Why did you choose your particular profession?Carter-Liotta-Yearbook-Picture-(1).jpg
My optometrists growing up were really warm and friendly, the offices were never scary and they never seemed to burn out and become stressed like other doctors. People loved going to them. I started out at Ohio University as a communications major doing radio and TV, but I did not have a drive for that and started thinking to myself, “Well what does my optometrist do?” What a great career that seems to be, and almost on a whim, I switched my major to pre-med, and I’m going to become an optometrist.

Tell me about your time at Salus/PCO. Why did you choose to study there? 
I remember it being a very long haul with long nights and tough classes. I remember my classes were filled with incredibly smart people who actually had a real talent for medicine, but to be honest, I struggled. There were times I questioned “Am I in the right field, am I doing the right thing because I’m
not quite picking it up as fast as everyone else seems to be?” As it got onto the clinical side of things, I met a lot of faculty members who made things pretty exciting and interesting: Joann Bailey was one of them, Connie Chronister, Bernie Blaustein, of course Gale Orlansky, and Mary Jameson – she was wonderful and always has been with me. She made a huge difference. 

Then I picked my externship rotations based not on clinical reputations, but on locations – I interned under Pamela Conrad, who is a graduate of PCO, in Bethel, Alaska, that is sort of where optometry came together for me. To this day, I have never felt as competent or as responsible as I did in rural Alaska.
 
As Salus/PCO celebrates 100 years in 2019, what are your hopes for the college in the next 100 years?
Optometry as a profession is sort of at a crossroads. It’s being squeezed by advancements in screening technology that sort of allows for better care by primary care practitioners, and then it’s also being squeezed by cheap but often sufficient online eye wear and then retail hours and benchmarks that other medical practitioners don’t really have to consider. Let me go back to cheap but often sufficient online eyewear: people complain about online eyewear, but in my experience, I’ve ordered from these online companies before and I’ve always been surprised by the quality. I’ve not had a problem with my online glasses, which I know optometrists never like to say. This is going to be a problem, because it’s good.

Over the next 100 years, I would hope that the school trains students to be exceptional practitioners, but also informs them of the challenges of the profession and also helps to define optometry moving forward. One of the things I hope medical degrees afford students is the high quality of life and I really hope somebody should defend that as well as the role they are allowed to fill. We get so caught up in are optometrists allowed to prescribe antibiotics or are they allowed to treat glaucoma? In the meantime, I feel like sometimes just the overall profession and the quality of life that the profession affords gets pushed to the side.
One hundred, or even 50 years from now, who will we be, what will the role be? It’s a tough question but an interesting one.