Alumni Focus on Susan Gromacki (OD/MS'93)
DR. GROMACKI'S STORY
Were you the first optometrist in your family?
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?
There were so many! Drs. Joe Barr (OD’77, MS’79), Lisa Badowski (OD’88, MS’90), Bob Newcomb (BS’70, OD’71), and Bill Schuller (BS’65) were role models clinically, professionally, and personally. I would not be the optometrist I am today without their support and guidance.
DR. GROMACKI'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Director, Contact Lens Service, Washington Eye Physicians & Surgeons, Silver Spring, MD
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
I start right in at 8:00 a.m. Patient care for about 7.5 hours/day, practice administration for an additional hour or more. My day is filled with specialty contact lens patients who are referred to me from all over the capital region, country and world. I see about 6-8 scleral GP lens wearers and 8-10 keratoconus patients per day. I also perform comprehensive eye examinations and treat a considerable amount of dry eye.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
That ours is a legislated profession, and that the length and breadth of our education and training are so grossly misunderstood, even among other health care professionals.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
As a child, my grandmother lost her vision from glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, and it made a big impact on my family. I thought I would like to prevent other families from going through what ours did.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
To continue providing my patients the best possible care (because they deserve it!); to continue my leadership within the profession through the American Academy of Optometry, from the podium, and by working with industry.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Take full advantage of your optometric education. Ours is a legislated profession, and many people do not understand what we are trained to do. We need to arm ourselves with knowledge to support our legislative battles, not to mention demonstrate our expertise to our patients and other health care professionals on a daily basis.
DR. GROMACKI'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
Why did you choose to attend Ohio State?
So many reasons…its academic reputation; the opportunity to earn a MS in Physiological Optics; to spend another four years on a college campus, with all its social, cultural and athletic opportunities; and to be a part of a medical community, sharing professors and facilities with the colleges of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and the like.
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
Wow, so many! Fun times in the apartment with Michele Garrabrant (OD’93) and my brother, G.P.; Friday lunch bunch with my friends, exploring Columbus and its restaurants; Ohio State football and basketball; and our class softball team making the Final Four of the top co-ed division of the entire university. Funniest moment (although not at the time): a professor calling our entire class “clinical failures.” (100% of the class passed both clinical parts of National Boards on the first try.)
What lesson did you learn at Ohio State that has affected you the most so far in your career?
The summer after my first year, I served as Dr. Barr’s research assistant, the only employee of CLEK at the time. Imagine being a part of a conversation where some of our profession’s greatest researchers (including Drs. Zadnik and Edrington) planned a study which went on to become one of the hallmark papers in keratoconus and in optometry. The experience was invaluable. It was also fun being a college employee, as I got to know all the wonderful staff (e.g. Susie, Skyla, and Doris) who helped make our program great.
What does Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
The Ohio State College of Optometry, to me, represents quality. The College provided us not only the best academic education, but also great role models who demonstrated what it means to be a professional with integrity.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry as an alumna?
By keeping in touch with friends and former professors. Also, in my travels to lecture, participate in Advisory Boards or KOL meetings; or serve on the National Board, there are always Buckeyes present. We have taken the initiative to participate and to lead.
DR. GROMACKI'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
One of my co-workers once told me, “Optometry is my job. It’s your job, and it’s also your hobby!” Which is true. I enjoy lecturing, writing, volunteering and consulting for our profession. In my “free” time, I enjoy spending time with my husband, Scott, and daughters, Sarah and Stephanie; “managing” my daughters’ athletic careers (soccer, basketball, and softball) and attending their games; working out; coaching basketball; and gardening (we have three acres and I grow an amazing vegetable garden)!
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
The first was Tina Turner. It was really good! The most recent was at our church. We hired professional musicians (many of them from the U.S. Navy Band) to accompany our choir. It was amazing!
If not an optometrist, I would be ...
I have a passion for education, so most likely a college professor or administrator. I have also really enjoyed working with industry over the years, so perhaps earning an MBA and working in the business world. But honestly, there isn’t another profession I would rather be a part of than optometry.