Evening dinners in the Crozier Family oftentimes followed a pattern. First there was some talk about the weather, followed by some conversation about baseball – even in January because baseball was a family passion – and then the rest of evening was usually dedicated to what was going on at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO).

Dr. Georgia Crozier’s family, after all, has been synonymous with PCO since its inception. Her grandfather, Dr.  John E. Crozier, was a friend and co-founder of the institution, along with Dr. Albert Fitch, of PCO, and also became a member of the Board of Trustees from 1930 to 1939. Her parents, Drs. George H. Crozier and Gilda Coppola Crozier, had met at PCO and were instrumental educators at the College: George had a career as a faculty member and administrator, including being named associate dean of Academic Affairs in 1981; Gilda began her career as a clinical instructor at the College before joining the faculty in the field of anatomy in 1945, becoming the first female full professor at PCO.

But, as she confirms, there was never any pressure for Georgia to follow in the family footsteps at PCO. That was a decision she came to on her own.

“I think what’s interesting about my family is that each member took a different path with optometry; even the family members who were not optometrists defined their niche within the world of optometry where they could contribute,” said Dr. Crozier. And, the really comforting part about her family, as Dr. Crozier notes, was that no one was driven by competition or intimidation.

“Everybody seemed to appreciate each other and each other’s individual talents. Maybe it was because everybody kind of took a different path with optometry and found success in his or her own way. We developed specific passions, shared mutual respect and that was very important to all of us,” she said.

Dr. Crozier ended up forging her own path at PCO. Initially, she had received a scholarship to pursue a career in nursing, but during her third year of college, the chair of the Biology department suggested she look into other professional schools. She was majoring in biology – at the time it was the criteria for nursing school – and planned to go to nursing school at the University of Pennsylvania.

Crozier-Fitzgerald-1.jpgShe started working in her father’s office that summer and did some pre-requisite classwork to gain clinical fieldwork exposure. She realized she really enjoyed it, so she decided to pursue an education at PCO.

“I liked the diversity of the subject matter, I liked the idea of working with patients,” she said. “And, I liked the idea that you developed tools to solve problems that patients would present with. I felt that it was a good fit for me. I was young, so I figured I would try it and if I didn’t like it, I could change my mind. But I did like it, and I wanted to stick with it.”

While Dr. Crozier was at PCO, the fourth year – as it still does today - consisted of all clinic rotations. After she finished her clinical experience and received her Doctor of Optometry degree, she decided to complete an on-campus residency at PCO.

“And, that really solidified my interests and passions,” she said. “I loved the clinical side and I knew I wanted to be working one-on-one with patients.”
After her first year of residency, Dr. Anthony Di Stefano, ’73, MEd, MPH, FAAO, received a grant for an optometrist to become involved in low vision.

“Tony said, ‘I think that would be a good fit for you.’ I had known Tony my whole life and I knew well enough if Tony said ‘it’s a good fit,’ then it’s a good fit,” said Dr. Crozier. Her husband, John J. Fitzgerald III, DO, had not yet completed his OB-GYN residency at Temple University in Philadelphia, so she decided to give it a try. “Tony said you like low vision, you’ve done a rotation through it, and you have this opportunity to go to school, do a residency in low vision and teach in the clinic.’ Those were all key elements for me, I knew I liked those things and I was excited to learn.”

After earning her masters of science in Vision Rehabilitation, Dr. Crozier began working at Temple University as the sole optometrist for all faculty, doctors at the hospital and athletic teams of the University. For the past 18 years, she has been a low vision specialist, focusing on vision rehabilitation, for the Moore Eye Institute, which has offices in Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania. On non-patient days, she gives presentations on low vision around the country as well as at local churches, synagogues, schools, and assisted living facilities.

“What’s interesting to me about low vision is that you can see 100 patients with the same ocular pathology and they will all require a different approach – different presentations of the issue, different struggles in coping, different challenges functioning in their daily lives and different journeys in adapting to their visual impairment,” said Dr. Crozier. “I think the fundamental principle to learn in low vision is a commitment to listening to the patient and addressing their needs. It’s not always about trying to fix their problem, but identifying gaps and helping them regain their daily independence as best as possible.”

Donor-Reception-TEI-Jan-2014-(115)Georgia-Crozier-and-John-Fitzgerald.jpgShe said that her experience, low vision and the relationship that is built with patients is an ongoing, well-developed and intimate conversation. It does not start and end in the first 15 minutes of the exam. Low vision doctors, by the nature of their work, end up gathering a very comprehensive collection of information over the course of their relationships. In order to help their patients restore quality of life, they must understand their patient’s needs, capacities and personalities inside and out, she said.

“I’m not sure anybody ever taught me that, and I’m not sure it’s the approach that other people take, but it’s the approach that has worked well for me,” said Dr. Crozier. “It’s one that I value and it has become crucial in my practice with patients. I have respect for patients above all else in my work. I observe their willingness to work with new devices and adaptations.”

As for her family legacy, Dr. Crozier said she knows exactly why she decided to pursue a career in healthcare, and those roots have been taking hold since her early years.

“It was instilled in me at an early age that service was something that everybody in the family took part in,” she said. “My service was not Habitat for Humanity or the American Red Cross; it was providing eye-care service. It was always understood that those who could provide something should share it. That’s really where I came from and who my family built me to be. I knew I was going to do something in the service field, I just didn’t know that it was going to be eye care until a little later in life.”

Dr. Crozier believes that the foresight by PCO officials to make Salus a healthcare university was ingenious. “I think that patients and students are realizing that optometry is truly integral to the healthcare circle,” she said.

And, the Crozier Family story isn’t complete yet. Two daughters of Georgia Crozier and John Fitzgerald – Catena Crozier-Fitzgerald, OD ’14, and Francesca Crozier-Fitzgerald, CTVI ’19, MA, Med - have followed in their parents’ medical and service provider footsteps, each graduating from Salus.

Dr. Crozier said she absolutely plans to keep working for a while longer. Vision Rehabilitation continues to evolve and technological advances are steadily being introduced into the field. She said this is an exciting time for her to be practicing low vision and she appreciates the opportunity to play a role in this progress. She believes her own evolution in the field is far from complete and she continues to love going to work, facing new challenges and meeting new patients.

And, she wouldn’t trade her time at PCO for anything.

“I learned how to work hard, study diligently and make lasting friendships. The learning environment was warm and forgiving, but we were held to a high standard and that was important,” said Dr. Crozier. “The fact that my instructors had known and worked alongside my parents was encouraging and something I recognize was unique to my experience as a student. I had strong and unique clinical experiences, I have many warm and lasting memories, but most of all, I had fun learning about the field of optometry – and still do today.”