Alumni Focus on Elizabeth Bower (OD’17)
DR. BOWER'S STORY
Hamler, Ohio, is a very small town in Northwest Ohio where I grew up on our family’s agriculture farm.
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?
I graduated from Ohio State in 2013, majoring in Health Sciences with a minor in Life Sciences
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?
This is a tough one because I was positively influenced by so many people, especially while at Ohio State. Two of my biggest mentors were Dr. Joan Nerderman (OD’86) and Dr. Jackie Davis (OD’81, MPH). For Dr. Joan, I met her volunteering with a pre-optometry club event just a few weeks into my freshman year at Ohio State. I quickly felt her passion for optometry but especially how much she cared for the underserved. She led us on trips to work at Remote Area Medical sites giving eye exams to a very underserved population. Dr. Joan had such an amazing energy for working hard to see a lot of patients and give a lot of eye care, but then her motto was to also make time to relax and have fun. Then I also worked closely with Dr. Davis, who inspired me to work to serve the underserved patients and to be able to provide a high level of care to every patient who needs it.
DR. BOWER'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employers) and title, including location.
I currently work at a busy private practice called Napoleon Family Vision as an associate optometrist under Dr. Rachel Bostelman (OD’07) in Napoleon, Ohio, which is about 20 minutes away from my rural hometown.
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
I start my day at about 5:45 a.m. with getting our two kids up and ready to go for the day and try to be at the office a little before we start patients at 8 a.m. to get prepared for the day. Being in a rural setting, we see a little bit of absolutely everything, with the patients ranging in age from infant to very wise. Every room that I walk into is something different. I also really enjoy seeing pediatrics, and I have a lot of fun focusing on treatment with prism, vision therapy and working with occupational therapists to improve a patient’s binocular vision. I see a pretty fast paced schedule from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when depending on the season, I run out of the office to pick my kids up. My husband has recently joined my dad in running our family agriculture farm, where we grow wheat, beans and corn. So, depending on the season, I need to rush to get the kids and then we usually spend the evenings helping on the farm as well. After I get the kids to bed, I often have to finish some charts and wrap up for the day, which I’m thankful that I can do from home, thanks to our cloud-based EHR. Overall, the days fly by way too quickly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What does eye health, and eye care, mean for you?
My goal with every eye exam is at the end of the exam when I ask if they have any questions, their answer is “you have answered all of my questions.” I want my patients to feel how important their eyes are to me, but how important they should be to themselves and what things they can be doing to protect their vision throughout their entire life.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Right now, the scope modernization legislation is at the top of my mind here in Ohio. In Northwest Ohio, there is no full-time ophthalmologist west of Bowling Green or Toledo, so our patients have to travel to Toledo or even farther like Ann Arbor or Cleveland for treatment of minor surgical procedures that I was taught while at Ohio State. If we can modernize our scope of treatment, we can greatly increase our patients’ access to care, to keep the surgeons doing higher level surgical procedures and we can help with some of the more basic surgical procedures to better serve our patients as a team.
Children’s vision is always at the top of my mind with how many kids I see each day. I often see frustrated parents that their kids have “passed a vision screening” and they have even passed other eye exams with no problems at all, but they have been struggling a lot in school. Then I find that the child is having difficulty with how their eyes work like a team and it has been causing a whole cascade of symptoms like difficulty with reading comprehension and reversals of letters/numbers, difficulty with handwriting and focusing ability, difficulty with sports and car sickness, the list of symptoms is long. But I have been doing presentations to local teachers to spread awareness of how the eyes work together and how much kids’ binocular vision has an impact on their learning, way above simply what letters can they read on the chart. I stress to other optometrists how important it is to ask how the child is doing in reading in school, and then to really look at their binocular vision system during every comprehensive exam.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I always knew that I wanted to work in healthcare in some way, but then while in high school, the V.I.P. (Vision in Preschoolers) Study came to my county through their research program. The study was to teach people outside of optometry to screen preschooler’s eyes and I quickly noticed how much fun it was. I felt like I was simply playing games with the kids to see how their eyes were working together. Through this program, I met Dr. Rachel Bostelman, and I shadowed her along with a few other optometrists. I quickly noticed how much they all enjoyed their jobs. So from then on, I had my sights set on becoming an optometrist.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I have a passion for private practice, and I really enjoy working basically where I grew up. We just opened our new office location two years ago and we have continued to rapidly grow in our private practice. I always joke that I loved my job before, but I love it even more now that our office is so bright, beautiful, and clean. I have always dreamed of a partnership in private practice, but for now until I get a little bit more of my student loans paid off, I’m focusing on learning as much about business and bettering myself as a clinical optometrist for my patients. And as a family, we’re focusing on growing our family farm and our growing family. We have some big dreams that are in the works.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
So many good things come to mind, but my best advice is to keep learning and keep making connections. If I have a tough and interesting case. I will often tell my patients, “I have a good idea of what’s going on here (and I will explain as much as a I can) but then I say that two brains are better than one, so I’m going to consult with a friend of mine so that we can come up the best possible treatment for you.” And then when I graduated, I talked with the optometrists I was working with to find out who they referred to, from other optometrists with certain specialties and the many ophthalmologists. I then reached out to those optometrists and ophthalmologists and to my surprise, many of them wanted to take me out for a meal and get to know me. This was some of the best time that I invested early in my career, because I have now created a network of colleagues who I can confidently call friends, who I can call or text at any time and get their specialized input on a case. This has been extremely helpful for some tough cases, but it’s been amazing what I have learned from these friendships. I have loved this aspect of optometry, how it is such a close-knit profession and so many people are willing to help you learn and succeed for the betterment of our patients.
DR. BOWER'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
This is tough to pinpoint because I thoroughly enjoyed my eight years at Ohio State. I hardly missed any home football games, and my husband and I still try to go back every year for a couple of games. While in optometry school, I especially enjoyed our White Coat Ceremony, going on two mission trips to Jamaica through FCO, going on many Remote Area Medical trips, our first exams on our very own patient family members, to surviving boards with all of my friends. And then of course, everything about graduation weekend was very memorable in the best way possible.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
It means so much to us. The College of Optometry gave me such an amazing education in optometry that I was confident when I graduated to enter directly into patient care. I feel like Ohio State taught me to be a good optometrist, but most importantly I felt like it equipped me with the ambition to forever be a learner, to become a great optometrist. There is always something to learn and a better way to do things. So I have to continually be reading the newest research and be talking with my colleagues to stay at the top of our field. The college provided such a close-knit family that spreads across the entire country. I’m thankful for the lifelong friendships that I made at OSU.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
I enjoy attending association meetings. I especially enjoy the OOA’s East West Conference in the Fall, and I had the great opportunity to go to Optometry’s Meeting in Washington, D.C. this summer. I enjoy the reunions at these events and catching up with friends whom I haven’t seen in quite some time. I feel like we can pick up a conversation like we just saw each other yesterday. I also enjoy reading the Alumni magazine and hearing about the news all around the college.
DR. BOWER'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
My current hobby outside of work, is definitely raising a family. My husband, Austin, and I have been married for six years and we have two kids, Novak (named after my Mom’s maiden name) is almost five years old, Nora is two years old and we’re expecting Baby #3 in November. We always wanted a close-knit family, so we’re thankful for the beautiful crazy life that we have right now with our kids. Prior to kids, we would volunteer a lot in our church and our community in various ways, which we still try to do, but right now we’re focusing on raising our young family. I also enjoy giving back to the profession of optometry. I am the Zone Governor for Zone 11 through the OOA. I plan events for the Northwest Ohio Region to bring together optometrists in our area. My favorite event is that we plan a huge Staff Appreciation Night at the Mud Hens Game in Toledo for all of the optometry offices in Northwest Ohio and South East Michigan every June. And I also do a lot of Realeyes presentations in the schools in our area throughout the school year. I directly taught over 2,500 kids about their eyes last year alone through this amazing program.
What is your nickname?
My real name is Elizabeth, but in high school, my nick name was Beth, in undergrad, I went by Elizabeth and then in optometry school, my friends called me Elizabeth or Lizzy. So, you can quickly tell how someone knows me based on what name they call me depending on the era that they met me in.
What's the best eye pun you've ever heard?
It’s not necessarily an eye pun, but my license plate is “HELP U C” which I got the first year that I went into optometry school, so my license plate has officially been that for 10 years this year. I get so many comments on my license plate, that it’s a fun topic these day. I used to drive a cute convertible bug but now with two kids and one on the way, the fun license plate is on my Mom Van.
If not an optometrist, I would be:
Well, I’ve imagined myself being an optometrist for about as long as I can remember, so I never really dreamed up any other options. I truly love what I do; I’m thankful to enjoy my job so much!