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Advice From Alumni: Careers in Optometry


Optometry is a health care profession dedicated to examining the eyes and applicable vision systems for abnormalities or defects, as well as prescribing glasses and contacts. Modern day optometry involves the diagnosis and management of ocular diseases.

Jordyn Robarge ’19

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology, Augsburg University
  • Current student at the New England College of Optometry in Boston, MA, studying to become a Doctor of Optometry ’23
  • Tri-Beta, URGO research, Interfaith Scholars

Why did you choose optometry as your field of study?

“I choose optometry as a career because of my passion for vision! Preserving and protecting the sight of patients is an honor and a privilege. Additionally, I really enjoy working with people and using evidence based medicine to help improve the lives of patients in any way I can.”

What experiences at Augsburg helped you make that decision?

“My URGO research experience really helped me develop an understanding and appreciation for the research process, while indicating to me that my skill set was more applicable to a career that involved more personal interaction. If you have a passion for science, but a need for more personal interaction than a lab might provide, consider a field of medicine!”

How did you choose the optometry programs you applied to? What were you looking for?

“When choosing an optometry school, I think there are three important factors to consider: location, clinical experience, and cost. I believe location is important because it will be your home for four years! After living in Minneapolis while attending Augsburg, I had become accustomed to city living, so moving to Boston felt like a natural step for me. Clinical experience and education is important because that’s what differs most between schools. I chose NECO because they have great diversity in patient populations and a wide clinical network for external rotations. Optometry school is a very large investment, and minimizing debt is a goal. Consider the cost of living in the area of the school and the cost of tuition.”

What did you appreciate most about your academic experiences?

“The most valuable and applicable skill I developed at Augsburg that I’ve carried into my graduate studies is the ability to evaluate the quality of research. While developing my knowledge base as a clinician, I always consider the quality and quantity of the evidence that supports the medical application. Additionally, I find that a liberal arts education has provided me with a greater appreciation for all areas of study (especially ethics and sociology) that I believe makes for a more well-rounded health care provider.”

What Advice would you give to prospective optometry students?

“I would recommend that prospective optometry students gain a solid understanding of how to evaluate the quality of research as well as develop a base knowledge of optics and neurobiology while in undergrad. Additionally, start early with applying for school and taking the OAT (entrance exam required for optometry school admission). Gaining some direct patient care experience is very helpful as well, especially at an optometric practice if at all possible! My experience as an optician prior to optometry school has proved very valuable.”

Advice from Alumni: Careers in Dentistry

 

Dentistry, or dental medicine and oral medicine, is a healthcare profession that consists of the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders, and conditions of the dental cavity. Dental treatments are carried out by a dental team, which often consists of a dentist and dental auxiliaries, such as dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental technicians, and dental therapists.

Photo of Abigale Enrici '18

Abigale “Abby” Enrici ’18

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology, Augsburg University
  • Currently a student at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, studying to be a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) ’23.
  • Women’s Soccer Team, honors program, helped start the pre dental club and also ran as an officer multiple years, summer and semester research opportunities, TA/tutor and AugSem leader.

“I took a gap year and started dental school in August of 2019.  Not many people know this, but dental school is one of the more expensive professional schools to attend. Most students graduate with quite a bit of loans. I am lucky to have the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) Scholarship. I have this scholarship through the US Navy and they pay for my school for all 4 years of dental school, they pay me a monthly stipend of about $2000, and they also reimburse materials such as books and loupes. To pay the Navy back, I will go to Officer Development School (ODS) for 6 weeks either during school or after graduation and then I will be a dentist in the Navy for a minimum of 4 years. I am so excited for this adventure when it comes.”

Why did you choose dentistry as your field of study?

“At a pretty young age I knew I wanted to go into the medical field. I was one of the lucky few that knew what they wanted to do “when they grew up”. Going to get physicals as a child or visiting the ER occasionally either for my sisters or myself, I didn’t think that was something I wanted to do. When I was in 7th grade I got braces put on and didn’t get them taken off until my sophomore year of high school. Going to the orthodontist office was an amazing experience and it truly made me happy (sounds so cheesy). Even going to the dentist as a child I really enjoyed going because they would take polaroid pictures of my sisters and I after our cleaning and hang it on the wall and we could pick something from the treasure box. Given I have never had a cavity, I did not need much dental work as a child, so that probably played into why I could have had a good experience. Anyways, I will stop ranting, basically I was very interested in dentistry after braces and the more I started to look into and shadow doctors, the more interested and fascinated I became. It’s a profession where it has the flexibility of owning your own practice or going to work for someone else. It has nice hours where I can have a family in the future and enjoy time with them, I get to work with my hands, it’s very detail oriented and it’s an art form. There is also a huge creative aspect of dentistry and that is something I have really come to love as well”

 

What experiences at Augsburg helped you make that decision?

“Catherina Kipper! But in all seriousness, I knew I wanted to go to dental school before I met Catherina, however she really helped point me in the right direction of different opportunities that really solidified that I wanted to go into dentistry. I also had some experiences that helped me know what I didn’t want to do. For example I was a personal care assistant for a summer, and this may be one of the most emotional and physical tolling jobs I have done and I will forever praise the people that do this work because it is NOT easy, but I knew it was not for me. I also had many research experiences, which with research you really need to celebrate the small victories, because you don’t always get big victories. This has also taught me to do this in dental school because like everything else we have good days and bad days, but dental school is not easy and celebrating those small victories really help prevent burnout in my opinion. However, I know now that research is also not really my forte.”

 

How did you choose the dental programs you applied to? What were you looking for?

“I chose the dental programs I applied to mostly based on location. I applied to places that I wanted to live or could see myself living. The school’s prerequisites were also a factor of where I applied. For example, I did not take gross anatomy, so I did not apply to the dental schools that required gross anatomy as a pre-req. I applied to 7 schools and interviewed at 3 and was accepted to 2. Minnesota and Chicago. At the time I had applied as an Illinois resident so if I did not have the Navy scholarship I would have maybe gone to Chicago to get in-state tuition, but since I did not have to really worry about tuition I picked MN because I like the state of MN better. I also then applied for residency in MN and am receiving in-state tuition here now too.”

 

What did you appreciate most about your academic experiences?

“SMALL CLASS SIZES! I really missed this part once I started dental school. Our dental school class size is now about 120 people. When we first started out, one of the most frustrating experiences was when the professor would come into the lecture hall ready to lecture and would begin to speak and other students would continue to talk to the point you could not hear the professor. I had never experienced this before at Augsburg because with maybe 30 people in a class it was never this loud or overwhelming. At Augsburg, it was also very nice to have professors know you by name and to have things be a little more personable. Even though we do not have lectures with 600 people in dental school, 120 people is still a lot so most professors did not learn our names. Now this is becoming a little different as I start in the clinic, our color groups (smaller groups of about 20-30 students) and the faculty members in our color groups are beginning to learn our names.”

 

What advice would you give to prospective dental students?

“Oh boy, I know this is easy to say now because I am here, but enjoy your time in undergrad. And if you take any gap year(s), enjoy your time then as well! I know things seem busy now and stressful, but honestly things only get busier. So try to enjoy the free time you have now and try not to stress too much. Also, not trying to scare anyone away from dentistry/dental school, but burnout is real! Before going to dental school make sure it is something you really want to do and remember why, because there will be days that you second guess yourself and bring yourself down, but just remember that reason of why you are doing it to reground and motivate yourself to keep moving! Becoming a dentist in the end is so worth it and you can do it if you really want to, I believe in you!”

 

Advice from Alumni: Careers in Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a healthcare profession that provides treatment to a diverse range of patients and needs. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.” This healthcare profession can sometimes be overlooked in comparison to other health fields, but two Augsburg alumni who pursued PT have some important advice and insights for current Auggies.

 

Meghan Soler stands on the University of Minnesota's campus wearing a white lab coat.
Dr. Meghan Soler ’17

Dr. Meghan Soler ’17

  • Bachelor of Arts in Biology, Augsburg University
  • Softball, Augsem Leader, URGO Research
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy, University of Minnesota
  • “I am now currently enrolled in the University of Minnesota Geriatric Residency for one year of more specialized training.”
Zach Juaire standing in a white dental coat in front of a brick wall.
Zach Juaire ’19

Zach Juaire ’19

  • Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Augsburg University
  • Exercise Science Club, URGO Research, Florence Scholar
  • Pursuing Doctor of Physical Therapy, Des Moines University

Why did you choose physical therapy as your field of study?

  • “My best work environment is one where I am physically active, working with people, and problem-solving constantly. After shadowing a physical therapist before my first year at Augsburg, it helped me realize that physical therapy was a perfect fit for these qualities.” Meghan
  • “People measure the quality of their life by being able to engage in meaningful pursuits. As a physical therapist, I have the opportunity to help individuals regain or re-imagine how they achieve this goal.” Zach

What experiences at Augsburg helped you make that decision?

  • “I had already decided that I wanted to be a physical therapist before coming to Augsburg. However, Augsburg Biology’s emphasis on understanding research, my discussions with Augsburg’s health professions counselor, and further shadowing during my undergraduate career solidified this decision.” Meghan

  • “Being in the Exercise Science major gave me valuable insights to knowledge and skills that are highly correlated with the core components of physical therapy. Participating in URGO summer research gave me an opportunity to gather, analyze, and interpret current evidence in my area of interest. As well as, get to know new colleagues in my field.” Zach

How did you choose the PT programs you applied to? What were you looking for?

  • “I was not interested in moving out of the Twin Cities at the time of applying, and I therefore applied to the University of Minnesota and St. Catherine’s, which are both excellent programs nearby Augsburg’s campus. I would suggest requesting a campus tour from programs that you are interested in- this will give you a good feel for whether the program is a good fit for you or not.” Meghan
  • “I wanted to apply to as many schools as I could, so that I could give myself the best opportunity to get into the field that I love. After getting the opportunity to interview with several fantastic schools, I took some time to reflect on the campuses I visited, the opportunities each curriculum had, and most importantly, the dedication that the faculty members outlined for student success.” Zach

What did you most appreciate about your academic experiences?

  • “I did and still do appreciate that I had excellent mentors, professors, health profession counselors, and advisors throughout my time at Augsburg. Neither of my parents graduated college, so the quality advice that I received from those people throughout my academic career gave me the knowledge and resources I needed to succeed in my undergraduate and doctoral studies.” Meghan

  • “The faculty at Augsburg, across the board, is fantastic! Augsburg provides a network of peers and faculty members that will rally behind you when you need them and they’re there to praise you in all your successes. Even after you’ve graduated and moved on from Augsburg, you can still feel the support that they have for their students and alumni.” Zach

What advice would you give to prospective PT students?

  • “First, shadow as many different kinds of PTs as possible if you are interested in the field: orthopedics, hospitals, nursing homes, everything! It really can help you find a type of PT that you are passionate about. Second, work out what the financial aspect of PT school will look like for you. It is a big financial investment, but one that I found very worth it. Finally and most importantly, learn how best to take care of yourself and your mental health. Find things that decrease your stress level and prioritize them, and you and your career will benefit long-term.” Meghan

  • “Getting into PT school is a process! Start early, research the requirements that schools are asking for and set yourself up for success. A phrase I recall from a professor at Augsburg was, “Plan your work and work your plan.” These words have never been more true. Getting into PT school can seem like a menacing feat, but if you utilize your Augsburg community, put in the time and effort things will start to fall in place!” Zach

 

 

The Advantages of PPIA: Advice from Natalya Arevalo ’20 and Zakariya Abdullahi ’21

Many Augsburg students come to URGO for help in applying to a wide range of fellowships, awards, and programs (think Fulbright, Boren, Pickering, etc.). One such program that deserves special highlight is the Junior Summer Institute (JSI), facilitated annually by the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA).

What is JSI by PPIA?

  • An intensive seven-week graduate-level preparation program for undergraduate juniors committed to public service careers.
  • JSI was made to address the lack of diversity in professional public service.
  • Its purpose is to prepare its fellows to obtain a master’s degree in public policy, public administration, international affairs, or a related field.

Continue reading “The Advantages of PPIA: Advice from Natalya Arevalo ’20 and Zakariya Abdullahi ’21”

Pre-Health Newsletter: June 24, 2021

Rosalind Franklin University Pre-Matriculation Program (PMP)

Program Application

The Pre-Matriculation Program (PMP) at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science is a no-cost, non-degree curriculum track that provides academic enrichment for post-baccalaureate students from disadvantaged backgrounds seeking careers in health care. PMP students receive academic development and experience designed to improve competitiveness as a medical or health professions degree applicant. Continue reading “Pre-Health Newsletter: June 24, 2021”

URGO Student Spotlight | Abdulkadir Sharif ’20

Abdul graduated from Augsburg in 2020 with a degree in Political Science and International Relations. He is Augsburg’s first winner of the Pickering Fellowship. Only 45 students in the country receive the Pickering each year. He is also a Fulbright recipient and participated in the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship at Princeton University. Continue reading “URGO Student Spotlight | Abdulkadir Sharif ’20”

URGO Student Spotlight | Kelly Lu ’22

Kelly Lu landed at Augsburg for two reasons: the location and her mom. Kelly wanted to stay within her comfort zone of the Twin Cities and was focused on smaller campuses for the small class sizes, which is how she first encountered Augsburg. Kelly had an opportunity to tour Augsburg’s campus during an URGO field trip, and when she told her mom about her experience, her mom told her to go to Augsburg.

“My mom believed URGO was a helpful program,” said Kelly.

Kelly enrolled at Augsburg and initially planned to follow a medical track. She didn’t have a clear direction in high school about what she wanted to major in, but her mom thought the medical field would hold promising work.

A picture of Kelly Lu '22.
Kelly Lu ’22

While in a class with professor Dr. Vivian Feng, Kelly learned about biochemistry. And she found her calling. Continue reading “URGO Student Spotlight | Kelly Lu ’22”

Pre-Health Newsletter: May 12, 2021

Altius Test Prep Deals and Free MCAT practice Exam

Early fall enrollment pricing will go up in May.

Sign up for 1-on-1 mentored MCAT prep courses

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Sign up for May Summer Immersion MCAT course in-person

– round trip airfare and student housing included

– 1-on-1 mentoring, tutoring, and small group sessions

Sign up for test prep while seats are available or until the end of May.

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Claim your Free MCAT Practice Exam. Continue reading “Pre-Health Newsletter: May 12, 2021”