Nia Phillips ‘23OD said she was “blown away” by a recent email that revealed she was the Rick Bay Foundation Scholarship winner.

“I had absolutely no idea. This is such a welcome surprise,” she said.

Nia PhillipsThe Rick Bay Foundation Scholarship is available to a Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University student based on qualities embodying Bay’s commitment to the profession including integrity, compassion, partnership and dedication to the greater good in the amount of $5,000.

The email informing Phillips of the scholarship was from Jacqueline Patterson, MPA, vice president of Institutional Advancement and Community Relations at Salus. This year’s recipient of the scholarship was no surprise within PCO/Salus.

“Nia was an easy selection for the Rick Bay Scholarship,” said Melissa Trego, OD ‘04, Resident ‘09, PhD, dean of PCO/Salus. “As a student in the optometry program, she possesses and exhibits integrity, compassion and dedication to the greater good. We look forward to her continued contributions to her future patients and the profession.”

Phillips said she’s always been interested in the medical field. But as a fifth-grader, she noticed she wasn’t able to clearly see the blackboard in her classroom. And, her pediatrician recommended she visit an optometrist.

“That was the first time I had ever been to an optometrist. I didn’t even know the profession existed,” she said. “Once I received my glasses, it was just a whole new world. And, I wanted to bring that joy to other children and other people.”

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Phillips attended undergraduate school at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, where she graduated with a degree in biology.

“A background in biology helps with the workload and helps me to balance my class schedule with labs and assignments,” said Phillips. “That’s definitely helped me at PCO/Salus, where I also have labs and regular course loads. It’s a very science-based, math-based career, so having that background in biology has been good for me.”

She said she appreciates the opportunity to receive the scholarship and the faith faculty have in her.

“I have been absolutely blessed to have a good support system, have some great friends around me who are also going through the same things. It’s been challenging but it’s also been very rewarding,” said Phillips.

While she hasn’t yet sorted out her career path just yet, she said she sees herself working in primary care at a private practice after graduation.

“I want to give back to the community that I live in,” she said. “I’m grateful that my professors recognize those same qualities in me as defined by the scholarship.”