Public Health and Optometry

Teaching children about the body systems and how to keep healthy!
Susan Ly, UIWRSO 2016, teaching children about the body systems and how to keep healthy!

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).

Samantha Bohl, UIWRSO 2016, taking a picture with children from Sierra Leone Mission Trip in Africa!

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

Feyi Aworunse
AOSA National APHA Liaison
American Public Health Association
UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry, Class of 2016
UIWRSO APHA Liaison (American Public Health Association)

Low Vision Rehabilitation Center

IMG_8518_FotorI am currently in-house for my last semester of optometry school.  My in-house semester consists of rotations through Bowden Eye Care and Health Center, CommuniCare Health Centers on Callaghan and in Kyle, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind, and the contact lens clinic and the vision therapy/electrodiagnostic clinic at the University of the Incarnate Word Eye Institute.

My first and current rotation is at the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind.  The center is in a new building that was unveiled this past fall.

The new building also has a low vision store, library, playroom, technology room, conference room, other Lighthouse program rooms, and a production facility.

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IMG_8525_FotorThe Lighthouse employs legally blind or visually impaired individuals at the production facility who manufacture and assemble items such as mechanical pencils, rollerball pens, highlighters, aerospace insulation blankets, and other textile apparel items.

Every morning, my clinic group and I walk through the manufacturing and assembly plant to get to the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center, and it is really inspiring to see the employees hard at work.

Some employees have multiple impairments, such as visual and hearing, yet they do not let their impairments hold them back from working and being self-sufficient.  It is great to see these individuals enjoy and succeed at their jobs.


As interns, my classmates and I are able to provide comprehensive eye exams and low vision evaluations for patients at the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center, many whom are Lighthouse employees.  The Low Vision Rehabilitation Center has very friendly staff members.  Daniel Espinosa, the Low Vision Clinic Manager, and Meloney Castro, the medical receptionist, are great to work with, and they both love working at the Lighthouse.

We are also fortunate to have four different low vision specialists who we get to work with during our rotation at the Lighthouse:  Dr. Nancy Amir, Dr. Christopher Choat, Dr. Stephanie Schmiedecke, and Dr. Matt Valdes.

Each doctor has many years of experience in low vision, and I find it very helpful to learn from each doctor’s different style of practicing and teaching.


Low vision is often an overlooked specialty of optometry, but it can definitely be a rewarding field of practice.  My classmate and I recently saw a patient who was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration several decades ago.

He had canceled his newspaper subscription since he was no longer able to read it.  After a low vision evaluation, my classmate and I were able to prescribe the patient a pair of spectacle microscopes in order to read newspaper print comfortably again.  The patient was so ecstatic when he was able to read a newspaper that he thanked us profusely.  This was definitely one of my highlights as an optometry student.

One important thing that I have learned is that although optometrists may not be interested in providing low vision services, they should be aware of the benefits of such services and refer to low vision specialists when appropriate.  I have heard several patients remark on how they wish someone had told them about low vision services sooner and how happy they are to find that such services exist.

The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind is a great organization, and I am glad that I get to rotate through the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center.

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