Transforming Passion into the Pursuit of What’s Next

An Interview with Dr. Christine Sindt
Christine Sindt (OD’94)

Only once in a great while does one cross paths with someone who exudes so much positive energy that it prompts you to stop and take notice. Christine Sindt (OD’94), Director of Contact Lens Services and Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Visual Science at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, is such a person. An astute clinician, prolific writer, accomplished speaker, avid researcher, and holder of seven U.S. patents, including one for EyePrint custom contact lens technology, Dr. Sindt approaches every task with unbridled curiosity and enthusiasm.

How did this energetic woman from Buffalo, New York land in the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes?  The answer: Through the halls of The Ohio State University College of Optometry.  

Question You earned your OD degree at Ohio State, then pursued a residency with the Veterans Administration. How did that come about?

I did my student rotation through the VA hospital in Columbus, Ohio. I loved working with the veterans and the clinic chief, Bob Newcomb (OD,’71, MPH), so I decided to pursue the residency position at the Cleveland VA Medical Center; however, Cleveland had its sights on a graduate from the Illinois College of Optometry. They ended up accepting us both to the program. The other applicant was Steven Sindt, OD, whom I had met at an AOA convention during our second year. We dated long distance and got married after we graduated from optometry school. So, we went from a long-distance relationship to working with each other every day. It was a happy time.

The residency was wonderful because it was multidisciplinary. It gave me a well-rounded experience and set me up for success at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. 

Question How did you find yourself at the University of Iowa?

 The AOA announced a position there. My husband is from Iowa and was excited by the prospect of being close to family. Another big reason was because of the wide scope of optometric practice in Iowa. My residency experience allowed me to walk the walk and talk the talk, so I got the position.

Question How were you accepted in the hospital environment being only the third optometrist on staff and, for a period of time, the only woman?

Because I came from Ohio State, where my class was half men and half women and did my residency at a VA hospital where the leader of optometry was an incredibly strong woman, Stacy Yaniglos (OD’77), I didn’t know there was a glass ceiling. No one in my new job ever tried to hold me down. They just didn’t understand that I could rise. 

Question You certainly have risen! Did you feel like you were breaking new ground when you were doing all this?

Not intentionally. I was trying to rise to the occasion and follow my calling. I didn’t know that I couldn’t do something, so I did it. I felt like I had the ability, so why would I not do it?
I think a key to my success was, at first, I flew very much “under the radar” in my department. It gave me freedom. I just went around and did the things that I genuinely felt in my heart were the right things to do. I like to say I was a free-range chicken! 

Question You are not afraid to take on new challenges, which is a perfect segue into the topic of you holding seven patents. What’s that process like?

 The first patent is the hardest to get, because you don’t know how to do it. Coming up with the idea or creating the pathway to make the idea come to fruition is not the hard part. That’s following your passion, your dream, your skillset. It’s the things outside your skillset that are the hardest to do.  I applied for and was awarded an unrestricted research grant offered by a contact lens manufacturer. They had many resources to guide me through the process. I learned so much. You can’t be afraid to fail. You only get better if you fail.

Question Inspiring! You are past president and founding member of Women and Vision (now Global Ophthalmic Women) and past president and co-founder of the Scleral Lens Educational Society. You are chief clinical editor for Review of Optometry and have served as ass

It’s not really about what you do, it’s about who you’re surrounded by. It’s really about doing things that you’re passionate about. When you’re doing them with the people you love, then it’s just joy. 

Question I’d like to finish by asking how did you, from Buffalo, New York, end up doing your OD training at Ohio State?

When I was a senior in college I discovered a couple things about myself. I love research, but I hate being alone. In the middle of that year, somebody talked to us about research opportunities in optometry, which was a revelation to me. I went around and talked to optometrists. They all loved their job. So, I started applying to schools. When I went to Ohio State, I thought to myself, I have found my people. 

Question What made you feel that way?

One, there was a whole university surrounding the college. That gave me the opportunity to do things outside of optometry, like sing in the campus choir. Second, they offered research opportunities. Finally, when I talked to the students, they loved it!  I felt like everyone I spoke with at the college would be genuinely happy to have me there. That’s how I want to feel in my life.

Dr. Quinn:  Chris, we are proud to have you in the Ohio State family.

Dr. Sindt:  Go Buckeyes!