The day the Joseph C. Toland Memorial Scholarship winner was being announced, Taylor Frank ‘23OD
, had been in clinic all day at The Eye Institute (TEI), arriving home just in time for a virtual meeting in which the winner would be revealed.
During that virtual meeting, Frank’s name flashed on the screen as being one of the nominees for the scholarship.
“I had no idea I was going to be announced as a nominee,” said Frank. “I was completely shocked and over the moon about that.”
Imagine her feelings a few minutes later when her name once again appeared on the screen, this time as the 2021 Toland Scholarship winner. “When I saw my name again, it felt surreal and awesome,” she said.
Dr. Toland was a beloved teacher, clinical provider and a 1954 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). He selflessly supported the mission of PCO through advocacy and leadership and his advocacy was central to the therapeutic profession that is optometry today. His gentle and humble teaching style made him an effective teacher throughout his 45-year tenure at PCO, and his personal characteristics of kindness, compassion and loyalty represent qualities for all to admire and emulate.
The Toland Scholarship is awarded to a second-year Doctor of Optometry student(s) who has demonstrated exceptional clinical promise during their early patient care assignments, while also demonstrating kindness and compassion in the delivery of care, those personal qualities that epitomized the compassionate care and kindness representative of Dr. Toland.
Faculty from each of the three primary care suites at TEI nominated two second-year optometry students for the scholarship. The names of all the nominees were forwarded to the Melissa Trego, OD ‘04, PhD
, dean of PCO. She then worked with the Registrar’s office to identify the grade point average of each nominee. The nominee with the highest-grade point average following the fall semester of the second program year receives the $2,000 scholarship.
Frank said she tries to live up to the standards set by Dr. Toland with every patient she examines.
“It’s truly an honor to receive something in his name,” she said.
Originally from Neshannock Township in northwestern Pennsylvania, Frank graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Biological Sciences. She knew she wanted to go into a profession in the medical field, but it wasn’t until she started shadowing and working with optometrists that she narrowed her focus.
“I always had a good experience at the eye doctor and admired what they did, so I started to look into that and shadowed a couple of optometrists in my area,” she said. “I loved how the doctors helped people and I thought they made a huge difference in all of their patients’ lives. I saw how the patient’s appreciated everything that the doctor did for them. That pointed me in that direction. I fell in love with the profession as I learned more about it, and I just felt that it was the perfect fit for me.”
When she interviewed at PCO/Salus for optometry school, Frank said the staff was welcoming and she sensed they truly cared.
“The environment was extremely comfortable, and I felt it was a good place to call home for four years,” she said.
“Every professor and staff member has wanted me to succeed, and they really care about how you’re going to succeed in the future. It’s been great,” she said.
Although she’s not sure at this point what part of optometry she wants to pursue in the future, she loves primary care and helping patients in that area.
“I love optometry. I think it’s a great profession,” she said. “I learn something new every day with every patient. Every doctor that I’ve worked with has been extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I am truly grateful to be able to work with them every day.”