Alumni Focus on Sandra Wang-Harris (OD’97)
DR. WANG-HARRIS' STORY
I call Huntsville, Alabama home. However, the world is my home.
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?
I received a Bachelor’s degree in music in flute performance.
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?
I had many mentors during my time at the College of Optometry. Some of them are Dr. Jeffrey Myers, Dr. Joe Barr, Dr. Cynthia Heard, and Dr. Greg Good, as well as many others who supported me and my career.
DR. WANG-HARRIS' CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
I am currently working as a full-time lecturer online at the College of Micronesia in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). I lecture in public health. I also work as an optometric physician with “ODOS Health” in a new initiative to provide vision care to children ages 6-9 in the rural regions of Kazakhstan. The second part requires a lot of travel, as Kazakhstan is a big country!
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
My day can look very different from day to day. My work day starts with online classes at my dining table. Between teaching online live classes, I prepare lectures, online learning modules, and plan for the work and implementation of ODOS Health. I take Russian language classes and practice my language skills every day.
So, on days I am not actively teaching and learning Russian, I can be out in the field, seeing children at outpatient centers and polyclinics. I work with a team of local pediatric ophthalmologists and examine the children who are referred by other ophthalmologists and health care professionals.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Undiagnosed, untreated refractive error and visual morbidities in children. Low vision and visual disabilities that affect academic success in school.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I wanted to be in a profession that allowed me to care and help others. Optometry was a great fit for me as I was already a high myope by the time I was 12. In addition, I had great optometric role models in the doctors I saw while only a child. My thought process was, “If this doctor can make such a difference in my life by helping me see, I wanted to be like her/him.”
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
In five years, my spouse will be retired from the U.S. State Department Foreign Service. I see myself in an academic/research setting with emphasis in clinical practice. I see myself working in areas where patient access to care is difficult. Maybe I will have a mobile clinic? One thing for sure is I would like to settle down and stay in one place for a little bit of time. My preference is in the United States, but I am open to where I am called.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Optometry has so many specialties. Even in these specialties there are so many ways to find your niche. The most important thing to remember is wherever you go and whatever you do, there will always be eyes that need to see. You might be the only one who can help them. Don’t waste that opportunity given to you. It is a gift and privilege.
DR. WANG-HARRIS' OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
The fun times with friends at the EYE house.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
Ohio State is an internationally recognized university. Yes, in every country and continent, people (not even just Americans) know “The Ohio State University." You don’t have to explain where it is and what it is. You should always be proud to be a graduate and to uphold the highest standards in your profession. (Like the people who come before you have).
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
I return back stateside every year to maintain my CE. I love catching up with my Ohio State colleagues at Academy meetings. I also try to catch a webinar/CE virtually when I can online.
DR. WANG-HARRIS' FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
Is learning my sixth language a hobby? Russian is my sixth language. I love volunteering for my church, especially the Missionary of Charity sisters (Society founded by Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta), and helping the “poorest of the poor." I play my harp, flute and piano as often as I can, and I try to read a few books every year.
Two Random Fun Facts About Me
I used to be a professional harpist and flutist. I move with my concert grand harp around the world, and I still teach music lessons (usually pro bono to those who can’t afford it).
I’ve driven right- and left-handed vehicles on every side of the road. In other words, depending on which country, I drove a right-handed vehicle BOTH on the left side of the road (East Timor) and the right side of the road (Federated States of Micronesia). And in some countries, vice versa, I drove a left-handed vehicle on the left (Trinidad and Tobago) and as well as on the right side (Kazakhstan). That’s why it can be really scary for my passengers when I drive. You never know what side I will be on.
If not an optometrist, I would be…
An orchestral musician, probably for an opera company.