality of future standards of care.”