During my undergraduate career, I was part of the Pathway for Students into Health Professions (PSHP) program, which provided career development and mentoring to undergraduates who are considering careers in the health professions. This includes students pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, social work, and other professions in the social/human services. Optometry wasn’t even listed under the description of a health profession under this scholarship, but they still admitted me! The program has a strong emphasis on public service to mothers, children, and families, which confirmed my desire to go into pediatric optometry. PSHP is administered by the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, which is affiliated with the UCLA School of Public Health and School of Medicine. It was enriching to participate in graduate level public health courses and since then, I knew I wanted to learn more by obtaining an Master of Public Health (MPH).
While applying to optometry school, I wanted to attend a school that carried the same public health mission that I had in mind; much like the American Public Health Association (APHA)‘s mission: to improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) stood out to me because of their mission and what they stand for: To educate and prepare future leaders in optometry through excellence in education, patient care, and vision research. This is achieved in an environment committed to personal growth within a context of faith, human dignity and social justice. I clearly remember my UIWRSO optometry school interview with Dr. Coates, the Chief of Vision Therapy Services, Director of Outreach Programs, and Assistant Clinical Professor. During my interview, he asked me about my public health mission trip to Honduras and why I decided to go, after I answered, he told me about his experiences with mission trips and how he wanted to start these trips with our school. Dr. Coates worked hard and stayed true to the UIWRSO mission and now these optometry students have multiple opportunities to go on these trips. I’m really happy that I can be a part of a school that has taken public health to a global level! We have an upcoming trip to Panama, and one last year to Sierra Leone, Africa.
Optometry is definitely an undeserved health profession in the public health sector due to the fact that optometry and public health are not as intertwined as the other health professions. To me, this needs to change! Because most of the efforts to spread vision care has been done through public health programs such as the InfantSee program.
I made this video with the intent to spread the word, so that optometry students can learn how to be effective leaders with a public health background.
This video was filmed at Optometry’s Meeting 2014 at Philadelphia. With the help of optometry student leaders who are interested in public health, we were able to arrange a time to meet and shoot an impromptu video! Many thanks to Dr. Di Stefano, PCO; Lili Liang, PCO 2016; Dr. James Deom, PCO; Feyi Aworunse, SCO 2016; and Janis C. James, IAUPR 2016!
Anthony F. Di Stefano, OD, MPH, FAAO
Professor & Director
Master in Public Health Program
AOSA-Salus Public Health Scholarships
Master of Public Health Scholarships to Optometry Students
AOSA National APHA Liaison
American Public Health Association
VIDEO PRODUCED BY: Susan Ly
UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry, Class of 2016
UIWRSO APHA Liaison (American Public Health Association)