Jennifer Benoit, Optometry, Class of 2022
My name is Jenn, I'm from Coventry, Conn., and I received my undergraduate degree in Athletic Training from University of West Florida in Pensacola, Fla. After graduation, I worked as a certified athletic trainer at the high school and collegiate level. I found great satisfaction in this job, but ultimately decided to go back to school to further my education. I wanted to stay within healthcare, but I sought to have more autonomy in my next career than my previous job allowed. I also sought to work in a field that offered a work-life balance, as I just got married to the love of my life this past summer.
I am very grateful for the privilege of studying optometry at Salus University. As an athletic trainer, I know first-hand the importance of clinical experience; and it was the early exposure that Salus offers that first inspired me to look into applying to this program. After more research and my interview on campus, I was convinced I wanted to be a part of this institution.
Three things are of great importance to me: God, country, and family. I live my life to please God and my family, and after graduation it is my goal to serve the country I love by working in some sort of military setting, be it on a base or in a Veteran's hospital. My heart goes out to those who serve and protect as well as their families. As a student ambassador, I will develop the skills I need to communicate effectively and be exposed to an integrated interdisciplinary workforce, one I'm sure to be a part of as I enter my chosen career.
Rosalie Bikoti, Speech-Language Pathology, Class of 2019
Hi! My name is Jackie Bikoti, and I am currently a second-year Speech-Language Pathology student here at Salus University. I received a bachelor of science degree from Towson University in Maryland, where I majored in speech-language pathology & audiology with a minor in Spanish. I decided I wanted to become a speech-language pathologist after observing at a nursing home my senior year in high school. I knew I wanted to be in the health professions and develop relationships with my patients, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. My end goal is to provide speech and language services both in French and Spanish to underdeveloped countries as well as continuing to advocate for healthcare by being involved in healthcare policy.
After being at Salus University for over a year, I can say I’ve definitely been challenged as a professional and an individual. I’ve had the opportunity to a become immersed in interdisciplinary education and attend to the culturally and linguistically diverse populations within the Philadelphia area. My leadership skills have also grown as not only a student ambassador, but the President of my class as well. Specifically, being a student ambassador, I have had the opportunity to network with different professionals outside of my field and grow in community with fellow ambassadors.
Outside of being an ambassador, I enjoy being involved with my church, spending quality time with friends and family, traveling, and finding different spots to try new foods so that I can make reviews on Yelp!
James Brand, Audiology, Class of 2022
My name is Jimmy Brand and I am a first year Audiology student. I received my bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences and co-curricular designation in diversity and inclusion from Western Michigan University in 2017. I chose to attend Salus because of the early and extensive clinical experience we are afforded and the inviting and inclusive culture. As a Salus ambassador, I look forward to meeting and working with members of the surrounding communities and cultivating relationships with the different departments on campus. I am very excited to be here at Salus, and I am excited to share my experiences and unique perspective with potential new students.
Viviana L. Di Stefano, Pysician Assistant Studies, Class of 2020
Hello Salus Family! My name is Viviana L. Di Stefano. I am a first year PA student at Salus, and the first ever PA student accepted into the student ambassador program. I am not your typical student for various reasons. First, I am a first generation Colombian and Puerto Rican and can speak Spanish, Italian, and English. Second, I worked as a chemist after graduating from West Chester University (WCU) with a major in Chemistry and minor in Biology in 2013. Third, I am a wife and more importantly, a mother to a son who has Leukemia.
My greatest purpose in life is to help people improve their health and be an advocate for childhood cancer. This is why I want to be a physician assistant. As a PA, I will be able to serve others in my community and abroad through missionary work. My core values are family, friends, and God. Having to deal with my son’s cancer while going to PA school has shown me the importance of a strong community support and belief system. Hence, I want to spread the message that it is possible to get an education while facing the challenges of life.
While at WCU, I enjoyed the small class size and the professors who truly cared for the students. Therefore, when I interviewed at Salus, I felt at home. The faculty and staff were very welcoming and encouraging throughout the admission process. Due to my son’s diagnosis of cancer, I asked to delay my entrance for a year. During this difficult time, the faculty and the staff not only showed empathy for my circumstances but made this transition as smooth as possible. They went above and beyond to allow me to be a part of this program. I am grateful and 100 percent Salus proud. Becoming a Salus ambassador is an honor because I have seen first-hand the “integrity, honestly, and passion” of our institution.
Madison Dunning, Optometry, Class of 2021
Hello Salus community - My name is Madison Dunning, and I am a second year optometry student here at Salus. I was born and raised in Burlington, N.C. I graduated from UNC Wilmington (UNCW) with a degree in Biology and a minor in Studio Art in December 2016. I miss living so close to the beach and the South, but I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience what it’s like to live near the big city of Philadelphia – and it’s certainly a beautiful and thriving place to be. I worked as an optometric technician for an inspiring group of successful optometrists, all of whom are alumni of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). They helped cultivate my knowledge of the profession, improve my skills, and they continue to serve as my role models. During my time at UNCW, some of my favorite leadership memories are from when I served as the president of Omicron Delta Kappa and a study abroad ambassador. I enjoy meeting new people, building up our community, and leading by example – and this is exactly what we get to do as ambassadors every day!
I chose Salus because of the patient-centered care that Salus advocates, and the institution’s established reputation and history. The welcoming environment at Salus is truly special - everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand, and I guarantee you’ll feel at home as soon as you walk in the door. As a student ambassador, I am honored to represent Salus University, promote “one Salus,” and I appreciate being able to give back to our community.
Lauren Furicchia, Optometry, Class of 2021
My name is Lauren Elizabeth Furicchia. I chose Salus University for its clinical innovation, diversity and congenial environment. Currently, I am a second year optometry student and I am honored to be a Salus ambassador.
I speak Spanish fluently, as I am of Cuban-Italian descent, from Miami, Fla. I graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor in business administration and attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz. Due to my interests in cultural diversity, I also studied abroad at the University of Salamanca, Spain. I am a recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and the FIU Medallion for Civic Engagement. I have participated in service trips to the Dominican Republic and preschool vision screening events. Currently, I am President of the Salus Lions Club and the Student Optometric Service to Humanity, and have participated with the Miami Medical Lions Club, at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Florida. In my spare time, I enjoy race competitions and traveling. Learning and engaging with different cultures has been one of my favorite hobbies.
With the current advances in technology, I also have a passion for the detection of amblyopia, a leading cause of reversible monocular visual loss. I feel that this is an important public health concern and a field where optometrists can make a significant impact. As a student ambassador, I will strive to inspire others to find their personal passion to help make a difference, in our school and community.
Samantha Graver, Occupational Therapy, Class of 2019
Hi! My name is Samantha Graver and I am currently a second year occupational therapy student at Salus University. I graduated from the University of Delaware in 2017 with a degree in Medical Diagnostics and a minor in Biological Sciences. I chose Salus because of the comforting and welcoming community presented immediately during the admissions process. After attending a large undergraduate institution, the small, student-focused atmosphere at Salus was important to me. Early fieldwork and clinical experience along with the importance of working with other health care professions has proven this program was the best choice for me.
As a Salus ambassador, I enjoy getting to work with peers from other programs in order to make a common impact within and around the Salus community. I enjoy meeting new people and listening to others’ stories about life experiences and future goals. Outside of school, I am either taking yoga classes or running to clear my mind. I also enjoy day trips to the beach and finding new places to eat brunch.
Danielle Hayden, Audiology, Class of 2021
My name is Danielle Hayden and I am a second year Audiology student at Salus University Osborne College of Audiology. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Iona College in 2017. I was drawn to the audiology field through the internships and community service programs I had the unique opportunity to participate in during my time at Iona.
I chose to attend Salus because of the extensive clinical experience that we gain and the friendly and inviting faculty. As a Salus Ambassador, I have had the pleasure to work with the surrounding communities and create relationships with the different departments on campus. Outside of my role with the Ambassadors, I am Executive Council Vice President, chair of the Campus Activities Committee, and a front desk assistant at the Pennsylvania Ear Institute. I am very happy here at Salus, and I am excited to share my experiences with everyone I encounter. I am looking forward for all of the amazing things the next few years have in store for me!
Tessa Ives, Optometry, Class of 2021
My name is Tessa Ives and I am a second-year optometry student here at Salus University. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Science/Pre-Optometry from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the spring of 2017. I chose Salus because of the early clinical experience, many opportunities for student involvement, and the warm sense of community. I am excited to (hopefully) be the fourth Ives to graduate from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and pursue a career in private practice. As an ambassador, I look forward to meeting students from other programs, networking with alumni and faculty, and representing the Salus community. Aside from school, I enjoy playing rugby, racing my horse in the International Barrel Racing Association and running.
Rachel Jhala, Optometry, Class of 2021
Hi! My name is Rachel Jhala and I am a second year optometry student here at Salus. I was born in California but raised in North Carolina. I received my undergraduate degree in three years at East Carolina University with a major in Public Health.
I chose Salus because of the early clinical experience and the overall environment of the school. The students, faculty and staff on campus have been positive and supportive, since the moment I stepped foot onto campus. Being a past ambassador during my undergrad years has shaped my life greatly and has allowed me to reach out to the community is a multitude of ways. I want to carry on that impact here at Salus.
I have pet chickens at home and love taking care of them with my Dad. In my free time, I love to draw and paint. It’s one of the reasons why I have a passion for optometry—being able to connect it to art. Knowing that one day I will be able to help a patient see the finer details of life pushes me to do what I love.
Ryan Lawton, Optometry, Class of 2021
Hello, my name is Ryan Lawton and I am a second-year optometry student here at Salus University. I grew up in New Jersey, and attended Clemson University in South Carolina, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. I chose Salus for many reasons, but the main two were for the clinical experience opportunities and the sense of community in the university. Everyone really wants to help each other out, both personally and academically, and this has been quite clear in my time here so far at Salus.
Being involved in Student Ambassadors has really helped me feel connected to the community whether it be volunteering at events in the area or at the school itself. I have enjoyed showing local high schoolers and undergraduate students around campus, so they can see all of the wonderful opportunities available to them here. Ambassadors has also given me the chance to interact with representatives from the other optometry schools throughout the country and show off our clinic and the many new facilities and resources we have at our disposal. I have been very fortunate to be heavily involved in my community in both high school and undergrad and am happy that I can still be a part of Salus’ community now and in the future as well!
Lucia Leone, Optometry, Class of 2022
Hello! My name is Lucia Leone and I was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I am a first year optometry student here at Salus University. I achieved my Bachelor of Science in Honors Biomedical Sciences at Brock University in June 2017.
As I am from Canada, it is nice to know that Salus represents individuals in many states as well as other countries. Living far away from home, it is comforting to know that the school is small enough to create a friendly, personal atmosphere, but the programs are big enough to include intensive clinical and interprofessional training. This allows Salus to put their graduates at the forefront of their peers. Salus is very proud of their faculty members and the training they give to their students. The appreciation that Salus has for student success, as well as having dedicated, intelligent, respected practitioners, and world class scientists who are committed to working with students, really led me to believe that Salus was the perfect fit for my optometric journey.
As a student ambassador, I look forward to interacting with my peers in other programs and building valuable relationships to impact our Salus community. I am interested in baking, golfing, crocheting and spending time with friends and family.
Umar Mahmood, Optometry, Class of 2022
What's up everyone! My name is Umar Mahmood and I'm currently a first-year optometry student here at Salus. I was born and raised in the great state of Maryland and received my Bachelors of Science in Biology at the snowiest school in the country, Syracuse University. (Go Orange!)
Salus University is a great fit for me because of its location and immediate clinical exposure. The Philadelphia culture is one that cannot be recreated and campus located right outside the heart of it is not an opportunity I was willing to pass up. Most importantly though, I came to Salus with a decent amount of clinical experience but am still a long way from perfecting my craft. Just two weeks into the semester and we were in the clinical skills lab doing hands-on work and we have not slowed down since. I'm excited to learn from the gifted doctors we are following and become an insightfully well-rounded optometrist.
The student ambassador position is everything I was looking for in one organization: an interdisciplinary group of empathetic, driven students representing the core values of our institution. It's very important to develop an efficient routines in graduate school, however, just as important as studying is committing time and energy towards building your character and leadership skills. I think the ambassador program is the best way to do just that!
Samantha McMahon, Audiology, Class of 2021
Hi everyone! My name is Samantha McMahon, and I am a second year Audiology student here at Salus University. I am so excited to represent Salus as a student ambassador again this year and can’t wait help to lead and educate our new ambassadors in all we have to offer!
Being an ambassador has allowed me to share my love for audiology while introducing me to some great friends across all disciplines. If it weren’t for ambassadors, my first year at Salus would have been drastically different and I would have missed out on some amazing memories. Being an ambassador, I attended and worked at many diverse events which both celebrated our University and made individuals more aware of the role the ambassadors play in putting them all together. Some of my favorite events that I have attended in the last year while being an ambassador have been SAG (Student Awards Gala), Winterfest, and Spring Commencement, each more rewarding than the next. I love being able to interact with alumni, faculty, students, families, and the people around our community, and am excited to further my relationships in this next year!
Andrew Muckin, Optometry, Class of 2021
My name is Andrew Muckin, and I am a second year Pennsylvania College of Optometry student at Salus University. Originally, I am from the small town of Tunkhannock, Pa., (near Scranton). Prior to enrolling at Salus, I graduated from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and minored in Chemistry and Healthcare studies.
I believe optometry is one of the most exciting and impactful healthcare professions due to the roles an optometrist fulfills at the intersection of the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and co-management of diseases and disorders of the visual system. In addition, as a profession optometry is unparalleled when it comes to building a lasting relationship with patients. I quickly realized that here at Salus, these aspects are placed at the forefront of everything we do - whether that takes the form of active involvement in clinic starting early first year, or the interprofessional community that we are a part of every time we set foot onto campus.
At Salus, I am involved in the ambassadors program, note taking services, tutoring, and volunteering for events like the Special Olympics. Outside of school, I love staying active (hiking, working out, fishing) and traveling – I once rafted over a 23-foot waterfall in New Zealand. Although I have just begun my journey here at Salus, the experiences I have already had only make me more hopeful and excited about my future here and as a practicing optometrist!
Maya Murray, Optometry, Class of 2021
Hello! My name is Maya Murray, and I am a first-year Optometry student at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. I am from New Jersey and went to school in New York at St. John’s University, where I graduated with a bachelor of science in biology and a minor in chemistry. I knew I was interested in optometry during the end of my high school career and have been working toward that goal ever since. Choosing Salus University was an easy decision for me. I was drawn to the early clinical experience, but I was sold on Salus when I saw the interprofessional emphasis and the genuine supportive nature of all of the students and staff.
When I am not studying, I enjoy working out, traveling, art, and of course, retail therapy! My first interaction with Salus University ambassadors was during orientation. They were all so helpful and approachable and I knew then, that I definitely wanted to be an ambassador. I am excited to get involved and create that same friendly experience with others!
Puja Patel, Optometry, Class of 2021
Hi! My name is Puja Patel and I am a second year optometry student here at Salus University. I attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. where I obtained a degree in chemistry with a minor in religion. Carleton is an extremely small school that puts a large emphasis on the importance of community service and giving back. I felt the same giving environment at Salus University during my visits! I was born here on the East Coast, but lived in the Midwest my whole life. I thought it was time to give the East Coast a chance!
I chose Salus because of the early integration of clinical experience and the extremely welcoming environment it offers. Just in my first few weeks, I had the opportunity to meet students from all different programs and different areas of the world. The transition was tough at first, but once I got into a routine, I had no doubt I made the right decision!
My main reason for wanting to be an ambassador is to feel part of the community. As an ambassador, we represent the University as one rather than just our individual programs. We work together, volunteer in the community, and get involved!
Erica Sheehan, Occupational Therapy, Class of 2020
Hello! My name is Erica Sheehan, and I am a first year occupational therapy student at Salus University. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in rehabilitation and human services at Penn State University. I am from Bucks County, PA, not far from the Salus campus. One of the main reasons I chose to attend Salus for my graduate studies was because of its close-knit community and interdisciplinary aspect with all the programs offered.
During high school, I was introduced to a club called Athletes Helping Athletes
, in which we assist in integrating kids with special needs into the community. I first heard of occupational therapy in high school, and learned of the opportunities in occupational therapy that tie into the community of special needs that I had been working with. Because of my desire to enter a highly rewarding career and my love for Athletes Helping Athletes
, I felt occupational therapy was the best path to follow. Once I started observing occupational therapists, I had no doubt in my mind this was the career for me. And now at Salus, I have the opportunity to follow my dreams and work towards a degree in occupational therapy!
Along with my passion for Athletes Helping Athletes
, in which I am still a volunteer, I enjoy working as a therapy aide for occupational therapists and physical therapists at Magee Rehab, spending time with my family and friends, going to the beach, and trying out new places to eat!
Stephanie Thai, Optometry, Class of 2021
Hi! My name is Stephanie Thai and I'm a second-year optometry student at Salus University. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Mathematics from James Madison University, a huge university located in Southern Virginia.
I've wanted to be an optometrist since I was in third grade, and once I came to Salus for my interview, I knew that this was the place for me to make my dream come true! I was drawn to Salus because of the location. I grew up in Northern Virginia, about 45 minutes outside of D.C., so the proximity of Elkins Park to Philadelphia reminded me a lot of home. I also chose Salus because of the hands-on experience in the lab, the camaraderie between the students and faculty, and lastly because of the interdisciplinary degrees offered by Salus.
When I'm not engrossed by my studies, I try to push myself out of my comfort zone by exploring new areas, participating in different activities and trying new foods.
Renee Thiringer, Occupational Therapy, Class of 2020
My name is Renee Thiringer and I am first year student in the Occupational Therapy program at Salus University. I attended Stockton University in Galloway, N.J., where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Dance. I am from Keyport, N.J., and lived there my whole life, so moving to Pennsylvania has been a very exciting experience for me!
I chose Salus because of the OT curriculum and the highly supportive atmosphere of the institution. Being a part of such a small, close community at Salus has been enriching so far and makes me very optimistic about the next two years.
I have always loved getting involved in school groups and activities and I am really excited to have been given the opportunity to be a Salus ambassador! I look forward to being able to engage with others out in the community, as well as work with the other ambassadors in the program. Salus has so much to offer and I’m looking forward to sharing that with the larger community!
Katie Vang, Optometry, Class of 2022
Greetings all! My name is Katie Vang and I am a first year optometry student. I am from the small southern town of Hickory, N.C. I am a proud alumnus of East Carolina University (Go Pirates!) where I obtained both my Bachelor of Science in Chemistry & Biology and Masters of Science in Chemistry.
Moving more than 10 hours away from home was quite an adjustment but just in my short time here at Salus, I continued to be reminded as to why I chose to attend this institution. From the faculty and staff to the new friends I’ve made, I couldn’t be any happier! As a newly selected ambassador and the president for Class of 2022, I have been presented with extraordinary opportunity to represent this amazing and diverse University.
My commitment to study optometry comes from my desire to learn about the well-being of the eye as well as my love of hands-on care. This career will allow me to change people’s lives by helping their eyes see a better world. Research has been a big part of both my undergraduate and graduate studies. Salus will continue to extend my knowledge in the optometry by advancing my coursework, honing my leadership and communication skills to gain a competitive advantage to better the future of research and optometry.
Aside from my education, I enjoy spontaneous adventures, meeting new people and endless shopping trips! I cannot wait for the next four years and all the memories that are going to come along with it. I look forward to meeting potential students, alumni, faulty, staff while representing the Salus community.
Rachelle Yang, Optometry, Class of 2022
Hello! My name is Rachelle Yang, and I am a first-year optometry student here at Salus. I am originally from Naperville, a suburb of Chicago. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!) in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Certificate in Global Health.
My passion for eye care came from working as a technician for a private practice in Madison, Wis., and working in the Ophthalmology Department at Northwestern Medicine. These experiences allowed me to grasp the importance of annual eye exams – not only do they help detect early signs of eye problems, but also systemic diseases. As a future OD, I want to bridge any patient-doctor communication gap by encouraging patients to ask questions and engage in making decisions about their care. I hope to guide patients to be active participants in maintaining their eye health.
I am so excited to be a Salus ambassador to continue my passion for helping others in the community, while also promoting the University’s commitment to go above and beyond in advancing integrated healthcare and influencing the future of healthcare and education. I will share with others that Salus is not just an institution, but a diverse community that strives to make a difference in the world. Outside of school, you will probably find me either spending time outdoors, baking a dessert, cheering on the Badgers, traveling the world, or attending a concert.