When Janice Chau, OD ‘20, set out on her path to a career in healthcare, sheenrolled in a nursing program at Drexel University. After studying for a year to become a nurse, a visit to her personal eye doctor helped the Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO)
graduate see her own future as an optometrist – much clearer.
Seven years later, Dr. Chau’s vision is now a reality, graduating summa cum laude as a member of the Class of 2020 with a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from PCO during a virtual ceremony
, which took place May 22. Adding to her accolades right before completing her degree, Dr. Chau was also named a recipient of the 2020 Vision Award of Excellence in Contact Lens Patient Care by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF) and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. The grant recipient credits the summer she spent shadowing her optometrist while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Arcadia University as the experience that drew her to the profession.
“I realized there’s so much more to optometry than I originally thought and shadowing her made me see how interesting optometry can be,” she said. “I like how much patient interaction there is, but also that patients are able to talk to an optometrist and develop a good doctor-patient relationship.”
Through the University’s 3+4 OD program
, an academic partnership formed with participating institutions, Dr. Chau completed her doctorate in seven years as opposed to the traditional eight-year commitment. As a student, her demonstration of skillful knowledge of contact lens care earned Dr. Chau recognition as an outstanding fourth-year student clinician – and a $500 educational award. The award marks a huge accomplishment for any recipient, but for Dr. Chau, it was more of a testament to her decision to switch career paths as an undergraduate.
“I learned how much more there is to contact lenses than I originally thought. With upcoming advancements and technology, the contact lens field is constantly growing and it’s an exciting field,” she said. “I wanted to be more involved with it. I wanted more exposure to contact lenses and I wanted to build my skills to become a well-rounded clinician in the end.”
Continuing to seek out opportunities to develop herself as a healthcare provider, this summer, the optometrist will pursue a one-year residency in ocular disease at Woolfson Eye Institute in Atlanta, Ga., where she will focus on refractive and ocular surgery.
From starting in nursing school, to AAOF award winner, to gaining a residency, Dr. Chau has forged her own path. As a recent graduate well on her way to launching her career as an optometrist, she considers the unique opportunities afforded by Salus PCO and wants to pay it forward – through education.
“I want to educate a lot of patients. Optometry is still a growing profession and we need to educate our patients not only on what optometry is, but also what it can offer,” she said. “I want my patients to understand their condition and know all the options available to them because there are many options. I also do hope to work with students someday to make optometry less intimidating.”
In terms of how Salus PCO helped shape her experience as an OD student, it’s the influential people she met along the way who she will always remember.
“For me, becoming closer with my classmates and really being able to form relationships and work together with them to get through optometry school will be the most memorable part to my time here,” she said. “I feel like I was able to form strong relationships with my fellow classmates and that’s important to me.”