For the past five years, Rachel Brackley, OD ‘09, Resident ‘10, FAAO, has been working as the externship liaison to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University’s Accelerated Scholars program assisting the 12 to 14 students in that program.

So, when Satya Verma, OD ‘75, FAAO, DPNAP, Diplomate — the longtime director of the Externship program retired at the end of 2021 after 50 years with the University — Dr. Brackley was ready to step into those big shoes.

Rachel Brackley“I’ve been a faculty member for eight and a half years and I really feel familiar with the program,” said Dr. Brackley, who was promoted to PCO Externship Program director in February 2022. “This is an opportunity for growth and I was ready for the next step, the next part of my career.”

Dr. Brackley wasn’t caught unaware that a promotion was in the works. She had gone through the interview process for the position, and eventually a call from Melissa Trego, OD ‘04, Resident ‘09, PhD, dean of PCO/Salus offering her the position. That she’s following one of the giants of PCO/Salus in the position isn’t lost on Dr. Brackley.

“Dr. Verma knows everyone, everywhere. And, a lot of people know who he is,” she said. “A number of our preceptors have been students of his or they were residents at The Eye Institute and he knew them.”

Working with the Scholars in the externship program, Dr. Brackley had a lot of interactions with Dr. Verma over the past five years. She was able to observe up-close his ability to see a situation, assess it and know what the appropriate next steps would be is invaluable. And, she watched how he developed relationships with both the students and the preceptors, another valuable lesson for the new externship director.

Rachel Brackley“I think Dr. Verma’s vast experience and wisdom is going to be the hardest thing for me to do in filling his shoes,” she said.

In addition, Dr. Brackley said Dr. Verma isn’t disappearing completely from the scene. She’s confident he will continue to mentor her when needed and will be reachable when she needs his advice.

But, the functionality of the externship program is now Dr. Brackley’s to move forward. She said what excites her most about her new position is building relationships with both students and preceptors.

“It’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to have influence over that part of their education because it’s an invaluable part of their educational experience and it really is a step in molding them into my colleagues,” she said.

She was also quick to note that the support she’s received since her promotion was announced to the University family has been quite positive.

"I’ve been humbled by the support from the students and how many of them have reached out and said congratulations,” said Dr. Brackley. “I’ve been overwhelmed.”