Representing the Next Generation of Pioneers

By Aubry Tackett, Fourth-year student, Northeastern State University, Oklahoma, College of Optometry

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As one of a growing majority of female optometry students, I’m both proud and grateful—proud of our role as women in the continuing evolution of the field, and grateful to a profession that offers so much opportunity and flexibility in the way we practice.

I was first attracted to optometry as an undergrad when I volunteered at a Special Olympics eye clinic. There, I was amazed by the number of doctors giving up their time to serve others. Their comradery and passion for helping people, combined with my interest in science, inspired me to research the profession further. I was excited to learn about all the different modes of practice and the flexibility a career in optometry allows, both professionally and personally—if I want to stay home with my kids part-time, I can do that; if I want to be a business owner and entrepreneur, I can do that; if I want to teach or work in a hospital, I can do that. As a future Doctor of Optometry who hopes to raise a family one day, that flexibility solidified optometry as the career path for me.

The Family That is Optometry

It’s no secret that optometry school is hard. As I’ve navigated the highs and lows of my education thus far, it’s been comforting to have the support of the optometry family I first encountered at that volunteer eye clinic years ago. We are all cheering each other on—the faculty, hugging and reassuring us as we cry on their shoulder; other students, commiserating with an encouraging word when we’re discouraged; and our own families, driving several hours to take us out to dinner after an especially challenging day (Love you, Mom!).

VSP Vision has been extremely supportive of me and other students on our journey, investing in us through scholarships and grants and coming to support us at our events, meetings, and whenever we ask. In partnership with the Heart of America Eye Care Congress, VSP recently awarded me the Dr. Frank Fontana Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship relieved a huge financial burden for my family, and it was such an honor to be chosen for this award named after an optometry icon I deeply admire.

With Opportunity Comes Responsibility

As the next generation of optometrists, we face both incredible opportunity and tremendous responsibility. If you think about the generation of optometrists retiring today and how the profession has evolved since they started, it’s mind-boggling to imagine what the scope of practice will be when we retire. Optometry is a profession that is not done growing and not done changing, and we have the opportunity and responsibility to shape what it becomes.

As students, we can start by taking on leadership roles in our schools and getting involved politically on behalf of our profession. Throughout optometry school, I have served as the president of my class, liaising between the students, professors, and organizations like VSP, and serving on our school’s executive council to run events and oversee all the different student organizations. I’m active in my State Optometric Association to push for growth of our profession; and when school ends, I plan to keep educating myself so I can advocate for the expansion of our scope of practice. It’s so important to have that voice and so exciting to help mold the future of optometry.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

As we acknowledge Women’s History Month, I feel especially proud to represent the next generation of women who are leading our profession. As Eye See It, we have an exciting opportunity to pioneer the future of optometry, just as those before us paved the way to make it possible.

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