Reaping what we sow

March 13, 2017
AOA’s 2016 Optometric Educator of the Year explains the importance of serving others.
Jacqueline Davis, O.D., M.P.H.

Excerpted from page 20 of the March 2017 edition of AOA Focus.

When Jacqueline Davis, O.D., M.P.H., accepted the AOA's 2016 Optometric Educator of the Year award at Optometry's Meeting® in June, she paid tribute to her 93-year-old mother, who was with her at the event. Dr. Davis also quoted boxing legend Muhammad Ali that day. Her parents and Ali shared a similar life philosophy when it comes to public service.  

"'Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth,'" says Dr. Davis, reciting the Ali quote once again. "Throughout my childhood, my mother never told my sister or me that we should serve other people. She didn't have to, because we watched her do it every day of her life."  

Beyond her family, a number of people helped Dr. Davis along the way. There was the first doctor of optometry she saw. Her high school guidance counselor. The physics professor at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, who gave her an optometry textbook for an independent study class in optics-the same book she later used in her first year at The Ohio State University College of Optometry (OSUCO), where she graduated from in 1981.  

Today she is a professor of clinical optometry at OSUCO, where she teaches "Anterior Ocular Pathology and Surgery" and "Co-Management of Ocular Disease." Dr. Davis pays it forward by her example. First, she is clinic chief at the OSUOC Vision Clinic in the Lower Lights Christian Health Center in an economically depressed community in Columbus, Ohio. Second, she mentors the next generation of optometry students. Senior externs in the optometry school rotate through Lower Lights' vision clinic and provide services that address some of the many health disparities within the community. She is a member of the optometry school's Committee for Inclusion and Diversity, which facilitates its annual three-day, in-residence "summer camp" called Improving Diversity in Optometric Careers (I-DOC).  

In an interview with AOA Focus, Dr. Davis explains why she believes in planting seeds.  

Who planted your optometric seed?

My elementary school nurse told my parents that I needed to see the eye doctor. When I got my first glasses, I was amazed to see individual leaves on a tree. I had thought that trees were just big blobs of green in the sky! I always had positive experiences with eye doctors, and I always appreciated the positive impact they had on me.  

What inspired your passion for education?

Ironically, teaching was not my first love. When I was in college, I worked for Upward Bound one summer and taught biology to eighth- and ninth-grade students. I have the highest respect for teachers, but after Upward Bound, I thought I could never teach because it was such an overwhelming experience. I was very content with my private practice for 22 years. In 2005, a colleague who was teaching at The Ohio State University asked me to help start a new outreach clinic in a community with a high concentration of uninsured individuals. I agreed, but I fully intended to go back to my private practice once the clinic was well-established. As time passed, I found myself falling in love with working with the patients and with teaching students how to best serve those individuals. Ultimately, I ended up selling my practice to one of my students, and I then joined the OSUCO faculty full time.  

How are you able to plant seeds?

After a 12-week rotation at Lower Lights, our students summarize their experiences by presenting interesting cases in a grand rounds format. They often comment on the strong bonds they have developed with their patients and the sincere gratitude that patients have expressed for their quality vision care. I always remind the students that, no matter where their careers take them, they can always find communities like this that can benefit greatly from their optometric service.  

What is the impact of mentoring?

Every summer at OSUCO, we host the I-DOC program, which is absolutely increasing the number of underrepresented students in the profession throughout the country. While I was at Academy 2016 in Anaheim, a young lady approached me and said, 'Dr. Davis, I was in I-DOC two years ago and now I am enrolled in the Southern California College of Optometry.' That has happened to me several times at different optometric meetings. We are gratified to know that our program is having a positive impact on our profession, even if our I-DOC students don't always end up at OSUCO. We know that we have had about 180 students participate in the summer program since it started a decade ago, and at least 40 of those students have gone on to become doctors of optometry.

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