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Want to Make a Big Impact? Consider Teaching

By Jenelle Mallios, OD, FAAO

As the Chief of Pediatrics at the State University of New York’s (SUNY) University Eye Center (UEC), I enjoy my time seeing patients in the clinic and teaching optometry students. Working in academia is exceptionally rewarding because the impact you have is not only with the patients in your chair, but also with all of the future patients that your student interns-turned-doctors will be seeing. It’s a ripple effect, and it’s been rewarding to see the students grow. They put in lots of hard work and dedication, and by graduation day, there’s been a transformation.

Academia is not a typical career path that one may consider when they start optometry school. I had not considered it, but the journey has been exciting thus far. I was hired by the head of the pediatric ophthalmology department at Tufts Medical Center following my pediatric residency at New England College of Optometry (NECO), where I worked in hospitals, community health centers, and Perkins School for the Blind. During my time at Tufts, I was also an adjunct professor for NECO supervising optometry students one day a week, and I also had the opportunity to work with ophthalmology residents either through lecturing to them or as they rotated through our Pediatric clinic. I enjoyed being able to make these connections in this type of setting (MDs, ODs), and it sparked my interest to continue working in academia in a full-time faculty member.

Three years after my residency, I made the move to SUNY/UEC in August 2014. I started as an assistant clinical professor, and have transitioned into my current role as Chief of Pediatrics Service. My position also allowed me the opportunity for research in the area of myopia control and standardizing pediatric optotypes, to a name a few. Most recently, I was the lead optometrist on a team analyzing animal models with amblyopia to see the response of their visual cortex after spending days in a dark setting. We’ve replicated a similar test on adult humans to see if their amblyopic eyes can see again.

There is less time for research in my new position, so I’ve phased out of many of the larger projects that I worked on in the past. I supervise fourth-year interns in four different clinics as well as our own pediatric, vision therapy, ocular disease, and primary care residents. I am the Instructor of Record for the Pediatric Optometry and Vision Development course for third year OD students and teach a Pediatric Ocular Disease elective. Outside the UEC, I spend some time reviewing journals and articles through KMK and CE courses through SUNY.

Being an educator keeps me on the top of my game. We follow closely along with the most recent research, publications, technology and educators to become even better optometrists. It is imperative to have that knowledge in order to keep our students up-to-date on what is new. Students always ask great questions, and it keeps us on our toes. The healthy challenge is really enjoyable for me as well as the variety I have in a given week. I continue to enjoy patient care, but there is a certain satisfaction that I receive when educating OD students and seeing their growth through their careers.

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