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Mentors During Residency Shape Career Path

A story in our March Mentor series

hardeep kataria
Dr. Kataria

By Hardeep Kataria, OD, of Oxnard, California

During residency, Peter Lalle, OD, FAAO, and Zoe Lazarou, OD, FAAO, of the Baltimore VA Medical Center, inspired me to pursue a career in medical optometry.

Dr. Lalle was an exemplary leader as then-chief of the Eye Clinic, constantly juggling administrative duties and educating optometry residents. Most strikingly, he pushed me to consider that ocular disease does not typically present in a textbook fashion, and oftentimes, we must consider the creative ability of the human body to morph and change. When I was most impressionable in my career, I learned the valuable lesson of how to “think outside the box,” and this mindset has served me greatly in managing complex medical conditions throughout my career, even today.

Dr. Lazarou exemplified to me what it means to be a woman in optometry. She encouraged me to advocate for myself as a woman in the healthcare field, forewarned me of certain behaviors from patients that threatened my ability to perform as an eyecare practitioner and encouraged me to pursue my desired career path, regardless of how challenging it might seem. No dream was “too big,” no question “too simple” and no situation “too difficult” for a woman. She is someone I still admire, 8 years later, and I am privileged to have been her resident.

Dr. Lalle

Dr. Lazarou

My perseverance to pursue medical optometry is deeply rooted in these encouraging and inspiring mentors with whom I was lucky to train. I am proud to share that even after graduating from my school and residency programs, these mentors have significantly influenced my career decisions, often advising me on my next “career move.” I am forever grateful.

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