Alumni Focus on Moriah Chandler (OD’03)

DR. CHANDLER’S STORY

Hometown

Santa Cruz, CA

Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?

OD'03

Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?

Dr. Cynthia Heard (OD’92) is a great mentor who took me under her wing. I was privileged to work with her in Primary Care, NOSA and on the diversity committee. We had so many discussions about optometry, life and family, and I love catching up with her whenever I see her at Academy meetings.

Dr. Karla Zadnik was one of my T35 mentors and is a good optometry and quilting mentor. I can’t count how many dinners for CLEERE, graduate students, etc. I got to go to at her house. Her energy and commitment to anything she pursues is inspirational.

Dr. Jeff Walline (MS’98, PhD’02) was also a T35 mentor, and Dr. Don Mutti helped instill an interest in pediatrics and research. I have the privilege of working with them still through the Bifocal Lenses in Nearsighted Kids (BLINK) study.

DR. CHANDLER’S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY

Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.

University of Missouri-Saint Louis, College of Optometry; Resident in Binocular Vision/Pediatrics. St. Louis, MO (2003-2004)

The Ohio State University College of Optometry; Clinical Faculty House Staff in BV/Peds, Primary Care, School Screenings, Ohio State for the Blind Clinic. Columbus, OH (2004-2006)

Nationwide Children’s Hospital Eye Clinic; Optometrist. Columbus, OH (2005-2011)

PRA Health Sciences Vision Research Clinic (VRC) at JJCVI; Research Optometrist/Quality Assurance Medical Writer. Jacksonville, FL (2012-2015)

University of Houston College of Optometry; Clinical Assistant Professor. Houston, TX (2015-present)

Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.

Even before COVID-19, my days don’t seem to be typical! Depending on the semester and day, you might find me supervising second- and third-year student interns in the Family Practice or Contact Lens Services. We serve a diverse patient population, and I love seeing pediatric patients and helping my interns perform eye exams in Spanish. We never know what each patient encounter will bring -- a pediatric patient with amblyopia, or a patient with sudden vision loss due to undiagnosed MS. Prior to seeing patients each day, I conduct seminars with my students. Some of my favorite topics I like to go over with them are binocular vision, amblyopia, and life after optometry school. Many times, this is the first time they get to hear about all the different modes of practice we can do and possible career paths they can take and hints on how to get there. After seminar, we see patients, which may include counseling on finding additional resources to provide access to care or seeing if they are eligible for any current clinical studies to help with access to treatment and further knowledge in ocular science.

After clinic, I usually have a lab meeting, journal club or noon time lecture to attend. After lunch, it's either back to the clinic, or teaching second year students in the Primary Optometry Lab in the Fall, or Pediatric Optometry Lab in the Spring. I never expected that the Horopter would be something I’d discuss after optometry school on a regular basis!

Two afternoons a week, I serve as an investigator for the Bifocal Lenses in Nearsighted Kids (BLINK) Study. I’m thrilled to be a part of this since it brings all of my diverse experiences in pediatrics, contact lenses and clinical research together. Plus, I get to work with some awesome people, some of them fellow Ohio State Optometry Alumni (Dr. David Berntsen (MS’04, PhD’09) and Dr. Anita Ticak (OD/MS’08)).

Teaching during COVID can be challenging. Most “clinic” days, I meet with my students via Zoom and work on problem-based cases. We are developing ways to strengthen their problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills so that when we start seeing patients again, they can hit the ground running and focus on clinical skills.

When my teaching duties are done for the day, I spend time with my family. We’ve been doing a lot of baking, crafts and gardening since we’ve all been home. If the kids are busy, or after their bedtime, I work on making more masks or scrub caps for healthcare providers. I’ve had quite a few requests from optometrists lately and I’ve been working on eye-themed masks for them.

My days are always different; I am fortunate that I don’t get bored and I get to combine a little bit of everything I’ve done in the past.

Which optometric issues concern you the most?

Access to care for children and disadvantaged populations. Eye exams should be part of every child’s healthcare routine, just like annual physicals and visits to the dentist. I’m slightly biased, but I think vision plays a much more important role in learning than teeth.

We see so many patients who don’t have insurance or access to care in our clinics. It is a challenge that I didn’t imagine having when I was in optometry school. There are some days when I think I should go back to school and get a degree in social work so I can be a better advocate for my patients.

Why did you choose a career in optometry?

I wanted to be a doctor growing up, but I realized that I didn’t want to perform surgery. In sixth grade, I had my first eye exam after a teacher noticed I was squinting in class. It was transformational! I could read signs and see leaves on trees. I think up until then, I thought they were just green blobs until they fell off and hit the ground. In high school, my first job was working in my optometrist’s office which strengthened my decision to pursue optometry as a career.

As optometrists, we improve people’s lives every day and have the flexibility to pursue a good work/life balance.

Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?

In optometry school, my plan upon graduating was to go back to California and join my hometown optometrist’s practice (I have no idea if that was even feasible since he’s still a solo practice doc). Then I met a guy from Ohio (Dr. Eric Ritchey (OD’01, MS’03, PhD’11)), decided to do a residency, and I have had so many more opportunities than I thought was possible.

I hope to continue to advance my academic career, but my career path has been so diverse and varied that I don’t take anything for granted. I’ve learned to keep an open mind and go with the flow. I like to joke with my students that private practice is about the only mode of practice I haven’t done, so who knows? Although, I think I’m getting too old to start a practice and compete with younger optometrists who have way more energy than I do!

What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?

My advice is to trust your education and training. You are better prepared in patient care than you think you are. Keep an open mind about opportunities-- you may not end up on the career path you expected, but you may find one that is so much more different and rewarding.

DR. CHANDLER’S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE

What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?

There are so many! Welcome week was so memorable and exciting where you get to meet the people you’re going to spend the next four years with and I felt the great sense of knowing you belong to something with so much tradition, and that it feels like I am in the right place. The sense of family starts so early in our program due to small class sizes, great faculty and staff.

My class did end-of-year class trips to Cedar Point a few times, which were so much fun! I love roller coasters and getting to spend time with friends always made for great memories.

Participating in the T35 summer research program and going to my first (of many) Academy Meeting (and first time going to Disney World -- we always went to Disneyland as a kid!)

The relief of finishing Board Exams (back when it was given over two days) and having one of the most memorable pool parties afterwards. Meeting, dating and marrying Dr. Eric Ritchey.

What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?

Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean so much to me. Without Ohio State, I wouldn’t have the family that I do. I wouldn’t have the education and experiences to handle anything that may sit in my exam chair. And I wouldn't have the lifelong relationships with friends and colleagues that you make while you’re in optometry school.

 

How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?

I am fortunate that I get to work with Drs. Eric Ritchey, Anita Ticak, Dr. Kathryn Richdale (OD’02, MS’05, PhD’11), Dr. David Berntsen, and Dr. Michael Twa (MS’02,PhD’06) at the University of Houston College of Optometry. Dr. Trang (Tracy) Prosak (OD/MS’04) is one of our neighbors, so we are surrounded by Buckeyes!

I keep up with other alumni on Facebook, and the alumni reception at the academy meeting is always something I look forward to. I still have colleagues at the college that I keep in touch with.

2020 is Optometry’s year! How are you making this year special?

I was planning on making a lot of cornea jokes, but my kids (Evan, age 9 and Madelyn, age 5) think that I’m not punny.

How do you imagine patient care will change in the future, in light of the COVID-19 public health crisis?

It's changing as we speak! I think telehealth will play a larger role in providing care to our patients. I imagine that most practices will expand their online services for optical, ordering contact lenses and renewing prescriptions if they haven’t already provided this before. I think as practitioners we will become more consistent and even more attuned to looking at our patients as a whole to include screening, asking and looking for signs of COVID-19. Whatever happens, I hope that we use this as an opportunity to rise to the challenge this presents with creativity, compassion and innovation.

DR. CHANDLER’S FUN FACTS

Tell us about your first-ever eye exam. 

My first eye exam happened when I was in sixth grade. One of my teachers noticed me squinting and sent me to the school nurse for a vision screening, which I probably failed spectacularly. My mom took me to an optometrist, and I remember being fascinated by all the neat equipment and afterwards being able to see everything so clearly.

What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?

I enjoy sewing and quilting, which led to the idea of making masks. I do Scottish dancing-- mostly Scottish Country Dancing, which is more social (think a mixture of ballroom and square dancing while the men wear kilts) but I’ve done Highland dancing (kind of like Riverdance, but you can dance around swords in a kilt) too. I’ve danced in every place I’ve lived since college, and the summer before starting optometry school, went to a summer dance school in Scotland. I also crochet and make jewelry. I’m always trying some new technique with yarn, beads or wire. I like cooking and gardening with my kids. Disney is a hobby. I really want to get into watercolor painting, I have all the supplies to start, but I haven’t had the time yet. I’m an avid reader, love going to see musical productions, and love watching Disney, Marvel and Star Wars movies.

My current volunteer work is making masks for healthcare workers, friends, family and neighbors. Since March, I’ve made and donated over 400 masks.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?  

If I had a superpower, I would want to be able to manipulate time, or be able to clone myself like Multiple Man in X-Men. There never seems to be enough time in the day! If I could manipulate time, I could slow it down so I could get everything I need done, or I could send a clone to do the things I don’t have time to do (like cleaning the house!)

If not an optometrist, I would be ...

An architect. I was always designing floor plans, buildings and planning cities. Or Martha Stewart (without the smugness or insider trading.)