Optometry Scholars Program

Are you a current student or applying to the UMSL College of Optometry?  Many students entering the UMSL College of Optometry have expressed an interest in research.  While some of these students may not have had much exposure or opportunity for research others have come with (sometimes significant) exposure in research.  This research experience may have come from undergraduate laboratories, graduate research, and occasionally research in clinical practices students have worked in.   In order to build upon this student interest in research, the College of Optometry initiated the “Optometry Scholars Program”.  

Optometry Scholars research interests are matched with the interests of the faculty in the different areas. In addition, to the “normal expectations” of the professional program,  Scholars have priority for Teaching Assistant assignments, summer support for the first two summers years, travel support to meetings, and special designation at White Coat ceremony and Graduation.  The Program is only four years old and students have combined for 16 abstracts at meetings (including the American Academy of Optometry, Heart of America, and the American Optometric Association), as well as four papers in refereed journals.

Quotes from Past Scholars:

Kate Hamm

“I first heard about Optometry Scholars during the Mixer before school started first year. The program sounded like an opportunity to grow my knowledge of optometry and to reignite my passion in research. After spending 3 years in the Optometry Scholars program, I gained more in my understanding of optometry and how to be a practitioner I am proud of. 

During the Optometry Scholars program, I worked with the Pupil Project with Dr. Erin Brooks and Dr. Aaron Franzel. From our first meeting, I was shown to be an integral part of the research team. I was asked what I wanted to research, and what I thought was important to investigate. While I was actively performing in research, I was also taught statistical and analytical skills to complete my own abstract to submit for educational meetings. Over 3 years, I published two posters, and presented a paper on concepts of visual perception and public health. Now in practice, I frequently tell patients, “I actively was apart of research on this topic, and I have some ways to help you understand how to organize your visual environment better.” Patients are so excited to find someone who has spent time to find new ways to improve their lives. Not only did I find ways to help my patients, I gained incredible mentors that have been present for advice, and big moments. I would not be the Optometrist I am today without the Optometry Scholars program. “ 

Pauline Bland, OD

“I am a 2015 graduate from University of Missouri-St. Louis. While she was a student at the College of Optometry I had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Carl Bassi and Dr. Chris Putnam as part of the Optometry Scholar Program. I have always had an affinity for research projects, starting at the undergraduate level, wanting to know the how and why behind the knowledge she learned in the classroom. During my time at UMSL, my project focused on measuring macular pigment optical density (MPOD), which has been a hot topic in the eye care field in recent years. The Optometry Scholar Program allowed me the chance to present the MPOD data to my optometric colleagues at national conferences such as Heart of America Eye Care Congress, The American Academy of Optometry Meeting, and peer reviewed journals.

After graduating at the top of my class, I joined Virdi Eye Clinic, a multidisciplinary practice in the Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois. I treat a wide variety of ocular health conditions including macular degeneration, glaucoma and dry eye disease; with a special emphasis in low vision and specialty contact lenses. Virdi Eye Clinic has had the opportunity to serve as a research site for numerous national glaucoma and cataract surgery studies and I look forward to opportunities to continue my contribution in advancing the field of eye care in keeping up with cutting edge technologies.” 

Past and Present Optometry Scholar Students

Alumni          
         Pauline Bland, OD           (Class of 2015)
         Alexandra Gada             (Class of 2019)
         Blair Gerratt                    (Class of 2019)
         Molly Gorder, OD            (Class of 2017)          
         Kate Hamm, OD              (Class of 2019)
         Alex Permann, OD          (Class of 2015)
         Caitlyn Reynolds, OD       (Class of 2018)
         Amy Schaag, OD            (Class of 2017)
         Lindsay Swenson, OD    (Class of 2017)
Current 
         Kelly Cochran                (Class of 2020)
         Quinn Gallen                 (Class of 2020)
         Heather Stern                (Class of 2020)
         Janessa Visin                (Class of 2021)
         Elizabeth Voss               (Class of 2022)
         Cal Wiese                       (Class of 2022)