I got involved legislatively before I even attended optometry school. I went to LSU, which is in the state capitol, Baton Rouge. One of the optometrist I was shadowing at the time was going to a committee hearing for a nondiscriminatory bill for reimbursement rates for optometrists.
Why is OptometryStudents.com important to the profession?
My generation tends to communicate a lot on social media and on the Internet. With OptometryStudents.com, we’re able to use that as a platform to communicate with students across the world and share with them advances in our profession and ways to get involved in the profession whether that’s legislatively or through other humanitarian organizations. With websites like OptometryStudents.com, it’s a voice for the students by the students.
How did you become interested in optometry legislative work?
I got involved legislatively before I even attended optometry school. I went to LSU, which is in the state capitol, Baton Rouge. One of the optometrist I was shadowing at the time was going to a committee hearing for a nondiscriminatory bill for reimbursement rates for optometrists. So, I went to it, just kind of as a fly on a wall, and I immediately had a profound sense of urgency and immediacy to get involved with this because I saw the importance firsthand. Sometimes what it takes for students to realize the impact of legislation is to actually have that firsthand experience. When that bill was passed, I got a pen from Gov. Bobby Jindal. That fueled the fire for me to continue.
Why should students care about pending legislation?
Many legislators are unaware of the gap that exists between what we’re trained to do and what we’re legally allowed to do. It’s our opportunity to close that gap and to inform legislators what we’re trying to do. I would be a little sore if I went through four years of this arduous program to just do the bare minimum of what I went through in my training. By doing what we’re trained to do, we’re allowing greater access for patients to get needed care. The student loan repayment bill is very important for students because they can get involved with the National Health Corp. Program and have that repayment program implemented. There’s a direct financial incentive to get involved.
How can the profession involve students in the political landscape?
With AOA-PAC, we are trying to emphasize our communication on social media where we can involve the students in not only political advocacy and activism but also to inform students of bills. I think once they’re able to see the changes that are occurring and the importance of why it’s occurring, then they might become more involved themselves. I think students will have an awareness that will lead to action.
What do you anticipate being the major challenge for students when they leave school?
I don’t think there’s going to be much difficulty with finding jobs because there’s been a lot of progress made with industry partners, schools and social media aspects as well where I think it’s going to be relatively easy to find jobs. What would worry some students is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because I think there’s still a lot of unknowns. There are legitimate concerns because some insurance companies are being financially squeezed with ACA’s implementation, which could lead to decreases in the reimbursement rates for optometric positions. There’s nothing that’s transparent so far, so that’s why we’re still a little anxious.
What's your current favorite YouTube video?
I’m a big music fan, so I usually look at concerts and music videos. You can start seeing one video, then five hours later, you’re like, “Oh, I’m still on YouTube and it’s time to eat.”
Do you see yourself teaching optometry in the future?
Being a supplemental instructor was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I enjoy seeing students succeed in the goals that they set for themselves. It’s hard to say at this time if I would go into academia, but I have thought about it. I have also thought about getting involved with continuing education courses at conferences. So, I have considered different leadership opportunities, maybe directly targeted at students with the different organizations that I’m a part of.
What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
Once I scuba dived with sharks. We were in Cozumel about 100 feet below the surface. It was 6 feet long, and it was sleeping right underneath a reef. It probably wasn’t bright of us to go up to it and surround it because there was no escape for this shark, but it never woke up. We got in and out of there and have the photo documentation to prove it.
If you could anything over again, what would you do differently?
My dad told me when I graduated high school to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. I really don’t have many major regrets because I’ve always let that linger in my head. I didn’t take it to heart as much in college; I regretted some instances where I chose to study instead of going out with my friends. I took an initiative in optometry school to breathe a little bit more and to take all the opportunities that came my way.
What's something your colleagues don't know about you?
Most people who know me think that I am an extrovert. I’m actually an introvert. Out of all the different personality tests that I have done, I am an INFJ, which is apparently less than 1% of the US population. I’m not sure if I should admit that in this interview or not. (Laughs) The truth is I need to occasionally go put my headphones in, turn off my phone, and lay out by the pool. I’m an introvert at heart with a lot of extrovert tendencies.