Thank you for taking time to meet some of our recent alumni. We hope you enjoy reading about what they are doing as they share their experiences as doctors after graduating from the Rosenberg School of Optometry.
Dr. Jose Correa '13
As a 2013 graduate from the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry, Dr. Jose Correa has already enjoyed success with a healthy mixture between medical and primary care optometry. Dr. Correa has had the opportunity to work in different offices located in North Austin, South Texas, and the Houston Area treating a high number of medical patients with conditions anywhere from Diabetes to congenital neurological conditions.
Dr. Correa has utilized his RSO academic experience which helped to prepare him with the essential information for any case that may come through the door. Even after graduation Dr. Correa embraces the concept that his education is ongoing and there will be cases he will see that are rare and unusual and require persistence to find a treatment. Dr. Correa describes his second and third years at RSO as those that focus on preparing any student for what the profession of optometry is, can be, and should be. It is during these academic years that there is a strong focus on ocular anatomy and physiology, neurology, pharmacology, ocular disease and treatments, and even laws and regulations. During his externship experience, Dr. Correa was able to take advantage of a clinical experience with a medical focus through rotations with Dr. Sharp from Sharp Eye Consultants and Dr. Kozlovsky from KDW. These experiences have helped him to understand the importance of incorporating eye care and patient education.
After graduation, Dr. Correa began working with Dr. Jason Prescott in Leander, TX and has been with the practice for the past 2 years. The work that he is doing with Dr. Prescott has helped Dr. Correa learn about the business side of Optometry. Although exposed to billing and coding through his optometric education, he feels this is a skill best refined after graduating since it is something that becomes daily life. Dr. Correa feels that both he and Dr. Prescott share very similar philosophies on patient care, focusing on medical problems first before addressing vision problems. Working with one of the RSO Faculty members (Dr. Rick Sharp) has helped shape the philosophy of caring for patients by evaluating life first, health second, and vision third.
Dr. Correa would give the following advice to students as they prepare to enter optometry school and the profession, “My advice to those that are starting their journey into the optometric world or even to those who already are in the profession is to develop a strong understanding of anatomy and physiology. Our students should have a solid understanding on those two subjects along with an adequate hands on experience in order to understand a patient's complaint and associate a systemic condition's effects physically and visually. I strongly encourage our students to search for externship rotations where they can receive that exposure in medical base optometry offices, whether it is a private practice, military, VA, etc. Through my rotations with Sharp Eye Consultants, I learned the most important lesson that I consider has guided me today as a professional. That lesson is that as a medical provider, it is my job to determine if the patient sitting in my chair is having visual complaints secondary to a life threatening condition, a health threatening condition, or visual condition. This rule has allowed me to evaluate, treat, and educate patients on their ocular needs versus their want. This has broken the stereotype and perception many patients have on our profession. It is important to note that we are the bottleneck for many patients, we are often the first to diagnose their systemic condition and the ones that guide and manage the patient's next steps towards a healthier life. It is no longer just about glasses and contact lenses, it is about healthier communities. Therefore, strive towards a solid understanding of anatomy and physiology.”
Looking to the future, Dr. Correa speaks of plans to open an office. He recognizes the hard work and dedication necessary to make this dream a reality and credits RSO for helping prepare him to be a doctor. Additionally, Dr. Correa recognizes the lifelong learning process through colleagues, friends, professors, trial and error, and generous people in the field. When asked about his biggest influences, Dr. Correa recognizes 2 RSO faculty (Dr. Rick Sharp, Dr. Philip Aitsebaomo,) along with Dr. Jason Prescott as those who have had the greatest impact on his young professional career.
Dr. Byron Bonner '13
Since Graduation Dr. Bonner has had the opportunity to work for a few different doctors, some with two practice locations. Right out of school he worked in a practice that specialized in pediatrics and vision therapy. Dr. Bonner reflects back to the end of first year of optometry school when he identified his interest in working with children and performing vision therapy in the office and appreciates getting to start right out of school in a vision therapy clinic. In addition to professional work at a vision therapy clinic, Dr. Bonner also practices at other retail locations (LensCrafter, EyeMart, Lasik Vision Institute, etc). He is thankful to have worked in a few different office locations to learn what works, and more importantly what does not work and/or makes it challenging to have a successful practice.
Dr. Bonner recognizes that his RSO education, specifically the faculty and staff, prepared him to be confident with the knowledge that they were presenting and to always think critically. This skill has translated into being independent and needing to manage an array of patient needs as he is often the only doctor practicing in the office on a given day. In addition, he feels these experiences have given him the confidence to want to open his own practice. As part of the inaugural RSO graduating class, Dr. Bonner felt going through the program was a lesson in itself as he developed the skills in patience and the ability to adapt to change. His experience in approximately 7 different office settings, he speaks of the importance to learn to adapt to many things (i.e. patient demographic, staff, equipment, procedures etc.)
To complement his academic and professional work, Dr. Bonner is part of the state association Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians.
When asked to give advice to entering optometry students, Dr. Bonner emphasizes the importance of skills in time management. Bonner suggests, “Without time management obstacles become larger than they truly are. I am sure that if one has been accepted into optometry school then they have some idea about time management, but it is a whole new adventure when starting a doctoral program. Have a routine regardless of what ones classmates do, keep to the schedule. For example, I studied at the same two Starbucks locations 4-5 times out of the week from 7:30-11am until Boards then that was another level of commitment. So time management is key to success in any field.”
As Dr. Bonner looks to the future, he expresses interest in opening a private practice with a focus on vision therapy. With this as an area of specialization, Dr. Bonner acknowledges that he will serve more pediatric patients, but will still practice well within the full scope of optometry. Seeing all age ranges will also allow him to do Anterior Segment Laser procedures, ranging from a simple YAG or SLT to doing PRK refractive surgery.
Dr. Brandi Stewart '14
Following her graduation in 2014, Dr. Brandi Stewart completed a Residency in the area of Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation and has been hired as an associate OD at the Optometry Center for Vision Therapy. This is a highly specialized practice on developmental and neuro-optometry.
While enrolled at UIWRSO, Dr. Stewart credits the time spent participating as a leader in several organizations, including Student Government, AAO, COVD, and Student Ambassador, as a tremendous help in personal and professional development. Through these experiences, she recognizes the leadership and communication skills to transition from optometry student to doctor and leader in a large multi-location practice. Dr. Stewart also describes the privilege of working in the Summer Fellowship Training Program (SFTP) with Dr. Jeff Rabin during the summer between her first and second year as a great opportunity to explore the research side of the profession. She has attributed this experience as important in developing skills to designing, conducting, writing, and presenting original research. Following her SFTP experience, Dr. Stewart has presented numerous papers and posters at national conventions and continue with her passion to discover and disseminate new knowledge in the field.
Dr. Stewart continues to seek ways to grow professionally and is currently a member of the American Academy of Optometry, College of Optometrists in Vision Development, Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association, InfantSee, American Optometric Association, and Texas Optometric Association. Additionally, she is simultaneously pursuing Fellowship with the American Academy of Optometry and College of Optometrists in Vision Development.
Her advice to students starting out in OD program is, “Take the first semester a day at a time, come up with a study plan, and do not procrastinate. There is too much information to cram before the test. Some classmates liked to look over their notes from the day's lecture each evening. I liked to study a specific class on a specific day (for example, study last week's vision science and optics lectures on Mondays, anatomy on Tuesdays, etc). This will help you learn time management for handling the course load, which gets both harder and easier because by second year you will know how to deal with learning that much information so quickly. You may be interested in multiple organizations, but tread lightly your first year with time commitments until you are comfortable with studying. Then you can start devoting time to the organizations you are most interested in and maybe even seek a leadership position. The most important thing is that you will get overwhelmed, but think of all the optometrists who have felt just as overwhelmed and made it through with strategies like this!”
As Dr. Stewart looks to the future, she has plans to stay in the multi-doctor private practice full-time while pursuing the aforementioned Fellowships. She appreciates the opportunity to specialize in this field and thankful to have found a wonderful practice that shares her passion. Her long-term goals include teaching or performing research at an optometry school.
Dr. Thien Tran '14
Dr. Thien Tran is a proud graduate from the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry class of 2014. Following graduation, Dr. Tran completed a residency in Low Vision Rehabilitation in 2015. During his residency, he enjoyed working with many great mentors and optometrists in the field of Low Vision Rehabilitation. His daily routines included performing exams on traumatic brain injury patients, special needs children, and visually impaired patients of all ages. Four months after completing the residency program, Dr. Tran obtained his Fellowship with the American Academy of Optometry in October of 2015.
As he considered his next endeavor, Dr. Tran came across a small office in Anaheim, CA where the former doctor was retiring. With the support of his wife, Dr. Tran recognized an opportunity to pursue a dream. "The office needed a lot of work but we also saw the potential for a complete renovation and making it our own," states Tran. Following an extensive remodeling process, Dr. Tran officially open his doors, Iconic Vision Optometry in February of 2016. The mission of Iconic Vision Optometry is to deliver the highest quality eye care to patients in a comfortable and caring environment. With the UIWRSO mission in mind, Dr. Tran is proud to be serving local charities and help improve patients' lives by fulfilling their visual needs.
As he reflects on his UIWRSO experience, Dr. Tran appreciates the academic foundation provided and the platform to explore the different aspects of optometry. "The professors provided me with great advice and UIWRSO provided me with many opportunities to network with people of the same interests. After spending four years with the faculty and specialists at UIWRSO, I knew that I plan to own a practice someday," recalls Tran. Dr. Tran had not expected to manage a private practice this early in his career, however recognized the opportunity as a good fit, "Owning a practice has given me a lot of responsibilities. I have to learn to be my own boss, make decisions on my own, manage the way my patients are treated, and taking pride in providing the highest quality of care."
Professional growth remains a focal point for Dr. Tran as he is a partner with Coastal Vision Medical Group and Retina of Orange County. Additionally, he serves as a member of the Infinity Vision Alliance in Orange County. Dr. Tran also spends time volunteering with Illumination and Kids Vision for Life in Orange County. Similar to community outreach initiatives he experienced at UIWRSO, Dr. Tran donates time to provide eye exams and glasses to the less fortunate.
As he looks down the road, Dr. Tran speaks of plans to continue serving the community of Anaheim, by partnering with more non-profit organizations in the area, such as Kids Vision for Life and Illumination Foundation. He has aspirations to expand the Low Vision Rehabilitation Program at his office. In the long run, Dr. Tran wants to grow the practice to a place to manage and care for various type of ocular conditions including the visually impaired.
When asked about his experiences at UIWRSO, Tran responded, "There were so many great memories at RSO. Most of them included making friendships with my classmates and faculties, who have now become my colleagues and close friends. I can recall finishing the Tough Mudder with my classmates, going to the our annual Crawfish boil at Dr. Amir's home, and co-founded the Sport Vision Association (SVA). But by far, the best memory had to be during our white coat ceremony when I proposed to my wife in front of our optometry class and my families (special thanks to Dr. Sandra Fortenberry, OD and Mrs. Kristine Benne).
When he is not working in his practice, Dr. Tran prides himself on being an active person. He regularly plays tennis, basketball, golf, hike, and just recently completed his first half marathon. In general, he enjoys any type of sports or activities that will keep him in shape.