Why I Chose Optometry—Not Your Typical Answer

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VSP Vision Professional Network Relationship Manager Stephanie Ganiban presented the VSP Vision of Hope Scholarship to KYCO student Alyssa Holland, pictured here with KYCO Dean Dr. Michael Bacigalupi.

You often hear ODs talk about their life-changing experience as a child in the optometry office and how it inspired them to pursue a career in this field. I too have had a long, very positive relationship with vision care, having worn glasses from a young age, but it is not the reason I chose this profession.

I was born and raised in Hazard, Kentucky, a mostly rural town in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a wonderful, tight-knit community that has its share of the challenges found in a rural town with a large, underserved population. Growing up, helping those in need was always a priority in our family—both of my parents are in the medical field and their passion for healthcare is second only to their love of volunteer work. So, we spent many hours as a family working with the underserved population in our community. It was so gratifying to help the people in my town, and I knew I wanted a career one day that would allow me to continue this work.

It was in high school at a RAM (remote area medical) clinic where I was first exposed to the field of optometry. I had signed up to volunteer as a general helper and was assigned to the eye care clinic. There, I got to watch and experience not only optometrists, but optometry students working with people and making an immediate difference in their lives. The positive energy they effused was contagious, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that culture.

I applied to the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO), where I am now a first-year student. With medical issues like diabetes on the rise, especially in rural areas like mine, the role of ODs in healthcare is more important than ever, and I’m excited to make an impact. While I gain the knowledge and skills I’ll need in my optometric career, I get to continue my charitable outreach through the Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH), which partners with RAM to provide eye care services to the medically underserved of Appalachia. Today I get to be one of those optometry students I once admired.

It was such an honor to receive the 2022 Vision of Hope Scholarship from KYCO and VSP Vision. VSP Vision does a lot to support schools and students of optometry, providing resources and scholarships like this one to help us achieve our career goals. The Vision of Hope scholarship is awarded annually to an excelling, first-year KYCO student who intends to practice in the rural Appalachian region, and it embodies my mission to give back to this wonderful community. It is a humbling validation and I’m very grateful to KYCO and VSP Vision for their support.

“As Eye See It,” my parents instilled in me a passion to give back to people in need. Now, I have a child of my own and plan to do the same with him. Having a career in optometry allows me to fulfill my mission to make a real impact on the lives of the underserved, and I couldn’t imagine a community more deserving than mine.

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