Student’s Role in the Texas Optometric Association

How TOA helped developed my networking and leadership skills

2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees
2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees. (Left: Dr. Valdez and Dr. Fortenberry are UIWRSO Faculty)

My political optometry involvement grows concurrently with my public health efforts. I am drawn to the legislative side of optometry because many life changing vision programs like the InfantSEE® program was established due to optometrists lobbying and networking with state representatives and senators.

I’ve been to multiple optometry board meetings with the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) and I would like to explain the organization of the optometric societies in America. Every state has a board that represents all the optometrist residing in that state. The board may include optometrists, public health advocates, administrators, accountants, membership directors, etc; together the board runs the association with or without dues from participating/supporting optometrists in the state. These optometric associations are formed to ensure that those who have earned the title of Doctor of Optometry have the opportunity to practice their profession to the fullest extent possible.

Many optometry students do timeline aoanot realize that the state optometric associations and the American Optometric Association (AOA) are closely connected. AOA board members will visit and sit in on the state meetings while state associations presidents gather at least twice a year at the Optometry’s Meeting or the Presidents’ Council Meeting. Also the student optometric associations at each school can support the state associations by encouraging students to lobby or educate fellow students about the laws that the state is trying to pass, as well as donate or pay dues to support their cause. Optometry students often join the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and in doing so they are also supporting and a member of their state student optometric association. Before my experiences with the TOA, I had no idea that there is such an organized network that keeps our profession strong. If you would like to read more about the history of optometry please click here for a timeline.


I am an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association (STOA) because I want to take an active part in the political association that opens doors for optometrists as well as improves the visual welfare of the people. Jason Ngo (President, STOA) and me (Treasurer/Secretary) are invited to the Texas Optometric Association board meetings to keep up to date about what the TOA board is planning and learned of their successes or what needs to be changed. I was impressed by the leadership and organization that they possessed; they are encouraging and positive when discussing their agenda and I can feel how their camaraderie fuels the team’s success! The board also taught me the importance of networking with other leaders. The board members would introduce themselves to us, and I’m grateful because I was really nervous at my first board meeting. I appreciate this opportunity to learn from these leaders. I would also like to mention that any optometry student in Texas can attend these board meetings if they let their STOA officers know in advance. I hope that optometry students can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

The Texas Optometric Association (TOA) mission statement: “Doctors of Optometry working together to advance excellence in eyecare for every Texan.” To show our support, the UIWRSO STOA created hoodies that incorporates the TOA mission statement.

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UIW Leadership Forum: Women’s History Month

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The University of the Incarnate Word was founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, three young French women motivated by the love of God and their recognition of God’s presence in each person, came to San Antonio in 1869 to care for the victims of an epidemic of cholera and to establish the city’s first hospital, the Santa Rosa Infirmary. You can read more about the History of the Mission of UIW here. Their spirit of Christian service is perpetuated in the University of the Incarnate Word primarily through teaching and scholarship. Today the University continues to exemplify women’s leadership. At the Rosenberg School of Optometry, the RSO Women’s Faculty Association hosted the Leadership Forum which took place on Friday, April 4, 2014 at the UIWRSO Events room.

Host, Dr. Noah Kasraie, and keynote speaker, Magaly Chocano.

At the Leadership Forum, attendees were able to listen to the stories of women leaders and be inspired by their leadership. Drs. Noah and Narges Kasraie were the hosts of this event. Sr. Walter Maher, CCVI, UIW Vice President for Mission and Ministry, gave the opening prayer and Dr. Buzzelli, UIWRSO Dean, provided the warm welcome note.  The theme was Women’s History Month. Keynote speaker, Magaly Chocano, President/CEO of Sweb Development, told her story to an audience of over 100 people.  Chocano built an award-winning company from scratch. She was a former singer-turned-advertising producer and is the visionary behind Sweb’s growth in the technology community. Our second speaker was Dr. Jessica Kimmel, UIW Education Department, Muslim students at UIW, and the United National Commission on the Status of Women Delegate. It was a great pleasure to hear about her leadership in education and global involvements. Dr. Kimmel’s outstanding work has earned her UIW’s highest honor, the Moody Professorship.

Drs. Ettling and Kimmel
Drs. Ettling and Kimmel

There were many guests in attendance: students and faculty from across the graduate/professional programs, and UIW Chancellor, Dr. Denise Doyle, also made a trip from main campus to the Rosenberg School of Optometry. As the program was drawing near closing, Sr. Dorothy Ettling, Ph. D and Dr. Kimmel, also Chair of Scholarship Review Committee came on the podium to present the “Sr. Dorothy Ettling Future Female Leader Scholarship.”

Dr. Ettling is the co-founder of Women’s Global Connection, an international NGO whose mission is to promote the learning and leadership of women, locally and globally, particularly in least advantaged regions and countries. She currently serves as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees for WGC and is a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, Texas.

In honor of Dr. Ettling, the Sr. Dorothy Ettling Future Female Leader Scholarship program was created by Drs. Noah and Narges Kasraie to improve women’s access to higher education at the graduate level at the University of the Incarnate Word. The Sr. Dorothy Ettling Future Women Leader Scholarship is available to all UIW female students seeking a graduate degree on main campus or in one of the professional programs including optometry, pharmacy and physical therapy.

Andrea Guajardo, Director at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa and Ph.D. candidate in Education (Organizational Leadership) 2018
Andrea Guajardo, Ph.D. candidate in Education 2018 UIW

The awardee for the 2014 Sr. Dorothy Ettling Future Female Leader Scholarship was Andrea Guajardo, Director at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa and Ph.D. candidate in Education (Organizational Leadership) 2018 at UIW. Guajardo has been involved in the CHRISTUS Health system for over a decade and has been helping the San Antonio area as the Regional Director of Community Health.

This year the RSO Women’s Faculty Association decided to include one more awardee. I readied my camera to take a picture of the next winner, and to my complete surprise, my name was called! Tears of happiness flowed down my cheeks. The second awardee of this scholarship was Susan Ly, O.D. Optometry Candidate 2016 at UIWRSO. It was a great honor to receive this scholarship from Dr. Kimmel and Sr. Dorothy Ettling herself. I am very grateful and would also like to express my thanks to the RSO Women’s Faculty Association:

Drs. Nancy Amir, Ferguson, Fortenberry, Fortepiani, Kent, Majcher, Mickles, Racoma, Sanchez-Diaz, Wong-Powell, Odoemenem, Narges and Noah Kasraie.


Leadership and Entrepreneurial Pearls for Private Practice

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Guest speaker:  Dean of UIWRSO, Dr. Andrew Buzzelli.

The Private Practice Club at UIWRSO was very excited to host a lunch for their members. This was a special lunch about leadership and entrepreneurship in optometry private practice. The reason that the Private Practice Club chose to have Dr. Buzzelli speak is due to his dedication to our school and vast accomplishments in all that he does.

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Dr. Buzzelli has held many positions in all aspects of optometry prior to his position as our Dean. He taught at several accredited schools (SUNY, Georgian Court University, and Salus University) and the RSO second years have him for Peds. In 2012, the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) named Dr. Buzzelli “Educator of the year.” Professor Buzzelli is also one of only thirty-six optometrists in the world recognized as a diplomat in Binocular Vision, Perception and Pediatric Optometry” by the American Academy of Optometry. In addition to Dr. Buzzelli’s prolific teaching career, he has published an Ophthalmic Textbook and numerous papers for optometry and the military. Dr. Buzzelli also served in the military as the Assistant to the Air Force Surgeon General and eventually earned the title “Outstanding Liaison Officer of the year.” Today we have the pleasure of hearing about his “Leadership and Entrepreneurial Pearls for Private Practice.” Dr. Buzzelli served as a private practitioner specializing in “Vision Therapy, dysfunctions of Binocular Vision, Visual Information Processing disorders and Traumatic Brain Injury.” It was a great experience and an honor to hear from a man of diverse experience in the field that has proven to be valuable to the Incarnate Word and the field of optometry.

Dr. Buzzelli exposed us to the difficult situations faced in leadership roles, and revealed key characteristics that an Incarnate Word intern should follow. For example, some characteristics of leadership includes

  • photo 1Character is doing right, not being right
  • Loyal to the absent
  • Open to the brutal truth and maintains a spirit of hope
  • Ask yourself, how did I contribute to the problem
  • Cultivates an attitude of gratitude
  • Accepts that leadership is something lonely

What I took away from the meeting was that our optometry program reflects many of Dr. Buzzelli’s highlights in being a leader. During the course of the meeting, I remember previous courses that I have taken and how they have impacted me to think more about others and how to do so ethically (Read about those courses here).  I’m glad to know that this optometry program also prepares me to be a leader of leaders, with the support of our faculty and student organizations.