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Scholarship offers opportunity, empowerment to second annual recipient


Optometry Times' editor Kassi Jackson speaks with Lauretta Justin, OD, founder of Optometry Divas, and Alexis Meyer, a third year student at UC Berkeley School of Optometry and recipient of Optometry Divas' second annual CEO of You scholarship.

Optometry Times' editor Kassi Jackson speaks with Lauretta Justin, OD, founder of Optometry Divas, and Alexis Meyer, third year student at UC Berkeley School of Optometry and recipient of Optometry Divas' second annual CEO of You scholarship.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:

Kassi Jackson, editor:

Hi everybody, Kassi Jackson here with Optometry Times, and I'm joined today by Dr. Lauretta Justin, founder of Optometry Divas, and Alexis Meyer, the second annual CEO of You scholarship recipient. So we're gonna just get started.

Dr. Justin, would you please tell us about the CEO of You scholarship?

Lauretta Justin, OD:

Yes, thank you so much for having me and having us all here today, I'm so glad to do this interview. And the CEO of You scholarship is something we're very excited about here in Optometry Divas.

Our mantra, our mission, is to empower, connect, and promote the success of women ODs. And we can't do that without starting with the upcoming graduates, upcoming classes, upcoming and future doctors.

So we looked at our journey, you know, when I was a student, when some of the other people in the scholarship committee were students, the challenges we had, and what we wished we knew. So we wanted to be able to give back and help out other students who are coming because they are the future of optometry.

And what we wanted to do with this scholarship is give them an opportunity to think about what modality of practice they want to go into after they graduated.

I remember when I was graduating, I had no idea and I knew I wanted a job. I knew I needed to work. But I didn't really understand all the opportunities that were available to me as a student, certainly as a licensed practitioner. So that's what we really wanted to be able to do with this scholarship is give the students an opportunity to do a business plan and think about the future. So when they come out, they really do understand more, what's available, and they can make more of an informed choice, and not be stuck in an undesirable situation.

And so we figured this scholarship would help to do that. And the incentive would be we're going to help pay for your board exam. So that's what started the idea behind the scholarship.


That's amazing. And so you kind of just touched on it. But you know, is there anything specific that like really inspired and encouraged you to establish the scholarship? Like, is there one pivotal moment?


Yeah, well, when I graduated out of school, this was way back,...like I said, I didn't really know what direction I wanted to go.

I knew that I could have a private practice, I knew that, and I knew that I could work in corporate, but I didn't really understand that I could work in industry. I didn't know that there's research possibilities. I didn't know, as consultants, there's so much that you can do as a graduate that didn't know was available to me. And I didn't really understand what it would mean to start a private practice, which is the route I chose. But I didn't really know what it entailed. So I kind of jumped in, blindfolded.

So what we wanted to do is to be able to create some type of mentorship opportunities for students who are coming out to not come out, as unlearned as I was and have to experience the length of time that it takes to figure some of this stuff out. So if we can save some time and money, it would make a difference.


Alexis, what does receiving the scholarship mean to you?

Alexis Meyer:

Well receiving a scholarship is such a great honor for me. It's not only helping me pay my boards—which are very expensive, but also it means to me that all my hard work has really paid off in school and like working on this business plan.

And it tells me that I'm seen as having potential for the future of our profession.


How will this scholarship help you achieve your academic and career goals, Alexis?


I think mainly it's more allowed me to focus my full energy on becoming the best clinician I can be. And be prepared for as I prepare to graduate and run my own practice.

I've just like been opened the door to an amazing community of women who are empowering the future conditions by providing clinical expertise, business expertise, and personal development education.

I'm just really excited to learn and grow.


Dr. Justin, what about Alexis stands out most to you?


I'm gonna tell you what stood out to me for Alexis, but I forgot to mention: I remember when I had to take my board exams, I had no money.

I was calling my dad saying I have boards coming up, and I believe was $600 at that time for this one, and like I had no money... So it's something that you don't really think about, you know, how much of a cost.

So that's one of the reasons we specifically focus on the board exams because it's one of those expenses that kind of pop up as you get nearer to graduate. There's a lot going on, so it's good to have that covered.

What stood out with Alexis: her application, her business plan.

Generally when we get the application for the scholarship, most students are interested in going into private practice. And we've never really gotten an application from someone who's interested in doing a practice within a corporate structure. So that was really interesting that she took the time to think about that modality. I think a lot of students go into it because they think it will be easy, and I'll just go, and I'll just do that, and then we'll just work out.

But we were really impressed by her thought process, to think about doing that and then reviewing the steps that would be required to have a practice within a corporate setting, which I think is setting her up for a lot of success.

And we were really moved by her desire to follow after her mother's footsteps, which was really touching for all of us to read that and just her dedication overall, really stood out, in all the applications.


Dr. Justin, how have you seen this scholarship impact the lives of students? And how do you hope this empowers Alexis in her passion?


So because it's our second ones, I'm really excited to see how it continues to evolve.

But from the first student, what I can tell you, one of the benefits that she experienced was partnering with a mentor, that doctor who could help her and guide her into the direction she wanted to go. She was really interested in myopia control, and so being able to partner with a doctor that's really doing that, has helped guide her to decide and to understand better how to make that decision.

So that mentorship I think, makes the most difference. And I'm hoping we can do the same thing with Alexis, as well.

And I can say from the feedback that I've gotten from other students who applied—who were not necessarily chosen as the recipient—they told me what they learned by doing the plan was so worth it for them that even though they didn't win, the information that they understood, that they gathered, really opened their eyes, so they really can see what worked for them, or would not work for them. And some of them have decided not to go that particular route anymore, because they understand more.

So it's about that knowledge, that understanding, and being able to make that informed choice of what you want to do instead of being thrown into it. And then sorting out whether I like it or not.


Yeah, it sounds like whether they are the recipients of the scholarship or not, just applying really helps empower them in their future decisions.


It is. We do ask that they do a lot, which I'm sure Alexis will tell you... I do I ask them to do a lot. It's not so much for the selection process, it's really for their own benefit.

Because when you really sit down and start thinking about what I want to do, it saves you so much time than when you have to sort it out while you seeing patients. And then you come out so much more prepared, so much more informed to make a better decision for yourself.

This is what empowerment is all about. And that's what our mission is. And I'm glad we can do that with this scholarship.


That's amazing. So, Alexis, what about optometry makes you the most excited?


I'm excited about all of the opportunities that I probably don't even know about, and just where the future of our profession is going as primary eye care.

We do things that impact people's lives every day, whether that be giving them simple glasses, putting them in contact lenses, or even diagnosing the systemic disease that we see in their eye before they do.

I think it's just such a rewarding profession; there's so much we can do with it. And the scope of optometry is continuing to expand. And I'm just excited to see where it goes and that we are able to get more medical management of our diseases and just see where technology goes with our profession is really exciting.


Thank you. And Dr. Justin, what do you think is most important when investing in the optometrists of the future?


I think it's important for them to really understand what their beliefs are, what their values are, what their mission, what their vision and purpose is, overall.

To me, these are the fundamentals of having a winning mindset: understanding what these are, because that helps you determine where you want to go.

So if your value, for example, is travel, right, it's very important for you to be able to travel because you liked the exploring, you liked the adventure. If you really understand that, then maybe taking a job as a traveling optometrist would be a better option for you than to do something that's stable in a particular location.

So really, what I always advise people to do is to kind of start with the beginning. Start with things that are important to you. What are your values, your core values, what are your core beliefs? What are some of the things you stand for, and let that be the foundation of all the decisions that you make thereafter?


Alexis, when have you felt most supported and empowered in your optometric endeavors?


So, as Lauretta shared earlier, I am following my mom's footsteps.

And she is an optometrist that also went to Berkeley Optometry. During my first year of optometry school, she suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.

It was a huge loss for my family. And she was like my greatest role model in the profession that I had. So I also lost that.

And the most invaluable advice that I received through that all was just to lean on your support system. That included my friends, my family, my entire optometry class, the professors; everyone was giving me the resources I needed, whether that be counseling or therapy, and we're just there to work with my schedule, because they knew that family is my most important priority.

And just losing her in the optometry field, too, was such a huge loss. And the people that surrounded me gave me that encouragement to meet every challenge with a positive attitude, and to know that life will go on, was very inspiring. And that gave me the strength to get through that situation and continue to get through that situation.


Thank you for sharing that.

Is there anything either of you would like to add that we haven't talked about?


I would certainly recommend or suggest any student that's watching, if you're gonna go in your third year, to apply for the scholarship to get the experience of writing your own business plan, looking at different modalities of practice, and seeing what would be a good fit for you.

And I certainly would encourage you to check out Optometry Divas at optometrydivas.com and see what we have to offer and how we can help support you in your journey.

We do have, like Alexis say, in my opinion, the best profession ever. And I think in healthcare, we provide such great quality of care that our patients are so privileged, really, to have us looking out for them, and not just so much for their vision, but for their primary health as well. So I think that's so important. And being able to get started in the right foot in the right place in the profession makes a big difference.

So check us out, reach out to me, and I'm always happy to help.


Dr. Justin, Alexis, thank you both for being here today. And thank you for your time.

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