Alumni Focus on Kathy Rudolf (OD'09)



Born in that state up north, but grew up in Annapolis, Maryland

Were you the first optometrist in your family?


Why did you choose to attend Ohio State?

I knew the strength and quality of education that comes from Big10 schools, having attended Penn State for my undergrad. And one of my mentors, Dr. Dan Knapke, strongly recommended Ohio State when I talked to him about going to optometry school.

Name a mentor from the College of Optometry or a person who had a positive effect on your education.

One person? That’s hard! Dr. Gil Pierce became a good friend and encouraged me to participate in student groups regardless of my "non-traditional" student status, which helped strengthen my education as well as form great friendships with all these “kids” 20 years younger than me. Dr. Cynthia Heard helped me grow immensely as my first attending. Dr. Mike Earley helped me evaluate and refine my study habits, including encouraging me to talk out all of those nerve pathways on my hourly commute to and from Columbus. I can only hope that all of those other drivers thought I was using a Bluetooth phone. Sally Haltom was an absolute blessing as a sounding board and provider of gentle reassurance that you will survive. I truly loved my time at The Ohio State College of Optometry.


Where do you practice, currently?

Dayton Optometric Center (Drs. Heath and Marc Gilbert) in Dayton and Kettering, Ohio

Briefly explain some of your daily job responsibilities or patient interactions.

The majority of my time is spent on patient care, from routine exams to sensory motor to medical care. Having internal and external photography available as well as OCT and visual field technology allows us to manage diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration and other ocular disease. I’m also our EHR guru.

Tell us a special story that relates to your career now.

When I finished my undergraduate studies in business at Penn State, I took a part-time job as an optician and found that I really liked the field. At one point, I had thought about optometry school, but the time and monetary commitment to obtaining the additional required prerequisites and going through the optometry school just wasn’t feasible. I moved into office management, obtained my MBA and moved to territory management with a small optical chain. I did well, but I really missed working directly with patients. My husband and I took six months off from work and normal life in 2001 and thru-hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. The dedication and rigors of this adventure made me realize that challenges can be met and those challenges make life more fulfilling. And a plan was formed to pursue my OD degree.

What’s one thing you learned during your education which has affected you most in your career?

You’ll never know it all or remember it all. Form a network of colleagues and resources for the tough cases and keep learning.

What optometric issues concern you the most?

Increasing costs and decreasing reimbursement. We have to constantly look at ways to be ever more efficient yet still spend quality time with our patients.

Why are you passionate about your career?

It took me a long time to get here, but I love being an optometrist and I love the amazing people I’ve met along the way. My background, training and superb education allows me to better understand and serve my patients needs .

Advice for other aspiring optometrists.

Jump on it! Get a job in a practice or dispensary. Check out the various avenues available to a graduating optometrist, from private to corporate practice to teaching and industry.


Most memorable moment(s) at Ohio State.

"Rushing" ΕΨΕ at the age of 42 and thinking: "Am I seriously sticking my face in a pan of flour trying to find a lifesaver?!" Microscope parties at the ΕΨΕ house. Shaheen Week and hanging out during our first year at "TBDTOITL," a setting that cemented our class together.

Who is your idol/mentor?

One of my greatest mentors was Dr. Dan Knapke who had practiced in Huber Heights, Ohio. He was working part-time at the chain that I managed in the 90s as he was winding down his private practice and getting ready to retire. We had long discussions about optometry, my pursuing the degree and life in general. I visited him in Florida during my spring break of my first year of optometry school and he had all sorts of pearls of wisdom for me. Sad to say that he passed away last year; he was a unique soul.

What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?

When I’m not in the office, I love to be outside and moving, whether walking, biking or backpacking. Most of my vacations involve some sort of outdoor adventure challenge, the most recent being a snowshoe trip that meant camping in -5° temps. No problem if you have the right gear!

What does Ohio State mean to you?

Outstanding staff and faculty and friends for life. "How firm the friendship…"

If not an optometrist, I would be ...

A backpacking guide and owner of a hostel on the Appalachian Trail.