Wendy Mora, Class of 2014

Education: BS in Biological Sciences, Minor in Chicano Studies
University of California, Davis

Why WesternU College of Optometry?

My passion is to close the disparities in vision care access. WesternU's College of Optometry has allowed me the opportunity to do just that and more through service and education to the underserved in our local community and internationally. College of Optometry students and faculty regularly provide vision care and screenings at health fairs, local schools and community events. In addition, we have a very active chapter of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) which coordinates various projects and events to provide much needed services to the community.

Also, as an Optometry student I was very excited to participate in an international eye care mission to Cuzco, Peru through VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity).  Not only did I have the privilege to provide vision care to those in need in this culturally enriched community but I also learned the importance of implementing a program which will provide sustainability for long term solutions rather than a onetime visit. Now I look forward to collaborating in the future with international public health programs.

WesternU also has a strong representation at the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA). Our professors are important leaders in these National organizations covering full spectrum from Low vision, Neuro-Optometry, Pediatrics, Vision Therapy and Ocular Disease.

As a 4th year student, looking back at the last 3 years, I can say that I’ve received a top-notch optometric education with state-of-the-art technology. I have also made lifelong friends who will continue this journey with me to make a difference in our profession.

Samantha Zaczyk, Class of 2015

Education: BA in Biology
The Ohio State University

Why WesternU? I decided to come to WesternU because on the day of my interview, I felt like I was already part of a family. I knew right away that every faculty member truly wanted to be here and was invested in my education. Another reason I chose the College is because of the amazing technology. Other schools I had visited were using teaching tubes, while WesternU is using state-of-the-art camera systems. I also chose to attend WesternU because of the early entry into patient care. Starting in the fifth week of the first semester, we were out in the community, working on real patients. This has only continued through the remainder of the first year and into my second year. I feel that this will make me a much better clinician and communicator after graduation. Finally, I chose WesternU because of the location. After growing up in Ohio, I was ready for a change, and a mild winter for once. WesternU has met and exceeded all of my expectations.

Clerkship experience: My clerkship experiences have been amazing. I have been to a vision therapy site, Indian Health Services on a reservation, and to a very busy ophthalmologist’s office. Getting to go to so many different types of sites has made me more well-rounded for my studies and my entrance into clinical care at the clinic at WesternU. I was able to see children become confident in reading, learn about the many diseases that can affect ethnic groups, such as diabetes, along with how to diagnose these (well before we've learned about them in class). I also was able to watch three glaucoma surgeries and one retinal surgery from within the operating room. Through my clerkship experience, I know that I have seen things that many of my classmates may never get to see, and things that I will probably not get the chance to see again in person.

Elizabeth Suh, Class of 2014

Education: BS in Biological Sciences and BA in Sociology
University of California, Irvine

Why Optometry? I became interested in optometry during college, when I was trying to decide what career I wanted to go in. I knew that I wanted to go into a profession that helped others and that made a difference in people's lives. I always had optometry in the back of my mind, because I have been wearing glasses since I was in first grade. Visiting the optometrist every year reminded me how much a simple lens can make a world of difference. I then volunteered and shadowed some optometrists at an eye clinic at my university, and instantly fell in love with the profession. I hope to inspire others in the same way that those doctors inspired me to become an optometrist.

Biggest surprise: I was surprised by how close we are as a school, and with my classmates. We really are like a family. The faculty and staff are always willing to help us succeed in any way we can, and they listen to us whenever we have suggestions or need help. My classmates and I quickly became close during our Orientation week, and I love that we always keep each other accountable, because we all want to succeed together. I know that everyone in my class has found life-long friends in our class. I'm also very surprised that I have found a lot of great friends in other colleges as well.

Anita Maher, Class of 2014

Education: BS in Biology, minor in Psychology
The University of Victoria, Victoria B.C., Canada

Why WesternU? The day I visited the WesternU campus for my interview, I knew that it was the school for me. Each encounter I had with staff or faculty at WesternU was a positive one; it seemed as though every person was so excited about the College of Optometry and at the prospect of helping to shape the education and careers of future ODs. In all my encounters with university staff and faculty, I never felt as if I was just a student number. I really felt as if I was part of the WesternU family, and to me that spoke volumes. During my first visit to WesternU, I was impressed to see all of the state-of-the-art technology in the pre-clinic labs and the Eye Care Center, and I really got a chance to see how much the college emphasized hands-on learning. It was important to me to have early exposure to clinic, and I was extremely pleased that at WesternU College of Optometry, students would begin clerkships in their first semester. In addition, I was interested in learning more about optometric vision rehabilitation, and that’s a special emphasis of WesternU.

Interprofessional Education (IPE): I think the interprofessional education emphasized at WesternU is an extremely useful and necessary experience for future health care providers. Participating in the IPE courses and learning how to communicate with other medical professionals has been a great experience, and has brought to my attention many aspects of health care and communication that I may not have realized. I believe that being exposed to this curriculum now and having the tools to be able to communicate interprofessionally is going to benefit our future practices and our ability to care for our patients.

Richard Eusebio, Class of 2014

Education: BS in Biology
University of California, Irvine

Why WesternU? I was initially interested in WesternU because of its emphasis in neuro-optometry and interprofessional learning. After the interview process, I was impressed with the state-of-the-art technology provided in the Eye Care Clinic, and the faculty’s commitment to providing the highest level of optometric education.

Why Optometry? During my junior year at UCI, I volunteered at and eventually worked for the school’s optometry clinic. Through this experience, I was able to see firsthand the amount of time and care the doctors spent with their patients. I was motivated to pursue optometry because I was interested in the equipment utilized to diagnose eye and systemic disorders and the immediate treatment of contact lenses and glasses.

Interprofessional Education (IPE): I feel interprofessional education is vital, and its goal is the future of health care. The IPE classes allowed me to tell other health care students what our scope of practice entails. At the same time, I was able to further understand the necessity of optometric care for each patient holistically.

Matthew Diggory, Class of 2016

Education: BS in Biological Sciences
The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA

Why WesternU? I chose WesternU because I love the fact that we have interactions with actual patients just a month into the program. I didn’t think that I would be ready in just a month, but with practice and the encouragement of the faculty, it was an exciting and fulfilling experience. Another reason why I chose WesternU was because of its reputation as a university that prepares its students to be caring, humanistic, and intelligent practitioners in their respective fields.

First impressions of WesternU: It can be extremely daunting to show up to a new place, not knowing the faculty, staff, and students, and begin a new journey. But even at the first day of orientation, I felt a camaraderie in the college. From that first day, I knew that I made the right decision to be part of WesternU.

What inspires you? Even though I wasn’t always sure what health field I wanted to get into, I always knew that I wanted to be involved with helping people when they need it the most. Health care is more than just treating an illness; it’s about treating a human being. This human to human connection is what inspires me to become the best health care practitioner that I can be.

Elizabeth Hoppe, OD, MPH, DrPH

Founding Dean, Professor of Optometry

Elizabeth Hoppe  8x10

A word on the College of Optometry: We are looking for exceptional people who will be humanistic leaders in the profession of optometry. If you are excited about trying something new and innovative, if you want to learn side-by-side with other health professionals, if you have an interest in optometric rehabilitation, and if you want to work hard, this is the place for you!

On interprofessional education: We expect our graduates to be comfortable communicating with all kinds of other health professionals to maximize their patients’ health. In today’s complex health care system, our graduates will be able to serve as advocates for their patients and help to coordinate their care across disciplines. They will have an appreciation and understanding of the value that all members of the health care team can bring.

Read a Message from the Dean…

Read more about Dr. Hoppe…

Raymond Maeda, OD, FAAO

Chief of Primary Care, College of Optometry

Why WesternU: I chose to come to WesternU due to the vision that was developed for the program. I met with the college administration and this reinforced my decision to pursue a position at WesternU. I feel very fortunate that they asked me to be a part of their team and to help develop the program.

Best Advice: I would advise that you gather information regarding the curriculum of all the schools and colleges you are interested in and assess their strengths and weaknesses. I strongly feel that WesternU is a program that many students will be attracted to due to the opportunities to interact with other health professionals during their didactic/clinical experiences and the fact that they will be utilizing their clinical abilities almost from day one.

On Interprofessional education: I definitely feel that the Interprofessional curriculum will greatly enhance the student’s learning experience and better prepare them for a career in the health field. Optometrists are a significant part of the healthcare team and with that comes more responsibility to treat / manage not just patient's ocular health but also their systemic health. The resources WesternU will provide to their students will ensure that the student will be well-prepared for a successful career in Optometry.

Kristy Remick-Waltman, O.D., F.C.O.V.D.

Director of Community Outreach/ Assistant Professor Clinical Optometric Outreach Faculty

Why WesternU: I learned much from my professors in Optometry school, especially those who had been in private practice for over 20 years with the experience to run and manage a private practice. Now I have the chance to give back and offer students my wealth of practical clinical knowledge. My unique practice experiences have included multi-disciplinary clinics with physicians, psychologists, educators, physical, speech, and occupational rehabilitation therapists. I have always felt that optometry has much to offer and needs to be included in the multi-disciplinary team. The mission statement of the Optometry College at WesternU emphasizes our commitment to neuro-optometric rehabilitation. I am truly excited to be a member of the faculty.

What Would You Tell Prospective Students Considering WesternU? WesternU College of Optometry will provide a unique and practical optometric education that will lead to a rewarding career in the great profession of optometry. The Optometry College has an enthusiastic and knowledgeable faculty dedicated to assisting each student to achieve their academic and clinical potential. I am a native Southern Californian. Southern California provides numerous facilities, resources, great weather, and fun adventures for students; it is a great place to live!

Naida Jakirlic, OD, BS

Assistant Professor

What would you tell a prospective student who’s considering becoming a student at WesternU? To the prospective student I would say that any accredited program will prepare you for patient care; however, being a WesternU student will prepare you to be the most dedicated and humanistic healthcare provider you can possibly be, and it will establish and cultivate lifelong relationships, both professional and personal, that you will always cherish.

Munish Sharma, MD OD FAAO

Assistant Professor

How do you think the interprofessional education (IPE) curriculum will enhance student’s professional lives? With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, patient centered, value based health care is now replacing volume-based care as we move towards a pay-for-performance structure. In addition, CMS is encouraging creation of inter professional care teams. The best approach is to start building these relations early in professional education. WesternU provides unique prospective with introduction to inter professional education early on and continues to enhance it during clinical years. Our students not only get to collaborate with different specialists within WesternU but also work with professionals outside like Retina Specialists from the largest retina practice in southern California.

Read more about me…

Katherine Gillett, Class of 2013

What would you tell a prospective student about WesternU? If you are considering to continue your education at WesternU, go on an interview, visit the campus and you will feel the connection the school has to education, the community and the students. It is a place that will support you during your time there and after.

What one or two elements of your education proved to be the most valuable to you in your career? Educational Collaboration: Higher education is full of academic competition. WesternU had introduced me to the concept of collaborating with my classmates. I quickly learned that working with my peers, and not competing against them, helped me become more successful in the classroom. This concept is more relevant in my career today than I ever imagined. Because of my experience at WesternU, I am able to use my collaborative skills with different healthcare providers; not only strengthening my knowledge, but allowing more comprehensive/quality care for my patients.
Describe your best clinical experience and why it was memorable. My clinical experience was full of providing vision to low income families that never had access to medical care. Not only was it touching to see children discover the detail of leaves on the trees or to see words in a book; the gratitude and appreciation their mothers/fathers had really hit home for me. After my clinical experience at WesternU, I became 100% confident that I am in the field I am meant to serve in.