Name: Grace Ji 2025 Student Visionary Spotlight

Class Year: 2025

List the award(s) / scholarship(s) you have received
Milton Scholarship

What does receiving this award or scholarship mean to you?
This scholarship has meant a world of difference in my life as a student. Optometry has challenged me to continue to grow and advocate for the change I wish to see in the world. The scholarship has alleviated my student debt burden which will help me focus on providing the best patient care and expand my opportunities in the future. I am thankful and inspired by the generosity of my school and my donor, Ms. Phyllis Milton, who has supported my dreams and goals in unimaginable ways. I hope to make them, my family, my friends, and my community proud and give back when I am a future optometrist.

What drew you to the field of optometry?
I was exposed to optometry in my freshman year of college through CSTEP run by a team of wonderful SUNY Staff and Dr. Quy Nguyen, director of Minority Enrichment. I was able to get a glimpse of optometry during my two week program, and after that, I began to pursue more opportunities to get involved in optometry through shadowing various private practices and volunteering in Vision Rehabilitation Research at NYU Langone. It has not been an easy journey, but I have experienced endless support, kindness, and encouragement from my school and through the CSTEP program that allowed me to get where I am today.

What are your plans following graduation?
After graduation, I plan to work in a private practice in Queens, New York. As a native New Yorker, I understand the various socioeconomic challenges involved in healthcare. As a student, I have volunteered in community health outreach programs through vision screenings, and I plan to continue that in the future. Seeing the diversity and spirit of New York, I know that there is a lot of need to be met, and I hope to see people of all backgrounds and ages flourish through compassionate, culturally sensitive vision care.

What was your most transformative experience during optometry school?
My most memorable experience was walking a patient back to the waiting room one day while shadowing in my first year. I ended up having a transformative conversation about my patient’s dream to spend the rest of her days reading books. Her grandmother had been a librarian and passed down a love for reading and a collection of books. The patient came in with issues with their new glasses that prevented them from reading these books clearly. She was so passionate about needing her vision to read, and I was moved by the desire to help her reach her goals. Each patient has a history, a story, and a fulfilling life to live that requires the best vision possible to experience. I hope to find the story in every patient like the one I shared and use that in every future patient interaction going forward.

What advice would you give incoming or prospective optometry students?
No one is an island! Everyone is only where they are thanks to others. My parents, friends, mentors, teachers, church, friends, scholarship donor, SUNY Optometry family, and God have all brought me to where I am today! I am eternally grateful for the opportunities and knowledge they have all given me. I hope that future optometry students see everyone and everything that paved the way for them to be where they are now. My advice is to continue the legacy by showing loving support to other students, their patients, their community, and the profession.