Alumni Focus on Anita Ticak (OD/MS’08)
DR. TICAK'S STORY
Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?
Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?
I could probably go on and on AND ON on this question. Hopefully most of these folks know how much I APPRECIATE them already and I know I can’t list them all so here we go:
Dr. Jeff Walline (MS’98, PhD’02). Is there a human who can do more things with so much energy, enthusiasm and willingness to help? From the first moment I heard him talk about his research I knew I had to be his T-35 (summer research) student! Not only did he teach me the basics of research but how to focus my extroverted tendencies, how to be a good colleague and that study names and colors MATTER. Always the patient guide, he is still the person I call first before I make any big career decisions … or to talk me off a ledge!
Dr. Mark Bullimore. I have the type of personality that needs a push at times. I overthink opportunities, I get stubborn about things, logistics weigh me down. Dr. Bullimore always knew how to give me that push. I was doubtful about doing the combined OD/MS program so I simply hadn’t applied. He pulled me aside and very clearly laid out all my concerns and said “ You know Anita, the sky’s the limit for you. Just know that.” Since then I have pretty much never said no to any opportunity thrown my way. He may not remember this interaction, but it’s a memory I still lean on when I am unsure of my path.
ALL MY ATTENDINGS!
I can tell you something amazing I learned from you all. As an attending now special shout outs to:
Dr. David Dawson (OD’97) : “Always go in there trying to find at least ONE thing to tell me about. ” He insisted on thoroughness and accuracy on all findings. If there was something in that eye you better find it because Dr. Dawson WILL! I borrow this philosophy when attending often and I’ll tell you what, they find things!
Dr. Jacqueline Davis (OD’81): I once saw a huge superior tear and in my excitement (and presentation) didn’t realize it was a HUGE macula off retinal detachment…and the other tears. Haven’t missed one of those again! Thanks for teaching me to calm down and get the full story.
Dr. Cynthia Heard (OD’92): You always held me to a crazy high standard. It seemed hard at the time but seriously it made me ten times the clinician. GC (good chat) Dr. Heard!
DR. TICAK'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
University of Houston College of Optometry
Clinical Associate Professor
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
So there’s a joke at UHCO that you can never find “Dr. T” in one spot, but you may just have to walk around and listen for her. I am loud and I am all over. Which I love about my job. Clinically, I may be doing sclerals and myopia control in our Specialty Contact Lens clinic, or managing a Stevens Johnson patient in our Dry Eye Clinc. Didactically I coursemaster two courses: Clinical Integration in the summer which helps students integrate classroom teaching into real life patient care using case based learning and the Contact Lens II ( Speciality Lens Theory) course in the Fall. Research wise you can find me in Dr. David Berntsen (MS'04, PhD'09)’s BLINK Lab as primary masked examiner for the UHCO site, or dabbling with our TOSI group (The Ocular Surface Institute) or VOI ( Visual Optics Instittute) with anything from soft lens studies, red eyes, to wavefront guided scleral lens implementation. I also sit on a few committees that meet regularly: Admissions, Quality Assurance and Externships. I still do direct patient cares at a local optometrist office on one or two Saturdays a month – I feel this gives me some insight to what is going on in the optometry world in the private practice level and gives me some street cred with the students that I DO know how it works “out there.” I love that I get to do so many varied things and that every day looks different!
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
My focus has intensely shifted to our students over the years. I feel a huge responsibility to set up our students for success. For me this manifests in selecting students early on for our college, making sure they are prepared for boards in the classroom, then transitioning them into successful doctors who are equipped to handle the changing climate of optometry. To be a successful optometrist you need to be dynamic and roll with the changing demands in front of you. With looming debt, decreased reimbursements and competing resources against the optometrist: their future success, our professions future success and education to the highest standard is a major concern for me.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
Funnily enough my dad suggested it. I just finished my first year of Ohio State undergrad and was struggling in a biology pre-med track. I just wasn’t pumped about it. I switched my major to psychology but still wanted a clinical setting. My dad had just finished reading a “Top Ten Future Jobs” article and said hey what about Optometry? I didn’t even know anything about optometry which is funny since I saw an ophthalmologist for lazy eye as a kid. He was rude and talked down to my parents so anything eye related gave me a bit of anxiety! I thought hey here is my chance to help other little kids with eye problems and to be a NICE doctor who explains things to parents. What a beautiful full circle story right? I then got to peds clinic in my fourth year and decided on a contact lens residency …Bless you peds people but I just CAN’T! Give me all the kones!
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
You know, I have NO idea! Ten years ago finishing optometry school I had no clue I would end up in academia. I bet no one did! I planned to do a residency and then join a group practice as a specialty lens fitter and honestly work part time and raise a family. Life totally DID NOT turn out that way for me, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Whatever I do I know it will be varied, challenging and involve working with students!
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Be good to people. Have integrity. Be a good colleague. Optometry is a very small world. This group of people, your classmates, your professors your co-workers have your back. Life took a crazy turn for me a few years ago and the first people calling me to help, letting me lean on them, supporting me at work was my optometry family. At the end of the day the relationships we have is what matters so make them count. It will lead you to success in work, family, and in life.
DR. TICAK'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
I have sort of a legendary interview story. I was scheduled on the last day of the 2004 interview cycle. Sally Haltom (who I love DEARLY) was so focused on saying my last name correctly ( it’s Ticak pronounced Tee-chuck) that when she went to introduce me to Drs. Earley (OD/MS’88, PhD’92) and Pierce (OD’89,MS’92,PhD’94) she completely blanked on my first name. Dr. Earley jumped in and said “Hey Betty so nice to meet you” so I shook his hand and assured them the pleasure was all mine and we proceeded with the entire interview with my alter ego Betty. Betty was clearly a catch because she (we?) were accepted!
What does Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
So this is the question I keep skipping because I just don’t have enough words to express this. They mean everything. Not only did I get the best optometric education possible, but I just learned so much about lifelong relationships and truly being part of something. The Christmas cards, birthday cards, just general “hey how are you doing” emails I get regularly from folks there bring me so much joy. When life got crazy for me and I had to make some big decisions for my newborn daughter and myself Dean Zadnik was the first person to call me and say “ What can we do to help you? What do you need?” This is no small thing. My daughter and I are thriving and doing well and I know my Ohio State Optometry family will be there to celebrate all our highs and catch us in all our lows. I may not be there but I try to take that spirit and TEACH it everywhere I go.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
SO funny story. I can pretty much take a few steps outside my office door to get connected. I am exceedingly lucky that UHCO has a very talented group of Buckeyes I get to call colleagues. Dr. Cayti McDaniel (OD/MS’08) originally was down here with me for a bit then left (still angry) but it’s awesome having Dr. David Berntsen (MS'04, PhD09), Dr. Kathryn Richdale (OD’02, MS’05, PhD’11), Dr. Eric Ritchey (OD’01, MS’03, PhD’11), Dr. Moriah Chandler (OD’03) and Dr. Dan Powell (MS’11, PhD’13). Dr. Mark Bullimore also has been an adjunct professor and Dr. David Berntsen’s BLINK study is connected to the BLINK crew at Ohio State putting me back in loop with my former master’s advisor Dr. Jeff Walline (see guys, small world!).
Also since I stayed in academia I attend many conferences, CE, lectures and educator events I get to see several of my favorite professors at regularly! I also correspond regularly from former classmates to get opinions on new fitting designs or dry eye treatments which I love doing! Looking forward, I am thrilled to celebrate 10 years this September at the Reunion Weekend!
DR. TICAK'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
Right now we are obsessed with the World Cup! GO CROATIA!
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Bike riding with the family is my favorite right now!
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
I dunno they just keep getting cornea and cornea….
If not an optometrist, I would be ...
A writer. Children’s books and fiction based on real life. I’ve got some stories ya’ll!