Alumni Focus on Nicky Lai (OD'03)
DR. LAI'S STORY
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and moved to East Lansing, Michigan when I was five years old. My family moved to Fremont, California when I was 12, and I came to Columbus for Optometry school. Having moved around a lot as a kid, I’ve lived longer in Ohio than anywhere else in my life.
Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?
Cornea and Contact Lens Clinical Residency, 2004
Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?
Dr. Nick Fogt (OD/MS’92, PhD’96) was my master’s graduate advisor. My thesis was on eye movement and tracking. Dr. Fogt was an expert with such depth of knowledge in the area of eye movements. But he also taught the retina and systemic disease courses, where he gained his expertise from his experience in the clinical setting and his VA residency. He was the first one to show me that there were so many avenues to take in my optometry career along with patient care.
Dr. Joe Barr (OD’77, MS’79) was my residency advisor. He helped me realize my interests and provided me with guidance during my third year in optometry school. As my residency advisor, he showed me so many opportunities for what I can accomplish in the profession. He taught me how to work collaboratively with others to develop our profession for our patients. I credit him with opening so many doors for me in my career.
In the last 13 years on faculty at the College, I have worked with the most amazing group of people! I am influenced by so many people here every day. They keep me growing and learning, always pushing to be a better teacher for our students and to be a better optometrist for my patients!
DR. LAI'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Associate Professor of Clinical Optometry
Chief, Contact Lens Service
The Ohio State University College of Optometry
Consulting Optometrist, Dayton VAMC Eye Clinic
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
What I love about my job is the diversity in my day-to-day. A typical Monday morning will start with a meeting with faculty in various committees, such as the faculty advisory committee, or clinic committee. This starts my week with an hour to interact with all the people I work closely with, an opportunity to communicate our goals for the college and work on ways we can improve the program.
Then I will have a few hours to catch up on some administrative duties, create lectures for the course I am teaching, or meet with industry reps to learn about new contact lens products.
The next hour is a lecture in my advanced contact lens course for the third-year optometry students, followed by an afternoon of patient care in the contact lens service with the fourth-year interns. Here we see a variety of patients from kids in contact lenses to control the progression of myopia, to patients with eye diseases who drive from two hours away to be fit in medically necessary contact lenses, to a nurse from the medical center who needs an update on her multifocal contact lens to help her care for her patients. With each of these encounters, I get to work with our students as they develop their clinical skills and become independent doctors.
The rest of the week is just as varied with teaching assignments in the classroom and hands on laboratory settings, to patient care in the clinics, to meeting prospective optometry students on Friday afternoons in admissions interviews.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Our profession is able to do so much for our patients, from vision correction, to treatment of eye disease, to coordination of their systemic health. Yet the public is often unaware of our scope of practice and where we fit the health care arena. There is so much that we can do to educate the public on our profession and the value we bring to their health and well-being.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I had an early exposure to optometry as a patient. I was always impressed with how thoroughly and efficiently my eye doctors were able to fix my poor eyesight, while also educating me on my eye health and providing me with the most advanced options for my vision correction. This sparked my interest in eye care and through research of other options in health professions, I understood the impact optometry had on me and how I can have that same impact for my patients.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I hope to help in the development of the curriculum at the College to always be at the forefront of our profession. I hope to be more involved in enhancing our student experience to prepare them not only for patient care, but for a career in the profession and to be a leader in the profession. I have been so impressed with how our students rise up to every challenge and opportunity we present to them. I hope to provide them with an even greater diversity of involvement in their careers.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
There are so many sides to optometry as a career, and so many options of what you can do with it. Your first job will not be your last. Every experience will lead you to a new exciting direction. But most of all, enjoy taking care of you patients, and everything else will fall into place.
DR. LAI'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
The lifelong friends I’ve made during optometry school have created so many wonderful memories for me. I was surrounded by such a great people who continue to be an important part of my life. I would not have made it through those tough four years without them. Also, being part of the 2002 National Championship year taught me how to be a Buckeye!
Needless to say, I continue to develop more of those relationships as part of the College of Optometry family and create even more memories every day.
What does Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
Our two boys only know life with Ohio State. My wife, Cara Frasco (OD/MS’03) and I were classmates in optometry school. As a faculty member at the College, it is where I spend my working day. I would say Ohio State and especially the College of Optometry is where our family started and is an integral part of our family now.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry as an alumus?
Participation in professional organizations is another way for me to stay connected with the College outside the walls of our building. Every time I attend an optometry meeting, I run into so many classmates, former students, and meet alumni from OSU. I am ridiculously proud of how much our alumni is involved in optometry through leadership in education, legislative association, industry product development, and scientific knowledge. It is great to be part of a school that defines and influences our profession on such a large scale.
DR. LAI'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
Hobbies and interests: road cycling, mountain biking, playing my guitars
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
First concert: Guns N’ Roses / Metallica, Oakland 1992
Most recent: Foo Fighters, Cincinnati 2017
What is your favorite fall-time activity?
Enjoying the great weather outdoors with my family
If not an optometrist, I would be ...
An engineer, mechanical or electrical, not train.