Q&A: Monica Roy, OD, MPH, FAAO

October 21, 2015

I grew up in a highly myopic family and had a really close relationship with our eye doctor at a very young age. What’s really drawn me toward optometry is its universality. Vision and ocular anatomy are the same across the globe, so that means I have the ability to impact lives anywhere.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Ohio. I did all my academic and clinical training at The Ohio State University in Columbus, so I’m a true Buckeye at heart.

 

What prompted your interest in optometry and public health?

I grew up in a highly myopic family and had a really close relationship with our eye doctor at a very young age. What’s really drawn me toward optometry is its universality. Vision and ocular anatomy are the same across the globe, so that means I have the ability to impact lives anywhere. Clinical practice is very individualized, so you treat one patient at a time. However, my background in public health gives me a more population perspective on disease prevention to complement clinical background. To me, working in industry is bridging the clinical and public health component of optometry.

 

How did you get started in public health?

I’ve always had an interest in working with underserved populations. I would take on independent endeavors when I was younger. I did research in Puerto Rico and Mexico. I did research when I was in graduate school, and then when I was in optometry school, I went to Guatemala on an SVOSH trip to provide vision care to the underserved population. So, that part of clinical work has always interested me.

 

 

When did you become interested in clinical research?

To me, with my background in public health and my interest in optometry, I knew I always wanted to combine to two components. And so to me, working in industry research is really bridging those two components. I think I’ve always been interested in industry-I’ve had a lot of family who worked in pharmaceutical companies and they loved their jobs. So that kind of transcended down to me.

 

Why industry and not private practice?

I think with my research background and my interest in public health, I’m able to use my clinical expertise in knowing what drug treatment works on one patient and bring that treatment to millions of people. Because I have a greater impact on people in working with industry vs. one-on-one care in private practice I prefer industry more, but I still keep up on my clinical skills. I still see patients on the side, I just don’t do that full time.

 

Was the transition from academia to industry difficult for you?

There’s definitely a steep learning curve for working in industry for anyone. You’re exposed to aspects you’ve never encountered in your academic training or research work. For me, the transition was definitely smoother. I’ve always been motivated to establish a career in industry. Also my academic and clinical training at The Ohio State University had a strong focus on research, so the majority of my mentors and professors all have relationships with our industry partners. So, joining industry wasn’t too foreign for me.

 

 

What do you do for down time?

[Laughs] I’m really into decorating. I love making a house feel like a home. I’ve watched so much HGTV that I became really good at interior decorating. I still take on a few independent projects here and there. I like modern contemporary-more like clean lines, going away from the traditional floral patterns, so it’s more neutrals and universal appearance.

 

What are the highs and lows of a drug’s clinical development?

 The highs would be there’s always a sense of satisfaction because you’re involved in new technology and something that has yet to be discovered. So it’s very exciting. Then again, when you get an approval, because it doesn’t happen so often, you’re part of something that is very rare and exciting. On the down side [laughs], there’s minimal instant gratification when working in clinical trials. The process can be very lengthy, the majority of research fails, and that’s expected. And even though it can be really discouraging, being able to implement whatever you learned from those failures to the next project is really crucial, and it’s actually necessary for the future development for that drug program. There’s a phrase called “quick win, fast fail.” Like when something’s going really well, you want to move quickly forward. When something isn’t going well and starting not to pan out, you want to hurry up, get it to that point, and move on. You really don’t have time to dwell on anything in industry.

 

What possibilities do you see for new drug therapies?

There’s definitely a huge unmet need in the ocular space. This includes diseases such as dry eye, acute conjunctivitis, glaucoma, anterior segment and anything from diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular edema. There’s just so much opportunity in the space, and that’s why our company is really committed  to the ophthalmic business unit.

 

What’s one thing you would change about optometry as it stands now?

Optometry’s a great profession. I think optometrists themselves need to do a better job of educating others about our profession. Decades ago, optometry was more refractive, and there was larger focus on just vision care itself. But today the scope of practice has greatly expanded. We diagnose eye conditions from hypertensive retinopathy to age-related macular degeneration, we co-manage operative patients, and we treat many more diseases today than we did in the past. So, it’s significantly more medical now. As the primary eyecare provider for most patients, we need to increase public awareness regarding our profession.

 

What’s the craziest thing you ever did?

[Laughs] My siblings and I grew up with severe allergies, so we could never be around animals. It limited our outdoor activities, which resulted in me being a more indoor person. So, when I went to Guatemala and Honduras a few years ago for an SVOSH trip, our options during down time were either zip-lining in the mountains or horseback riding. In my head, I wanted to do neither because I’m afraid of animals and I’m afraid of heights. I ended up doing the horseback riding, and I survived. I never thought I’d fall in love with the outdoors. Interestingly enough, recently I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, and I went on a three-day hike in Mt. Killington in Vermont, and I loved it. When I came back, I was on was on this high, I went kayaking and I loved it, too. I can’t wait to do it again. If you knew me you would know all this is very unlike me. 

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