Home New Meet the Student Advisory Board: Gracie Dorschner, AZCOPT

Meet the Student Advisory Board: Gracie Dorschner, AZCOPT

Gracie Dorschner

Gracie Dorschner admits she had a rough start to optometry school. She tore a ligament in her knee just a month before her nearly 1,500 mile move from Minnesota to Arizona. As she attended her first courses at Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry (AZCOPT), Dorschner was on crutches after having a full knee reconstruction and juggling what would be a year of physical rehabilitation.

“I couldn’t drive for three months, so getting to and from classes and other school events was a challenge,” she says. Even though her aunt lives just a few minutes from the classes, she “hated to feel like a burden to family and friends” with her busy schedule, so her time on campus during her first year was “limited to tutoring and classes” while others were forming study groups, she says.

With appointments cutting into study time and being on heavy pain medication, Dorschner struggled to keep up. Her grades quickly went to a C-average. “Being on the quarter system at AZCOPT means we move very, very fast,” she says.


Dorschner with her parents and fiance at her white coat ceremony, sporting her knee brace.

But Dorschner had reasons to keep going, she says, including a cousin who suffers from ocular albinism. As she realized how frustrating it was to rely on others for transportation, Dorschner sympathized with her cousin, who was under driving restrictions as a corrected 20/100. With her motivation renewed, Dorschner’s grades quickly improved to As and Bs, and her relationships with her professors grew, too.

Just recently, in a course taught by Florencia J. Yeh, OD, FAAO, Dorschner learned about contact lenses that could improve vision in people with ocular albinism. After a personal recommendation from Dr. Yeh for a cornea specialist nearby, Dorschner’s cousin is now a treated 20/50.

“If it wasn’t for me being in optometry school and learning about new developments in the field, my cousin would’ve settled for 20/100 vision,” Dorschner says. This was a reminder for the self-proclaimed “lover of the constant grind” that she could “help people, as cliché as it sounds.”


Dorschner and her fiance Jake

While the second-year student now looks forward to specializing in working with children, Dorschner says she still struggles with comparing herself to others. “A lot of my high school and undergrad peers are now starting their lives, having kids and working full-time jobs,” she says. “They are ‘growing up’ and I feel left behind.”

She says the best thing to do in that situation is to remember you’re exactly where you are supposed to be. “I know it’s going to work out. And to my younger self—we’re doing it, and we didn’t need honors English after all.”

Staying busy helps, too. “It helps to always have something on the calendar to pass the time, whether that’s an exam or fun weekend plans.” Right now for Dorschner, that includes planning for her August 2024 wedding and looking for a residency after graduation. “I just can’t wait to be a doctor!”


Read introduction stories about the other student advisory board members here.

Read more newsmaker stories from WO here.

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