Alumni Focus on Bethany Martinez ('04)
DR. MARTINEZ'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?
Dr. Nicklaus Fogt (OD/MS’92, PhD’96)’s posterior segment disease course was by far one of my favorite classes. I loved hearing about his experiences during his VA rotation. He helped bridge the gap between the learning textbook ocular disease and encountering it in clinic. He confirmed my interest in applying for a VA residency.
Dr. Roanne Flom’s low vision rehabilitation course was extremely thorough and engaging. She was also very hands-on in the low vision clinic and I enjoyed observing her interact with low vision patients. She also arranged for me to complete an additional low vision rotation with the Vision Center of Central Ohio, which solidified my desire to practice low vision.
DR. MARTINEZ'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Birmingham VA Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
Title: Director, Low Vision Optometry and Optometry Residency Supervisor
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
My typical day involves supervising two hard-working residents in the Birmingham VA Medical Center. They provide eye examinations and low vision evaluations in our VA Low Vision Outpatient Clinic, the VA Southeastern Blind Rehabilitation Center and VA Optometry Clinic. In a typical day we may:
- Train a profoundly vision impaired patient on an optical character reader
- Review accessibility technology and prescribe a CCTV to a patient with advanced macular degeneration
- Manage a patient with an acute 6th cranial nerve palsy
- Diagnose a patient with glaucoma and initiate treatment
- Diagnose a patient with legal blindness and begin coordination of services
- Host fourth-year optometry externs to observe in the low vision clinic
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Keeping our veterans in-house so we may continue to provide high quality, continuous care within the VA.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I worked for two local optometrists while in high school and college and saw firsthand how our profession can make an impact in patients’ lives. It can be frightening when something is wrong with your vision. I wanted to be able to serve and educate patients about their vision and ocular health.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I hope to be in the same position helping veterans and educating residents. I am motivated to stay current in the areas of low vision rehabilitation and ocular disease so I can pass that knowledge onto my residents.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
I would recommend they strongly consider completing a residency. They won’t regret it and they’ll receive a valuable clinical education that will create numerous opportunities. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my residency experience!
DR. MARTINEZ'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
I lived at the Epsilon Psi Epsilon house for three years and had some wonderful times there! While my husband was deployed to Iraq in 2001, my housemates supported me and kept me busy during that stressful time. I’ll always fondly remember skit night, gazing at all the alumni photos that hung in the hallways and spending time with my classmates.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
The College of Optometry is where I earned a top-notch education and formed lifelong friendships. I grew up an Ohio State fan with my family in Lucasville, and my grandparents lived just outside of campus. I got to visit my grandparents often and used to study for optometry exams at their house. I treasure my time with them and will forever be grateful for my time spent at Ohio State.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
Reunions! A group of my classmates makes an effort to get to each Ohio State Optometry reunion. Drs. Julie Thums (OD’04), Tori Flood (OD’04), Quynh Duong (OD’04) and I bunked together in Columbus in October 2019 for our 15th year class reunion. I’ve also hauled my family to drive to northern Wisconsin, where Drs. Thums and Flood live, twice for much needed girl time and shoptalk while our families hang out.
2020 is Optometry’s year! How are you making this year special?
Due to COVID-19, I’m especially concerned about my elderly veterans. I plan to do everything I can to make their low vision evaluations and eye exams productive and safe.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you about patient care?
Our blind rehabilitation center, which offers inpatient training for veterans who are severely vision impaired, is currently closed due to COVID-19. I have spoken with veterans over the past several months who are trying to adjust to vision loss while being isolated. Our rehabilitation staff is reaching out to these veterans via telemedicine, but nothing can replace face-to-face blind rehabilitation. We’re anxious to get the center open in a safe manner so we can continue to serve these deserving veterans.
DR. MARTINEZ'S FUN FACTS
Tell us about your first-ever eye exam.
It was at a traditional office with leather chairs in the waiting room and vintage art hanging on the walls. I tried to fail a couple of the eye tests so I could get glasses, but the doctor caught on quickly and reassured my mother my eyes were fine.
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
I love to spend time with family, hike, antique shop and travel. I’m a longtime volunteer for Cahaba Valley Health Care and Project Homeless, providing vision screenings to individuals who are underserved.
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
My most recent concert was at Oak Mountain amphitheater: Journey with the Doobie Brothers opening. So. Much. Fun.
If not an optometrist, I would be ...