Alumni Focus on Danielle Piser (OD’07)
DR. PISER'S STORY
Cortland, NY; Wooster, OH
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?
I attended Mercyhurst (College) University in Erie, PA, graduating in 2003. I studied biology, with a pre-med/biology focus.
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?
All the faculty at Ohio State were truly amazing and all helped make me into the doctor I am today, however, I have a few that were true mentors to me. Dr. Cynthia Heard and Dr. Jacqueline Davis taught me about the importance of compassion, diversity, and serving your community. Dr. Heard, in particular, was a spiritual mentor to me and helped me build my confidence during optometry school. Dr. Greggory Good taught me the importance of protecting patient’s vision and the impact optometry has on industry workers, pilots and those in the armed forces. Dr. Roanne Flom sparked my interest in geriatrics, low vision rehabilitation and interprofessional education. With her guidance she helped build my foundation in these areas by encouraging me to do electives at the department of human services for the blind and interprofessional education and collaboration. Dr. Gil Pierce, Dr. Jeff Walline, Dr. Mark Bullimore and Dr. Jeff Schafer had an impact on perfecting my clinical skills and also taught me the importance of having fun too!
DR. PISER'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Assistant Professor, Chief of the Sarah and Alfred Rosenbloom Center on Vision and Aging (RCVA), Illinois College of Optometry (ICO), Chicago, IL
Optometrist, Solo Eyecare Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
I start most of my days out around 6 a.m. with some type of workout (barre, cycling, yoga, weight training or running), then get my kids ready for school, drop them off, head into ICO or Solo for the day.
During my office time, I am working on patient charts, research, writing for publishable work and lectures, and working on projects/schedules for RCVA. When I am outside my office at ICO, I am working in the RCVA alongside fourth-year students as part of their disease rotation. I have three sessions in RCVA where I see geriatric exams, manage ocular disease and perform pre-operative and post-operative cataract care. I also have a low vision rehabilitation session in the spring and teach a LVR laboratory with one of our LVR residents. I also see patients in our primary care department two sessions per week working with second- and third- year students.
Once per week I work at Solo Eyecare in Bridgeport, a private practice, seeing comprehensive eye exams for glasses and contacts, managing ocular diseases, participating in emergency eyecare and working with an ICO fourth-year student on their private practice rotation.
Then I am headed home most days around 6:30 p.m. to unplug and chill with my kids for the rest of the night.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
One, is equity healthcare/health equity. I feel that every person should have equal access to healthcare, as well as to proper healthcare education. Making sure we as optometrists are doing our part to give this opportunity to everyone in our community by reaching out to provide discounted/free care to underserviced or underrepresented individuals, as well as teaching our community the importance of regular eyecare and making better lifestyle choices for a better quality of life. I hope that we can start by making small changes in optometry student’s curriculum to include more community/diversified healthcare, interprofessional education/collaboration, and lifestyle/nutritional education.
I am also passionate about learning how genetic research and testing can help eyecare providers treat and even prevent common (i.e. myopia, glaucoma, macular degeneration) and uncommon (i.e. Inherited retinal diseases (IRDs)) eye conditions.
My hope is that by providing our communities with a healthcare model focused more on prevention and education, we can serve all individuals equally and keep our communities living not only longer, but with a better quality of health.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I would say optometry was always a part of my life. At about the age of seven or eight, I was hospitalized for severe sinusitis and after I recovered, I was still having severe headaches and was struggling in school, especially in math. They suggested that I have an eye exam. After receiving glasses with around a -2.00D prescription, I remember saying to my mom in car on the ride home, “I didn’t know that you were supposed to be able to see the individual leaves on the trees.” My prescription continued to worsen to over a -10.00D and I eventually became intolerable to contact lenses and underwent ICL surgery, which changed my life.
I always knew I wanted to do something in the health care field from the time I was young and always loved science. I was lucky enough to shadow and work for Dr. Ron Pycraft in Wooster, Ohio in college and throughout optometry school. He was a true mentor and encouraged me though all of optometry school and after.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I would like to produce more publications and provide more research regarding interprofessional education in optometry schools, geriatric optometry (specifically in longevity), and eye-related genetics. I would like to see RCVA develop into more of an interprofessional workplace that includes, OT, PT, and psychology/social work, including working directly with another health professional colleges. I hope that I would have an impact on incorporating IPEC and longevity education into optometry’s curriculum.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
You don’t have to have everything figured out when you graduate. Be open to all opportunities and think outside of the box when it comes to developing your career.
DR. PISER'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
The friends I made for sure!! We all studied together and supported each other through all the ups and downs life and optometry school brought to us.
The tailgates, AOA conferences, EastWest conferences, Bad Habits concerts, the EYE house, and so much more!
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
The Ohio State University has always had a special place in my heart and my family’s. My aunt, Debbie Rush (Brestcher) was a diver at OSU back in the ‘80s and received her doctorate in physical education here. She met her husband, Nathan Brestcher (OSU swim team) there as well. So, I grew up being a Buckeye fan!! I feel incredibly privileged to say that I graduated from The Ohio State University College of Optometry!
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
I have been honored to be able to speak twice at EastWest and I have been able to catch up with a lot of faculty and alumni during this time. Working in academia, I am able to stay connected with Dr. Roanne Flom and my classmate Dr. Bradley Dougherty, as well as being able to catch up with Ohio State Optometry friends by planning trips and talking on the phone or setting up group Zoom calls.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you about patient care?
It has taught me the importance of preventive care and keeping regular appointments. Because of COVID-19, a lot of my patients decided to wait almost 2+ years to be seen, and I noticed that their eye conditions had worsened as well as their overall health. In some of my patients, this has had a tremendous impact on their quality of life because they had permeant vision loss or had developed impactful systemic conditions, such as strokes.
DR. PISER'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
I love to be outside as much as possible. I love to hike, run, bike and ski. I have also really gotten into Pilates, cycling and barre lately to help more with my balance and flexibility. Since my joints have taken quite the beating over the years, these types of exercises are gentler on my body and keep my cortisol levels down, decreasing inflammation in my body.
I love being with my kids, Jackson (boy) 8 and Charlie (girl) 10. We love movies and going on different adventures in the city and traveling to see family around the U.S.
What is a fun, random fact about you?
I did a figure competition during my fourth year of optometry school (thanks Alison Palmer and Erica Carder Johnson for helping me prepare and being my biggest cheerleaders). I had to eat so much protein during my training that I use to carry chicken in Ziplock baggies to eat during clinic!!
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
If not an optometrist, I would be …
A personal trainer and nutritionist.