Name: Aileen Lee 2022 Student Visionary Spotlight

Class Year: 2022

What is your specialty or area of focus (if applicable)?
Vision Rehabilitation

List the award(s) / scholarship(s) you have received
College of Optometrists in Vision Development Award for Excellence in Vision Therapy

What does receiving this award or scholarship mean to you?
It means so much to me to receive this award! I feel honored that I get to be a part of such an amazing specialty like vision rehabilitation that really does amazing work for patients. I've had so many patients tell me that they didn't even know that the problems or insecurities they had were something they could work on in therapy -- and that finding SUNY VT was the first time they actually found some answers. I love that! I want to continue giving answers or helping as much as I can.

What drew you to the field of optometry?
This may be an unconventional answer but I shadowed lots of professions before I decided on optometrist -- and I genuinely can say I never saw an unhappy optometrist! I love the fact that optometrists can see patients and interact with patients directly, and not just a hi-bye but actually having conversations to treat and manage ocular or visual issues! I love that we have this role as the first line of defense -- being able to detect undiagnosed diabetes or other systemic diseases through an eye exam. So many things!

What are your plans following graduation?
I'm planning on doing a residency back at SUNY Optometry in Vision Rehabilitation! I'm so excited to be working with the same doctors that first instilled my passion in the specialty.

What was your most transformative experience during optometry school?
One of the most transformative experiences during optometry school was the very first time I graduated a vision therapy patient. When I first met her, she was feeling frustrated because she felt like she was hitting a plateau and that her insecurity about her eye turn was never going to go away. Week after week, we worked on her skills, setting personal goals and individualizing her therapy. I saw her gradual improvement and growth in her confidence with each session. On her graduation day, she was ecstatic, sharing that she led an in-person meeting at her work without fear. It made me so proud to see that we not only helped her gain control of eye turn, which had been an insecurity for her for years, but also give her the confidence to live her daily life. It showed me exactly why I wanted to be in optometry and why I love what vision rehabilitation can do for patients.

What advice would you give incoming or prospective optometry students?
Advice I would give to incoming optometry students is to really try to build connections and a support system for yourself! Optometry school is no joke -- it's harder than any of us anticipated, I think. I don't think I could have survived it without my friends and my classmates. You don't ever have to go through it alone or feel like you're all in it by yourself!!