Home Newsmakers Meet the Student Advisory Board: Abby Wilhelmi, ICO

Meet the Student Advisory Board: Abby Wilhelmi, ICO

Abby Wilhelmi

Abby Wilhelmi grew up in Beach, North Dakota, a town of about 1,000 people—“ironic, I realize, considering North Dakota is about as landlocked as you can get,” the second year student says. So when she was deciding on a career, she knew the impact an eye care professional could make in rural areas. “My hometown and many other areas in rural North Dakota do not have a practicing optometrist,” she says. “I have always wanted to use my passion and career to give back to the community.”

Abby examines a patient during a Chicago vision screening event.

Her interest in the field started with her first pair of eyeglasses in third grade. By the time she was in high school, as a -5.00 D, she realized just what a difference something “as simple as eyeglasses could do to improve a person’s life.”


When the time came to choose an optometry school, she found the closest one—Illinois College of Optometry, 1,000 miles away. The move was intimidating, Wilhelmi says, but she found that the school’s tight-knit community reminded her of home.

“In rural areas especially we place a lot of trust in our health care professionals,” Wilhelmi says. “I want to be someone a community can entrust with its eye health.” She’s already been able to put some of her new clinical skills to use while participating in a Chicago vision screening for underserved areas.

Abby at ICO after her white coat ceremony in fall 2023.


Abby and her family hiking in Glacier, Montana.

While trying to “balance the craziness of optometry school,” Wilhelmi says she’s putting the work in to avoid burnout as she approaches the half-way point of her school career. “Regular calls to my parents help keep me motivated,” she says, and she catches up with her sister—who she calls her “absolute best friend”—when she can. “It’s also important to take breaks; I like to spend time downtown at events or going out to eat. Even while in the midst of a difficult curriculum and wild schedule, I know it will all be worth it for my future patients.”

In her free time, Wilhelmi enjoys playing volleyball and basketball, attending workout classes and running along the Lake Michigan shore in downtown Chicago. She’s also a secretary for SVOSH. She’d love to improve her golf game and looks forward to participating in the 2024 Chicago Triathlon after the 2023 swim portion was cancelled due to dangerous lake conditions.

Abby (front right) with basketball friends/classmates after they won their intramural tournament.


Read more WO student advisory board stories here.

Read more newsmaker stories from WO here.

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