Notable Alumnus

Michael Earley, OD PhD
Class of 1988

June 9, 1988 was a great day. It was the day I earned my OD degree from Ohio State and the day my wife and I decided to stay in Ohio for me to continue my graduate work to pursue my PhD degree. "Let’s give it a year" was our plan then, and now, 26 years later, I realize the opportunities that began that day. My life truly has been a "But for Ohio State …" ride.

I have had the opportunity to teach 1,500 optometrists in the didactic areas of general anatomy, histological anatomy, ocular anatomy, and even in spatial perception – yes, the revered "horopter course." I have worked with Gregory Good and Kelly Nichols in a thorough curricular review and implementation of a clinical diagnostic reasoning course series, Keystone, and have since directed those courses. I teach the first year course in primary care procedures as our students prepare to serve as technicians in the second half of their first year. Teaching these talented individuals is a pleasure in itself. Having received teaching recognition from the students, the university, the American Optometric Association, and the American Academy of Optometry over the years was a tremendous honor.

Our incoming dean, Karla Zadnik, says that what defines a field as a profession (vs. a technical field) is the field’s unique contribution to research. Over the last quarter century, I have had the opportunity to help define optometry as a profession by working with colleagues like Paulette Schmidt, Marjean Kulp, and many others in research projects that have changed the way we practice optometry, e.g., Vision In Preschoolers (VIP), the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT), and Amblyopia Treatment Studies (ATS). I am currently working with Andrew Hartwick and Cayti McDaniel on a project that just might explain the neural basis of photosensitivity following traumatic brain injury. Where else but Ohio State can a Chicago southsider be given the opportunity to participate in such important endeavors?

Clinically, I served as an attending and chief of service in the Pediatrics and Binocular Vision Service and seen it grow and become a center of excellence that receives national referrals for many binocular vision issues, aniseikonia, and amblyopia. I served as part of the comanagement team at OSU in the care of patients with traumatic brain injury. Over the last two years I served as Assistant Dean of Clinical Services and had the opportunity to work more closely with our attendings and service chiefs who balance clinical care excellence and clinical teaching so well! The future of optometric education is looking very good given the team of clinical educators that has been established at Ohio State!

I have also had the honor of working with optometric leaders as a trustee on the board of the Ohio Optometric Association and the board of Optometry Alumni and Friends. Working more closely with Rick Cornett and Linda Fette convinces me that optometry has not passively moved from getting diagnostics, as it did when I was a student, to having the ability to pharmacologically treat all diseases of the visual system without a neverending amount of work from people like Rick and Linda and all the doctors who volunteer many hours to serve on boards and committees of OOA , AOA, AAO etc. It has been an honor to serve alongside these true leaders.

Of course all of this is secondary to the fact that my career has allowed me to thoroughly enjoy my life with my wife of 31 years, Tracy, and my kids Mick, Sean, and Maggie (some of you may have heard me mention them in 1 or 1,000 lectures). I could not love them more or be more proud of all of them despite the fact that, of our kids, only Maggie has decided to pursue educational opportunities at Ohio State.

Honestly, I wasn’t really sure I liked the whole "But for Ohio State" line when I first heard it, but when I look back over the last 30 years I have spent here as a professional student, graduate student, faculty member, and administrator, I have decided it is actually quite accurate. So thank you to all that so far have made this ride such a truly productive and enjoyable experience! Go Bucks!!

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