Photography by Steve Craft
Excerpted from page 24 of the March/April 2023 edition of AOA Focus.
Saysha Blazier, O.D., practices what she preaches when it comes to volunteerism.
“If I had one piece of advice for students or young optometrists, it would be to say ‘yes’ to getting involved,” Dr. Blazier shared at Optometry’s Meeting® 2022. “You will learn so much about your profession, about how you can care for people. But really, you’ll be so inspired by your colleagues, and it adds so much fulfillment to your life.”
Recognized as the AOA’s 2022 Young Optometrist of the Year, Dr. Blazier recalls her career trajectory starting with a simple ‘yes’ when approached about an American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) trusteeship while at her alma mater, Southern California College of Optometry.
Little did she know she would eventually go on to become AOSA president.
And from there?
“The ball kept rolling,” she adds. In 2011, Dr. Blazier moved to Manhattan for a low vision and ocular disease residency with the State University of New York College of Optometry in partnership with Lighthouse Foundation for the Blind. She would become director of low vision services and a clinical instructor at University Hospital with Rutgers University, and since 2019, Dr. Blazier has been in private practice in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Staten Island, New York.
Serving on the boards of both the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians (NJSOP) and the New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA), Dr. Blazier is active in the AOA volunteer structure as a member of the AOA Leadership Development Committee. Previously recognized as NJSOP’s Young Optometrist of the Year in 2015—as well as NYSOA’s Young Optometrist of the Year in 2021—Dr. Blazier also received the NJSOP’s Presidential Special Recognition Award in 2018 and Distinguished Service Award in 2019.
AOA Focus caught up with Dr. Blazier to ask about her professional involvement and career journey.
How did you get involved in the field of low vision and ocular disease? And how did you get involved in researching and publishing?
I have always been intrigued by how, as a doctor of optometry, we can truly change a person’s life. I think many aspects of optometry are that way, but for me low vision and disease management became that—meeting a patient where they are at within their vision journey and finding ways to improve their quality of life. The research and publishing were progressions of that passion, especially when I was practicing more hospital-based care.
Is there a particular experience with a patient or mentor that you look back on now and see as a catalyzing moment for your career?
There are a few experiences early on in my student life that really did set the trajectory of my career. My mentor, Rebecca Kammer, O.D., Ph.D., is one. I was able to go on a mission trip with her to Honduras, and she also introduced me to low vision and the perspective of truly changing an individual’s life through their eye exam. Also, Kevin Alexander, O.D., Ph.D., who was the president of my school when I was the AOSA president; he saw potential in me and really encouraged me when I was working through some challenging leadership logistics within organized optometry. I will also say that these catalyzing moments don’t stop. Even today, I have experiences that give me more passion or set my goals in different directions; I think we need to be careful never to be content. There are always individuals who can continue to shape the trajectory of our lives.
What motivates you to stay involved, and how would you encourage others to get involved?
My colleagues. When you are involved and volunteering your time, you are surrounded by some of the most inspiring people. I have that privilege in my home with my optometrist husband, my practice with my partners, in my state and nationally through old AOSA buddies, as well as the AOA volunteer structure. I am inspired by my colleagues who always seem to have more to give: their commitment, their ideas, their generosity. I 100% would not feel as fulfilled with my career path if I were not involved. There are so many people who encourage and motivate me to do more, to give more, to be more, and it rejuvenates my passion for my patients and my community and how I can change a person’s life.
How to get involved
AOA plus you equals a brighter future for our patients and our profession. Like no other industry opportunity, AOA+ is a unique experience for optometry students and faculty, as well as new graduates, to take their professional involvement to the next level. AOA+ brings together the profession’s next generation of leaders for a four-day, immersive experience in career development, skill building, networking and advocacy in our nation’s capital. But our meeting is just the beginning; AOA+ is a yearlong program designed to help you find success in optometry.
Learn what it takes to stand up and be counted alongside the AOA as one of optometry’s advocates. See how AOA+ can help you shape optometry’s future.
Although about 13% of the U.S. population is Black, they are woefully underrepresented in optometry. They represent about 2% of practicing doctors of optometry and a little over 3% of full-time students in optometry schools and colleges, according to studies. Black doctors of optometry seek to grow those numbers.
A crusader for vision and eye care in local, state and national communities, Patricia spread her love for the AOA across the country. The AOA sends condolences and thanks to the Hopping family for their years of service.
Learn how you can apply or nominate a doctor of optometry for the 2024 AOA Leadership Institute.