Linda Casser

As Linda Casser, OD, FAAO, FNAP, was packing up her office on her last day at Salus University — taking plaques off the wall and reviewing her files — she had a chance to reflect on her 44-year career in academia.

While she was placing these items in boxes, one plaque she removed from the wall gave her pause. It was an award for Clinical Educator of the Year in 1984 that she received from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry’s (PCO) Student Council.

“That was the first award I was fortunate enough to receive as a faculty member,” said Dr. Casser, who was chief of Primary Care Module 4 at The Eye Institute (TEI) back then. “That meant so much. After I finished my residency in Rochester, New York, under the leadership and mentorship of Louis J. Catania, OD ’69, FAAO, DSc, my first faculty position was at PCO,” said Dr. Casser.

Linda Casser and studentsIt was also the year she left Pennsylvania to take a position as clinic director at her alma mater, Indiana University. But it wasn’t the last time she would serve at PCO and Salus. Dr. Casser would return to Salus in 2009 and undertake several roles, before officially retiring on August 16, 2022.

She was a faculty member at the Indiana University School of Optometry for 13 years, achieving the rank of associate professor with tenure and also serving as the director of the Indianapolis Eye Care Center. In 1997, Dr. Casser was hired at the Pacific University College of Optometry in Forest Grove, Oregon, serving as associate dean for academic programs and professor through 2005.

In 2006, Dr. Casser joined the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) as associate executive director of clinical examinations. But almost 25 years to the day in which she left PCO, she returned as the first female dean of PCO — and the first dean after Salus University was established — serving in that capacity through 2013. The following year, Dr. Casser became interim director of education for the University’s Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program.

She ended her second stint at Salus as a professor at PCO and coordinator of Interprofessional Education and retired upon being granted professor emeritus status by the University’s Board of Trustees, which allows her to continue her association with the University.

“I’ve had 10 years of involvement in interprofessional education at Salus and that’s been a wonderful opportunity to see the healthcare world beyond optometry,” said Dr. Casser. “To learn more about our on-campus colleagues in the other professions, to meet them at a deeper personal level but also to learn more fully about what they do and how they contribute to client and patient care has been very enriching.”

Linda Casser at classroomThose leadership roles and her chance to help develop interprofessional opportunities while at PCO/Salus are among the accomplishments in which she takes pride. In addition, Dr. Casser was on the front end of gender issues of her generation, at a time when more women were entering the profession.

She also set high expectations for her students. “I’ve always held myself and my students to a standard of excellence. To me, excellence is the minimum that we all should aspire to. As a result, not unknown to me, sometimes I had the reputation of being a little bit demanding,” she said. “I do hope for quality in society, I hope for each of us as healthcare providers to be the best that we can be for patients who entrust their care to us. That’s another reason why I so greatly appreciated receiving the 1984 award from PCO students — the plaque reads ’for exemplifying the highest standards of teaching and clinical excellence.’”

For now though, she plans to spend her retirement time with family and friends, traveling and volunteering her time, both within the profession and outside of it.

“I also want to explore volunteer roles outside of optometry. I’m not sure yet what that will be, but I want to find and identify groups that are doing good work to help people in a positive way in the community,” she said.

Dr. Casser added that her 44 years in optometric education and administration have been rewarding, stimulating, and the source of deep and lasting collaborations and friendships.

“I am very proud that the first and final faculty positions of my career have been at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and Salus University,” she said.