Graduating ECPs Look to Change the Face of the Profession

It’s always inspiring and energizing to talk to college students—particularly ones who are active, enthusiastic, spirited and high achievers, which is how we’d characterize those who are highlighted among the Best in Class 2018 report this year.

Their accomplishments provide a window into optometry’s future. Their work and ideas, taken along with the larger range of optometry school graduates this year, reflect the diversity changing the face of the profession, always the commitment to serve and volunteer to help patients with less access and those with challenging visual conditions.

I’m going to pick on one student, though, whose successful initiative struck a chord with me. Melissa Zaleski, OD, a graduate of Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, seemed to underscore the real curiousity about IRL (“In Real Life”) questions that so many students today have about where and how to share what they’ve learned about vision and the eye.

Dr. Zaleski, an AOSA Trustee, had been sharing ideas with colleagues from other schools, and she developed a program called OPTions. This ended up as an exchange with over a dozen local optical companies in Florida, including frame companies, lens makers, optometric equipment firms, practices and corporate setting representatives who provided insight into what they did, potential job opportunities and just plain knowledge exchange. She worked with a board of seven people in charge of different aspects of OPTions, so that the event would appeal to students from any year of study. The board tackled getting volunteers, the event layout and the prizes offered. It took some six months to put together.

OPTions attracted over 200 students, more than half of the student population, who came for information, food, networking and, yes, the prizes. Each company representative had a short 90 seconds to speak in front of the entire group and a prize was given out after each speaker. A third annual event is coming up this August, she reports.

The vision care field is changing of course, and so is the “business” of the optical “business.” These are the kinds of initiatives that can help contribute to a broader understanding about the possibilities of both for tomorrow’s optometry practitioners.

Congrats to all the student graduates out there.