Alumni Focus on Cory Lappin (OD/MS’18)
DR. LAPPIN'S STORY
New Philadelphia, Ohio
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?
Miami University, BS in Zoology
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 owe a tremendous amount to everyone at the college including the faculty, administration, and staff. Thanks to them, I truly believe I received the best optometric education possible. Drs. Mike Earley and Greg Nixon were repositories of scientific and clinical knowledge. Dr. Joan Nerderman inspired me to compassionately care for patients and take on any clinical challenge that presented itself when I rotated through the Faith Mission clinic. Drs. Jeff Walline and T.J. Plageman were my scientific mentors through the T35 and master’s degree programs, which have been invaluable in my work with industry to this day. And Dean Karla Zadnik was an excellent model of strong leadership with an ability to rally others around her.
DR. LAPPIN'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
I am an associate optometrist at Phoenix Eye Care and the Dry Eye Center of Arizona in Phoenix, Arizona, where I work with Dr. Shannon Steinhäuser and worked with the late Dr. Art Epstein.
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
I spend the majority of my time in the office seeing dry eye patients and running our dedicated dry eye and ocular surface disease clinic. What this looks like can vary depending on the day, it can be anything from seeing a patient for a new dry eye evaluation to performing advanced treatment procedures like IPL, LipiFlow, or TearCare, or working on clinical trials. While I also see patients for routine care, we are a heavy medical practice so these exams typically involve some level of disease management as well.
Once I leave the office for the day, my non-clinical optometry work begins. I write for the digital eye care publication Eyes On Eyecare and also serve on its editorial board, so my evenings may involve reviewing articles or writing one of my own. Additionally, I lecture on dry eye and ocular surface disease and work with industry, so my evening may involve presenting a dinner lecture or jumping on a consultation call. I also volunteer with the Arizona Optometric Association and am a member of the board of Directors and serve as the chair of our membership committee, so some nights I am on Zoom calls planning events or working with other board members.
All of this keeps me busy, but I love the variety that a career in optometry provides and I find enjoyment in each area!
What does eye health, and eye care, mean for you?
Our vision is how we interact with the world around us, and many would agree it is our most important sense – there is a reason more people fear blindness than premature death! However, we often take our eyes and visual health for granted, that is until there is a problem. To me eye care is helping to prevent those problems that threaten our most precious sense from ever happening in the first place, and working to fix the problem when they do.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Stagnant reimbursement from vision care plans is a major concern, as it is forcing many optometrists to pack their schedules tighter and tighter just to keep their heads above water. Another concern is baseless political attacks on the core of our professional identity, like the one we just saw in Florida. Thankfully, that bill ultimately failed, but unwarranted legislative attacks like this divert resources away from advancing our profession and continuing to provide the best care possible for our patients.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
My decision to pursue optometry is a fairly typical story. I was a myopic preteen but thought I could see just fine, until I failed my school vision screening. But once I got my first pair of glasses, it felt like the world went from standard to high definition – I could see the texture on bricks and the individual leaves on trees. And when I got contact lenses, my appreciation for the ability to correct vision only grew. My mom is a retired nurse, so I was exposed to the medical field from a young age, and a high school anatomy class solidified by interest in pursuing a career in healthcare, and given my own experience as a high myope, optometry was the perfect fit.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
Over the next five years I ultimately plan on seeing dry eye and ocular surface disease patients exclusively. There is a huge need for care for this patient population, and it is a part of eye care I am incredibly passionate about, so I plan to continue dedicating my focus to this area. Additionally, I would like to continue writing, lecturing, and working with industry and eventually make the transition to practice ownership as well.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Don’t be afraid to do something different. At the time I graduated, the idea of having a dedicated dry eye clinic was unheard of and many said it could not be done. However, what I was seeing day in and day out as a student told me otherwise. I was then fortunate enough to work with Dr. Bill Faulkner in Cincinnati Eye Institute’s dry eye clinic during my residency and ultimately meet, and work with, the late Dr. Art Epstein who was a world-leader in dry eye care and one of the first to have a practice exclusively focused on treating dry eye patients. So, if you have an idea that seems unconventional or does not seem to exist, don’t be afraid to pursue it. The beauty of optometry is there is no one way to practice, and in my experience, those who have gone off the beaten path have been some of the most successful.
DR. LAPPIN'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
There are almost too many to count – but some of the best were going to tailgates and Buckeye football games, EYE skit nights, meals with our SocialEyes group, sky diving, completing a Tough Mudder race, late night gaming sessions, and taking several trips with my classmates. But between these big moments, I can say I enjoyed talking with friends between classes or on our way back to the parking lot after clinic just as much.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean a tremendous amount to me. Not only did it provide me with the best optometric education possible that allowed me to get to where I am today, but it is where I made lifelong friends. I met my partner, who is also an Ohio State grad, at a classmate’s wedding. And everywhere I go, even all the way across the country, I feel like I still have my Buckeye family.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
I stay connected with the college through social media, the alumni magazine, and alumni receptions at conferences. I love catching up with everyone in person whenever possible!
DR. LAPPIN'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
In my free time I enjoy hiking, trail running, swimming, and weight lifting. Another one of my favorite things to do, especially when traveling, is to try new foods and restaurants as I found this is one of the best ways to quickly learn about a place and its culture.
What is a fun, random fact about you?
My first job was at a small amusement park, so I was essentially a carnie. So, if you need someone to operate a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, or rollercoaster then I’m your man!
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
What do you call a horse with one horn and one eye? A uni-cornea.
If not an optometrist, I would be …
I like to tell myself I would be an actor or screenwriter.