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Following In Her Footsteps

A story in our March Mentor series

Dr. Cox

Students and colleagues alike were impacted by the work of Betty Harville, OD, who retired from Southern College of Optometry last year. Erika Cox, OD, of Cordova, Tennessee, is among those who benefited from the genuine positivity that Dr. Harville brought to each interaction. “I did take some of her courses, and I loved her. Even if I hadn’t, I would have been drawn to her—she is so lovable with the greatest heart and smile. You couldn’t help but want to talk to her and pick her brain.”

Dr. Cox says that sometimes it was intimidating to be one of only six Black students in her optometry class of more than 100. Seeing Dr. Harville eased some of her hesitations, she says. “It was nice to see how much she accomplished, knowing that I was following in her footsteps and was being guided by her.”

betty harville
Dr. Harville

Dr. Cox shared two memorable moments with Dr. Harville. The first was after Dr. Cox had an interaction with a male doctor in clinic. “He was speaking to me in a way that made me realize how much the profession is male-dominated. It had me feeling down, but when I talked to her, she asked, ‘How could you let someone else take your joy away?’ And she was exactly right. She was quick and positive.”

Dr. Harville’s unique integration of video to help students develop their communication skills with patients also left a lasting impression. With little experience in speaking with patients, “it was so nerve-wracking. But as soon as Dr. Harville started acting as the patient, you could melt into the situation. That’s her spirit.”

Dr. Cox says that it wasn’t until after she graduated that she learned of the hardships that Dr. Harville faced early in her career. “I couldn’t believe it; she’s so humble and she made me feel like no matter what I was going through, I could get through it with a smile and come out shining and way better off than I was before.”

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