Alumni Focus on Kirsti Roehm (OD’17)
DR. ROEHM'S STORY
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?University of Florida, Bachelor of Science, Food Science and Human Nutrition
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. Julia Geldis was my attending at the student health center. She always tried to make patients feel very comfortable and made an effort to learn how to correctly pronounce patients’ names, something I still try to do.
Dr. Roanne Flom was one of the reasons I did a low vision/ocular disease residency. She made me realize how important low vision care is to our patients, especially our aging patients.
Dr. Karla Zadnik became dean of the college while I was a student. It was really awesome to have a woman in this position!
DR. ROEHM'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer and title, including location.
Baycare Medical Group, Optometrist, St. Petersburg, FL
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
I work in a multi-specialty facility within a hospital system. My day consists of medical eye care with a large geriatric population. It varies from diabetic eye exams, glaucoma follow ups to emergency visits. I have a great working relationship with the primary and urgent care physicians, rheumatologists, endocrinologists, oncologists and many local ophthalmologists. Since I work for the same medical group amongst other specialties - referrals, medical and surgical history is easily accessible - and makes continuity of care simple.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
There are insurance companies that have stopped allowing optometrists on their panel to see medical eye conditions. I like to refer to optometrists as “the primary care doctors of the eye” and then appropriate referrals are made to specialists as needed. Unfortunately, it is going to most hurt patients and many ocular diseases are going to go undiagnosed if only ophthalmologists can see patients with certain insurances.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I mentioned to my local optometrist that I was considering a career in accounting before I went to undergrad. He nudged me toward optometry by asking “how many accountants do you know who like their job?” I shadowed and worked for him during undergrad and realized this was a really cool medical field with a great work life balance.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I hope to keep growing my practice, and providing exceptional care to my patients. I also hope I’m only working four days a week. :)
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
If you have your dream job lined up for when you graduate - take it. If you don’t - do a residency. Next, don’t be afraid to ask questions. No one expects you to know everything the first day on the job. I regularly text classmates and send fundus photos to local retina specialists when something comes up. Lastly, don’t stay at a job that isn’t fulfilling; life is too short!
DR. ROEHM'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
I enjoyed football games and tailgates at the EYE house. It was especially cool to be there for the 2014 national championship. During my time at Ohio State, I became much more of a foodie thanks to my classmate Huong “Helen” Lê; she was always finding the best happy hours and new restaurants for us to try.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
My family is very proud of my accomplishments and although University of Florida and Ohio State have a rivalry, they were proud to say where I went to optometry school.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
Alumni magazine and social media. I also look forward to Dr. Zadnik’s emails. My two best friends from optometry school, Samantha Hoelzer and Erin Rolfes, try to do a monthly phone call that we call our “conference call.” We then like to hold “meetings” to see each other. We spent a weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona in January 2023.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you about patient care?
Making connections with your patients. I realized during COVID that my encounter with my elderly patient may be the only one they had all day, or even all week. There were plenty of times I was running behind but those extra minutes of conversation meant a lot to them.
DR. ROEHM'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
I love traveling - my partner, Jon, and I are usually always planning our next trip where we can spend time outdoors - camping, hiking, and fishing. We enjoy going to concerts and eating good food. I also enjoy needlepointing, reading, and long walks near the water in St. Pete.
What is a fun fact about you?
I Gator chomped on the jumbotron at an Ohio State football game during my first year, and Dr. Earley saw it! I also got to attend Super Bowl LV because tickets were given to local vaccinated health care workers. I grew up 60 miles from Tampa, so it was very neat seeing the Buccaneers win!
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
I don’t have a good eye pun, but whenever my geriatric patients tell me I look young, I just say, “yes, I am younger than you.” I have to use that one while I still can!
If not an optometrist,
I would work as a college registrar or travel agent. I love scheduling and figuring out the most effective and efficient way to do things.