Passion with Purpose: Dr. O's Powerful Impact
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Passion with Purpose: Dr. O's Powerful Impact


Susan C. Oleszewski, OD ‘76, MA – or “Dr. O” as she is more familiarly known – was a Salus icon.

a-dr-o-pic2aIn her nearly four-decade career at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) and Salus University, Susan C. Oleszewski, known as “Dr. O,” served in a variety of didactic, clinical and administrative capacities. In the early part of her career, she was both a classroom and a clinical instructor. Over time, she gradually assumed additional administrative responsibilities, first as chief of a Primary Care Service at The Eye Institute (TEI), PCO’s clinical training facility  and then as the associate dean for Optometry and director of Clinical Services. 

In 2005, she was named vice president for Patient Care Services. During her time as vice president, Dr. O shepherded the more than $11 million dollar renovation of TEI, which was completed in 2012. The following year, she was appointed chief of staff at the University and then finally served as the vice president for Institutional Advancement and Community Relations until the beginning of 2018. In the course of her career, she also lectured extensively at meetings and conferences nationwide as well as to international audiences in 10 countries. 

Amidst these substantive roles, what really stood out was the manner in which she had executed all of her responsibilities. Linda Casser, OD, professor, and coordinator of Interprofessional Education at Salus, who has known Dr. O both personally and professionally since 1980, emphasized this characteristic. “She is consistently passionate, enthusiastic, and dedicated in all of her efforts, which directly contributes to successful project outcomes,” she said.

At a 2018 Board of Trustees meeting, Dr. Casser – on behalf of the faculty – presented Dr. Oleszewski with a Resolution of Appreciation. Spearheaded by the faculty, the document cited the “energy, enthusiasm and vision that Dr. Oleszewski has consistently demonstrated [and] her efforts [that] have resulted in successes that benefit the community and the institution.”

a-dr-o-pic3aDr. O’s PCO and Salus fan base knows no boundaries and includes students, residents, professional and support staff, administrators, alumni, and both internal and external community members as well.

“They know she considers and cares about their best interests,” said Cathie Muhr, who worked with Dr. O for 28 years as an educational coordinator in the Department of Clinical Sciences. “She believes and expresses through words and actions that the achievements of others are worth acknowledging and celebrating.”

This was certainly the case when she initiated a fundraising effort to dedicate a classroom at TEI in honor of Joseph Toland, OD ’54, MD. She also led the establishment of the Joseph Toland Memorial Scholarship Fund after his passing.

a-dr-o-pic4aAmong her many accomplishments during her tenure, Dr. O founded the Looking Out for Kids (LOFK) initiative, personally garnering strong corporate and community involvement to provide comprehensive vision care services for children who otherwise would go unserved. Since the establishment of the charity, Dr. O was the central figure in raising  more than $600,000 to support vision care and eyeglasses for economically disadvantaged children in Philadelphia and its surrounding communities up until 2018.lso in 2018, Dr. Oleszewski was presented with the Alumni Association’s Special Recognition Award. Past recipients of the award have included both organizations and individuals who have significantly contributed to Salus, their profession or community. Dr. O is the epitome of that description.

“I can think of no one more deserving of the Special Recognition Award from the Alumni Association of Salus University than Dr. Susan Oleszewski,” said Thomas L. Lewis, OD ‘70, PhD, Salus president emeritus and PCO professor. “For 40 years she has served the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and Salus University with distinction.”

a-dr-o-pic5aAccording to Dr. Lewis, no one has worked harder to make PCO and Salus better than Dr. Oleszewski. “As an outstanding student, resident, clinician, faculty member and senior administrator, her contributions have been invaluable to the growth and development of the institution,” he said. In addition to her dedication to the institution, he also noted: “Her devotion to the education of optometrists is unmatched.”  Whether as a teacher or through administrative actions, Dr. Oleszewski’s first priority was improving the education offered to optometry students,” he said.

Fellow alumna and friend, Diane Adamczyk, OD ‘85, who is currently professor and director of Residency Education at the State University of New York College of Optometry, added, “Dr. O has been a cornerstone to PCO over the last four decades.” She also noted that “her contributions in the various roles she has had over this time span are immeasurable, and with confidence one can say these contributions have played a key role in PCO’s excellence in education.”

Dr. O was also a pioneer for women in optometry, as one of only four women in her graduating class.

In her nomination letter for the Special Recognition Award, Georgia Crozier, OD ’84, MS ‘87, reflected on Dr. O’s leadership role in advancing women in the optometric profession. “Forty years ago, women in optometry were still very much the minority,” she said. “For myself and my fellow female colleagues, Sue was an exceptional role model.” According to Dr. Crozier, Dr. O taught her female students, by example, to be confident in their abilities and to be assertive in a male-dominated field. “I believe that her impression has had a lasting impact for all women in optometry,”  said Dr. Crozier.

A native of Derry, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh, Dr. O attended Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., as a biology major. She then went on to receive her Doctor of Optometry degree from PCO in 1976 and a master’s degree in biology from Temple University. She completed her residency at PCO where she was among the first group of residents to work at The Eye Institute (TEI) when it initially opened in 1978. 

a-dr-o-pic6aShe credits her father with leading her on the path to optometry – as a high school guidance counselor; he encouraged her to enter the healthcare field. “In the eighth grade, I began investigating different healthcare fields,” she said. “I visited my local optometrist and I was impressed by his exam, his practice, and the profession. So I made the decision to become an optometrist.”

As her final contribution to Salus and PCO, Dr. O assisted with the “Lombardi Farewell Tour” - a celebratory fundraising program in honor of the retirement of Lorraine Lombardi, PhD after nearly 50 years of service to Salus and her tireless commitment to the success of the more than 7,000 students she taught. In fact, the tour was Dr. O’s idea. The tour’s positive outcomes had been two-fold – both for students and faculty who currently enjoy a “first-rate classroom,” which was dedicated in May 2018 and for Dr. Lombardi personally. “The tour joins countless wonderful memories of reconnecting with great people and of a happy career,”  said Dr. Lombardi.

​“The idea and success of the ‘tour,’ not a small task, are just what Sue does,” Dr. Lombardi said. “In all of her responsibilities in the past  40 years, I would describe Sue as being creatively brilliant, hardworking and above all dedicated to our institution. She is fearless to a challenge and in analyzing information and expressing a point of view, and because of this she has advanced PCO/Salus.”

On April 27, 2019, at the Centennial Gala, Dr. O was awarded a Presidential Medal of Honor. This monumental award was presented to those who have been part of the proud history of both PCO and Salus. They were given to distinguished alumni, faculty, and friends of the College who have helped establish PCO as a pioneer and leader in the field of optometric education and the profession of optometry.