Alumni Focus on Ashley Tuan (OD/MS’94)
DR. TUAN'S STORY
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and grew up in Hong Kong, but I have spent most of my life in the United States.
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 have fond memories of how the entire faculty team was so enthusiastic about teaching and how their passion for the subjects they taught was so contagious.
Dr. Ron Jones was my Opt7 advisor, he guided me to set a great foundation in research methodology training. Dean Hill, Dr. John Schoessler (BS’66,MS’68,PhD’71)) and Dr. Paulette Schmidt’s (OD'72, MS'76) support were also essential during this development process. Dr. Nick Fogt (OD/MS’92, PhD’96), Dr. Robert Steffen (OD’93, MS’95) and Dr. Loretta Szczotka (OD/MS’92) were my Opt7 program role models. Dr. Sally Dillehay (OD/MS’86) opened up my eyes to the world of optics and ophthalmic optics. Dr. Joe Barr (OD’77, MS’79) and Dr. Lisa Badowski (OD’88, MS’90) made the contact lens field fun.
DR. TUAN'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Vice President of Medical Devices
Mojo Vision, Saratoga, California
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
There is so much you can do to apply your optometric training and knowledge in the ophthalmic industry. When it is a start-up company, I also get to wear many hats. My fundamental responsibility is to make sure our ophthalmic product is well designed so it is safe, comfortable and the users can benefit from it.
My day can be very different depending on which stage we are as a company.
At the product definition and planning stage, my team and I identify what the patients need, how doctors will adapt to the product, how to gain regulatory approval and how the product will reach practitioners. During the product development stage, we design the product so it will be safe, comfortable, easy to use and effective. Of course, clinical research is essential during this process. Feasibility clinical studies help product iterations and clinical trials validate the product design.
When the product launch is coming up, my focus will shift to planning professional education and training.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
How optometry can stay relevant to be the go-to professional in terms of vision care.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
My father has Bietti crystalline dystrophy, and there wasn’t much for the doctors to do for him. I wanted to understand the eyes and contribute to the profession of vision care.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
When I think of my career, I often think of Forrest Gump’s quote “Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get." I do not know what the next one will be, but I make my decision based on how yummy it looks. That means I ask myself, "Will the job be meaningful, and will I learn from doing the job?" I believe through continued growth, the next fun opportunity will always be within reach.
When I was working on my PhD in Vision Science, I thought I would be a researcher in an optometry school. It turned out my first job after the program was to help design and initiate the clinical trial of an anti-VEGF (Lucentis at Genentech/Roche) treatment for wet AMD. After that, I was part of the team in the development of wavefront driven corneal ablation, including the first FDA approved hyperopic presbyopia shape at AMO (JnJ). I had the opportunity to manage the development of myopia control lens, MiSight (CooperVision), received CE clearance, then launched the product with the marketing team outside of the U.S. My vision science experience then took me to lead the vision research and clinical efforts on an accommodative IOL product (PowerVision). These experiences may appear very scattered, but they are all delicious chocolate morsels for me; they have expanded my abilities and horizon while I was having fun.
In five years, I hope the product my team and I are currently working on will be embraced by practitioners and serving many satisfied users because our product improved their quality of life.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Having been through the Ohio State College of Optometry education system, I know you can learn anything you set your mind to learn. Do not stay in your comfort zone. Continue to take on challenges that interest you and expand your skills. The optometric profession is continuously evolving, and you might as well help shape the future.
DR. TUAN'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
There are so many memories in Room 33, clinics and all corners of the Fry Hall; meeting other optometry students at AOA and NOA conferences; and late night chit chats in study groups with my friends. One particular event may help exemplify the friendly and supportive group of classmates and teachers I had while in school. The day before my master's thesis was due, my computer crashed and I lost the changes I made on my last version (where were you, Google Docs?). I was in a panic as I had clinic that afternoon, so I wouldn’t have had enough time to rewrite. Christine Wiles (Sindt) (OD’94) went to spread the word and the next thing I knew, my classmates volunteered to take on my patients with the instructor’s approval.
What does Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
Not only was the College of Optometry a formative part of my life (permanently confused which way is right hand side), The Ohio State University is part of my family roots. My father, uncle, brother and I are all Buckeyes. I can predict with certainty what each of us will be doing on the day of the Big Game no matter where we are in the world.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
Thanks to my job, I get to attend optometric conferences; I enjoy the opportunity to catch up and stay in touch with the faculty and alumni.
DR. TUAN'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
I am on the board of directors for the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, a non-profit organization in the Bay Area. I apply my optometric knowledge and start-up fundraising skills to help maximize the number of patients the center can serve. I am also interested to bring high-tech solutions to these patients.
I took on Taiko drumming a few years ago as a form of exercise and am addicted to it. It provides a great way to stretch my body, an aerobic workout, and at the same time, a mindfulness practice.
As a family, we love to travel and see the world.
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
The first concert I attended at Ohio State was Pink Floyd.
The most recent concert I attended was at the SAP Center (San Jose, CA), also Pink Floyd. I was surprised that I was not the youngest in the stadium.
Luckily, my 11-year-old son keeps me current. We will go see Sean Mendes to celebrate his birthday.
What are you looking forward to the most with springtime around the corner?
Wild California poppy blooming on the hills.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
No eye-deer ;-0