Alumni Focus on Bryce St. Clair (OD'19)
DR. ST. CLAIR'S STORY
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?
I graduated with a degree in Romance Languages and Linguistics from The Ohio State University in 2015. I was pre-optometry from day 1, so I also took all the same pre-reqs as my classmates.
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 loved so many of the faculty members and staff. After chatting with optometry alumni from other colleges and universities, I see how fortunate I was to have the mentorship and friendships that were unique to Ohio State Optometry.
Drs. Jackie Davis and Dean VanNasdale were probably my two biggest mentors at Ohio State Optometry. Although I am in contact with many other faculty members (Ann Morrison, Kelsy Steele, Cayti McDaniel, Aaron Zimmerman, Nicky Lai, and Vondolee Delgado-Nixon, aka VDN), Drs. Davis and VanNasdale were the ones who both inspired me and encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree in Public Health. They showed me that advocacy and legislation have a far larger impact on eye care than eye examinations alone.
DR. ST. CLAIR'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
I am an Instructor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
As a member of the comprehensive division of Wilmer, my job is to provide routine and medical eye care to patients in the Baltimore area. I manage post-ops, take on emergency visits, and receive referrals from internal medicine, infectious disease, neurology, and other departments to perform medical eye examinations. I also provide surgical cases through referrals for my ophthalmology colleagues.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Vision plan reimbursement. Cost of living continues to increase while vision plan reimbursements continue to decrease. As eye care providers, we should be moving toward a medical model of optometry. Ohio State’s education on coding and billing for medical eye care (multimodal imaging techniques, medical exam visits, sensorimotor exams, etc.) allowed me to practice the way I want while being reimbursed fairly for the education and training I went through during my doctoral education.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn’t know which one I should be. I remember first shadowing my optometrist in my hometown when I was fifteen. He loved his job, and his patients loved him. He did everything from pediatric exams and foreign body removals to glaucoma management and vision screenings. He had a fantastic quality of life, and he wasn’t stuck in an OR all day. The choice was easy!
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I am excited to announce that Johns Hopkins will be matriculating its first optometry resident this spring. Over the next five years, I hope to rank up as an assistant professor of ophthalmology and continue to provide exceptional optometry resident education to the next generation of ODs.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Do a residency while you can! During residency education, you cannot “punt” difficult cases. The doctors you work will teach you the problem-solving skills they use to tackle tough cases and hold you accountable to a higher standard of clinical education now that you’re a licensed doc. You must rise to the occasion as a new clinician, not refer out.
DR. ST. CLAIR'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
Having one-on-ones with professors. The faculty at Ohio State treat their students like future colleagues and friends. They care about your mental health, your dreams, and your ambitions. They want you to succeed. I can’t thank them enough for being so available and supportive over the years.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
Choosing THE Ohio State University is the best decision I ever made. I spent eight glorious years as a Buckeye and moved 580 miles from my hometown to do so. It was through Ohio State that I grew into the clinician I am today. Ohio State recognized my potential and gave me the opportunity and tools I needed to become great. Thanks for the investment!
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
In between patients, I will check out the college’s website to learn about new faculty, students, or school initiatives. I also look forward to reading the alumni magazine.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you about patient care?
There’s a difference between a problem and an inconvenience. Neovascular glaucoma? That’s a problem. Waiting for a new contact lens Rx? That’s an inconvenience.
DR. ST. CLAIR'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
I currently live in Baltimore’s historic Little Italy neighborhood. I’m an active member of the neighborhood association, and I love it! We meet monthly to plan social events, neighborhood cleanups, and renovation projects to keep the neighborhood vibrant.
What is a fun, random fact about you?
I speak four languages: English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese!
What’s the best eye joke you’ve ever heard?
Patient: I keep getting a stabbing pain in my eye every time I touch it.
Dr. Earley: Then stop doing that.
If not an optometrist, I would be …
A linguist! I had an identity crisis in undergrad where I didn’t know if I wanted to get a PhD in linguistics or stay the course of becoming an optometrist. I loved learning foreign languages, but then my mother offered me some sage advice: why choose? Now I provide eye care to patients in four different languages, and I have never felt like I have made more of an impact.