Alumni Focus on Elizabeth Cockerill (OD'09)
DR. COCKERILL'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. Joan Nerderman (OD’86) was an attending in both my third-year primary care clinic and fourth-year outreach clinic at Faith Mission. I liked how she taught us in a practical, “real world” manner, how to treat patients with compassion, and how to have fun along the way!
Dean Karla Zadnik – how could you not get excited about optometry after hearing one of her speeches?? She always sparks excitement after interacting with her and motivates me to feel like I can do anything I set my mind to.
Dr. Jeff Myers (OD’84) – I was fortunate to be an extern during my fourth year at his office. He taught me about the business side of the profession and also motivated me to continue to be involved with the profession beyond graduation.
Dr. Beth Muckley (OD’97) and Dr. Bill Rudy (OD’91) – They both made me a better clinician during my time at their busy practice as a fourth-year extern. It was during my externship with them when I started to consider doing an ocular disease residency; they kept telling me I could and should do it, and so I did and am so grateful they pushed me to do so.
Dr. Dave Bejot (OD’93) – My residency director at The Eye Center of Toledo. He furthered my knowledge and clinical skills, showed me that optometrists can absolutely practice alongside ophthalmologists as equals, and how to critically think through difficult patients.
DR. COCKERILL'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Mid Ohio Eye (OD, Columbus, Ohio)
Complete Eye Care West (OD, Columbus, Ohio)
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
One of the primary reasons I was drawn to a career in optometry was the option to have a wide variety in my day. Every day is different; I encounter comprehensive exams, ocular pathology, contact lens fits, double vision, red eyes, a sprinkling of low vision examinations, etc., and see patients of all ages. Also, I work with general ophthalmologists in both settings; so I see cataract and LASIK postops at all stages of their surgical journies.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
In addition to the ongoing discussion about online “eye exams,” what concerns (and annoys) me most is the unknown of how insurance companies will dictate how optometry will fit into the medical model of healthcare in the future. We need to continue to support our state and national associations so they can be our voice to make sure we’re not left off the provider list on a patient’s insurance panel. I run into this constantly; when a long-term patient whom I’ve seen for years under their routine vision plan comes in with a medical issue but I have to have one the of ophthalmologists examine them because their insurance plan won’t allow optometrists onto the panel. I work near two large hospital systems whose employees' medical insurance plans doesn’t allow ODs on there, only the vision. This happens on a weekly basis and I fear if our profession doesn’t constantly have a presence at the legislative level, it could happen with more insurance plans.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I was “lucky” to become nearsighted and need glasses in third grade. When I was a junior in high school, my optometrists, Dr. Leah McConnaughey (OD’00) and Dr. Ralph Williams (BS’65) (both Ohio State Optometry alumni, Hillsboro, Ohio practice) asked me what I’d be doing after high school. I was always interested in math and science, and wanted to do something in the medical field (but not go to medical school) so they suggested I shadow them one day. They were kind enough to hire me to work there the summer before college; I liked how they formed long lasting relationships with their patients and could make an instant impact on someone’s life. I decided that summer that it was the right career for me.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I truly enjoy working alongside the ophthalmologists in our office. I’d love to be doing more low vision evaluations, as there is such a need for it and even though frustrating at times for both the doctor and patient, it can be most rewarding too. I’d also like expand our externship program relationship with Ohio State Optometry to host more externs.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Get involved and become a member with your local, state and national optometric associations. You will make connections that will only better your professional and personal life. I never knew how much legislation affected our profession until I attended the AOA Lobby day in Washington, DC as a second-year student. In order to ensure our profession has laws in place to protect us and our patients, we need to be present and have a strong membership to show legislators how important our issues are.
DR. COCKERILL'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
EYE provided lots of memorable moments – especially skit night. Here’s hoping those videos don’t resurface anytime soon! The Pirate Party on the Santa Maria ship downtown was one of my favorite events while in school.
I feel fortunate that our class had the unique experience of being in the TBDTOBITL (the best d*** temporary optometry building in the land) as first-year students while the college was being renovated. This forced our class to spend more time together than we would have otherwise, and we made some great memories, with “Shaheen Week” being one of the highlights.
I was fortunate to attend the legislative conference with AOA in Washington, DC as a student, alongside a few other optometry students. It was an eye opening experience seeing firsthand how little our lawmakers know about what we do and how well we’re trained. However, the trip out there was the most memorable part. Dr. Karen Riccio (OD’82) was our “mother hen” as smoke filled the cabin of our plane cabin as soon as we took off, and it was like we were in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” as we navigated to and finally arrived in Washington, DC via many different modes of transportation.
What does Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
Ohio State was where I obtained the knowledge and skill to launch my optometric career. It is where I made lifelong friendships. It is a school that is recognizable by people from all over the world, and I’m proud to be an alumnus.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
- I am a clinical attending for fourth-year externs at Mid Ohio Eye and enjoy how they keep me on my toes!
- We have optometry students work in our office as technicians.
- I attend CE events at the university as I’m able (I especially loved Dr. Nick Fogt (OD/MS’92,PhD’96)’s retina lecture at the planetarium a few years ago).
- I served on the Central Ohio Optometric Association leadership board for several years, which allowed close interaction with the College of Optometry.
DR. COCKERILL'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
Hobbies – I have 4.5-year-old and 8 month-old-daughters, so life is pretty much revolving around them currently. Does wanting everyone to sleep through the night count as a hobby? I do enjoy baking and rollerblading when the time allows, and one day hope that I can bring some of my Pinterest boards to reality!
Volunteer work – I’ve been the Clinical Director for Opening Eyes with the Ohio Special Olympics for the past five years. I’ve gotten to know a lot of ODs, optometry students, and other optometry office staff who have volunteered to help screen the athletes at the State summer games. It’s so much fun interacting with the athletes, they are proud to show off the medals they’ve won. We’ve had the pleasure of screening hundreds of athletes, many who look forward to returning every year to pick out a new pair of glasses. One memorable moment was an athlete who had slightly elevated intraocular pressures and was recommended to have a comprehensive eye examination. She returned the next year informing us she did get diagnosed with glaucoma. Also, that next year, and the following years since, her coach has brought the entire team of athletes to be checked! This year’s vision screening will be June 29 at The Ohio State University, contact me if you’d like to help!
I also have enjoyed volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, and hope to become more involved with them in the future.
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
First – Jimmy Eat World (2002)
Most recent – Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field in Chicago
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
What do you call a fish with no eyes?
If not an optometrist, I would be ...
Baking and decorating fancy desserts, preferably near a beach :)