The University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) congratulates Jack Forrest, OD ’19, and Susan K. Barnes, OD ’19, as the top graduates for the Class of 2019.

Jack-Forrest.jpegOn May 23, John (Jack) Forrest, OD ’19, walked across the stage as top of his class in PCO’s Accelerated Scholars Program.
Growing up in Collegeville, Pa., Dr. Forrest always knew he wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. His initial plan throughout high school and while at LaSalle University was to become an ophthalmologist. Despite growing up as the son of an optometrist, he had never considered pursuing optometry until he spent time working as a technician in his father's office.
“I began to see how enjoyable a career in optometry can be and decided to forgo [traditional] medicine and pursue a doctorate of optometry. Fortunately, the three-year Accelerated Scholars Program was started at Salus just a few years prior to when I applied, and I was lucky enough to be accepted,” Dr. Forrest said.
Some of his favorite memories at Salus/PCO revolve around spending time with classmates and achieving major milestones in their education, whether it was passing a practical, completing board’s examinations, or succeeding in clinical education and rotations together. 
PCO-Scholars-Alumni-Association-Award-to-John-Forrest-(2).jpgWhen asked if he has any advice for current optometry students, Dr. Forrest explained it is important to treat graduate school as a full time job. “Your goal should always be to perform to the best of your abilities,” he said. He emphasized that the information taught in class is crucial for your career. “If you are diligent in keeping up with your studies, you will succeed. It is important to take pride in your work and always strive to do the best that you can,” he said.  
At last week’s Graduate Luncheon, Jack received the Marchon Eyewear Practice Management Award and the Alumni Association Award for the highest grade in the Optometry’s Accelerated Scholars Program.
Following graduation, Dr. Forrest plans to obtain his license in Pennsylvania and join his father's optometry practice at one of his three office locations in southeastern Pennsylvania. 
Additionally, this year’s top graduate for PCO’s Traditional Program, was Susan K. Barnes, OD ’19. Along with receiving the Alumni Association Award for the highest grade in the Optometry Traditional Program and the Beta Sigma Kappa Award last week, Susan was also chosen to present the graduate commencement address to her fellow cohorts, faculty, family and friends.
SusanBarnes1.jpgBefore entering PCO, Dr. Barnes attended the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville where she double majored in biology and Spanish. Since high school, she had dreamed of pursuing a career as a health professional. She first became interested in optometry during the spring semester of her second year at college, when she learned about the anatomy of the eye in her biology lab.

“The more I learned about optometry and the visual system, the more excited I became about it,” Dr. Barnes said. After graduating from UVA, Susan worked at an optometrist’s office, which only solidified her interest in the profession. She later visited Salus/PCO as a prospective student and knew immediately this was the place she wanted to be. 

“I truly enjoyed my day-to-day life at Salus, meeting new people all the time, while steadily building friendships,” she said. “Some things that will stand out in my memory are the weekly Salus Christian Fellowship meetings, as well as the annual Salus Soirée and third year Eye Ball.”

SusanBarnes2-PNG.jpgWhen asked if she has any study tips for current students in the program, Dr. Barnes explained that having a routine is what helped her stay on top of her studying. “I treated grad school like a full-time job and would typically arrive at school at 8 a.m., go to class as scheduled, and stay on campus until about 6 p.m.  I'd take a break to exercise and eat dinner, then do some relaxed studying later in the evening.  Every night I would have a cup of tea at 9:30 p.m. - it helped me get through the last hour of studying and I really think it made a difference,” she said.
Now, Dr. Barnes looks forward to starting her career as she plans to return to Virginia and get married this month.

As Dr. Barnes said in her commencement address, “As we embark on our careers, let’s collectively challenge each other to be a bit discontented and look out for ways to improve our respective fields and advocate for the advancement of our professions. Let’s strive to be both excellent and innovative. Our patients’ well-being depends on this. Salus has provided us all with a strong academic background and a solid clinical foundation. But as the science, technology, and regulations of our professions change – let’s embrace it. It will be our duty to stay up to date and look for constant improvement of our knowledge and skill set. And yes, let’s pay it forward, as we are very fortunate to have received so much in our relatively short and busy lives. And I hope you will all agree that we are more than suited for the task.”

On behalf of Salus University, we are so proud of Drs. Forrest and Barnes and their accomplishments throughout their academic careers. We wish them both the best of luck in this new chapter.