Nitya Murthy is a member of the inaugural class at the Kentucky College of Optometry–University of Pikeville. Not only is living in rural Kentucky a dramatic change from the Miami, Florida, community where she grew up, but it’s quite a different direction than she first envisioned for herself, moving more into the research field. “I interviewed here and saw that there was so little health care available for these coal miners and their families and other sick people. The infrastructure just isn’t here.”
Murthy, who says she likes to “build things,” realized she hit on a winning idea. “We can help create sustainable care here,” she says. “Kentucky has an amazing expanded scope of practice, so that’s a big draw. Practicing in a state that allows optometrists to do yag capsulotomies and some laser surgeries is a way we can distinguish ourselves.”
The school’s clinics are booked; many of the patients come from miles around, and most are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
She’s become used to the quiet. “I can make it work with limited coffee shops and restaurants,” she says, although she would like to find a community after her 2021 graduation where she’s a few hours closer to an airport. “I’m very happy in a small place. My patients appreciate me, and the people here have touched me. I’m hopeful that we can build something better for them, not just with us coming in but in creating a community that nurtures people to become health care providers themselves through opportunities for local high school and undergraduate students.”