Student Focus on James Chung
Name: James Chung
Hometown: Temple City, California
High School: Temple City High School
Undergraduate Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Undergraduate Degree: Spanish
Anticipated #OSUopt Graduation Year: 2026
How old were you when you received your first eye exam? What was the experience like for you?
My dad has always been the greatest advocate for the health of my sister and me. He especially paid close attention to our vision because he is a myope himself. So, the first eye exam I had was in elementary school to monitor my vision. It was in sixth grade when I started to see blur whenever I watched TV or tried to see the board in class. Concerned, my dad took me to the optometrist hoping to fix my vision problems. The experience was honestly a little traumatic, because the doctor caught me faking to read the Snellen chart when I could barely make out a letter on the 20/20 line. My greatest fear became a reality: I needed glasses. However, it was only because of that eye exam that I was able to take my eye health a lot more seriously and appreciate the gift of vision.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in optometry?
I had a career crisis when I was studying abroad in Spain at the height of the 2020 pandemic. Being in lockdown in an apartment by myself for a few months really gave me space to contemplate life, personal goals, and my professional purpose. I was always fascinated by the eye sections in my undergrad physiology class and the doctor-patient aspect of health care. After doing some soul-searching, talking to friends and family, and shadowing lots of doctors, I found my way to optometry, and I couldn’t be happier!
Why did you choose Ohio State Optometry?
As a Californian who went to college in Santa Barbara, I wanted a change of scenery and to explore new places. During my year studying abroad in Spain, I’ve realized that it is through the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable that growth happens. Of course, it makes it a lot easier to make the decision to move thousands of miles away from home when the optometric institution is the best in the nation. I was blown away by Ohio State Optometry’s stellar board pass rates, exemplary faculty members, welcoming student body, innovative research studies, and emphasis on diversity and inclusion. I recall during a pre-optometry student workshop, Dr. Earley emphasized that one of the Buckeye Advantages at Ohio State is that we train and empower future leaders of optometry. And because of that, I was sold.
What was your first impression of Ohio State Optometry?
Oh, how I love the gorgeous brick-building motif! I was in awe when I first arrived at Ohio State Optometry because of how it beautifully incorporates the architectural integrity of the university into Fry Hall, The Optometry Clinic, and the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Building. Through the cohesiveness of beautiful architecture, it somehow embodies the whole idea of studying at a small college in a big university. It is awesome to feel a sense of belonging with how close-knit you are with your classmates and faculty members, while, at the same time, studying at one of the largest universities in the country. You really get to have the best of both worlds!
What surprised you most about Ohio State and/or Columbus?
I was surprised by how friendly the staff and faculty members are! Even though they are leaders and experts in the field, all of them take time to get to know each and every one of the students. When it comes to our education, they are so knowledgeable yet patient that we, as students, are able to truly thrive and become the best doctors in the field. I was also surprised by how much Columbus has to offer. There are plenty of activities one can do: going to tailgates, studying at trendy coffee shops, visiting cool museums, hiking in nature, having a blast at concerts, etc. There are more places I have yet to explore in Columbus, and I am so excited to call this place my home for the next three years.
Which clubs/organizations have you joined at Ohio State?
Besides school, I find it so fulfilling to be a part of clubs and organizations. I recently stepped into the role of Trustee-Elect of the American Optometric Student Association, the student branch of the AOA. The AOSA is the organization that fights and protects our profession nationwide alongside the AOA to provide better patient care and optometrist rights. As trustee-elect, I work with trustee Juliana Mazzotta and our AOSA board to empower future eye docs in our college. In addition, Juliana and I have the privilege to travel to national conferences to talk to other AOSA members, legislators, and national leaders to advocate for optometry to better serve our patients. I am also a proud member of Epsilon Psi Epsilon (the only optometry fraternity in the nation), Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, and Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH).
Who has most positively affected you during your time as an optometry student so far?
My friends whom I met in the program are a blessing that positively affected my experience at Ohio State Optometry so far. I am constantly in awe of their intelligence, diligence, and their incredible humor which inspire me to keep on going when times get hard. I love it when we get to hang out practically all the time, whether it’s at the library or at the EYE house for tailgates. I also want to acknowledge Dr. VDN (Vondolee Delgado-Nixon, PhD) for being a supportive and amazing professor who is one of the many reasons why Ohio State Optometry feels like home. Her dedication to teaching us pathophysiology, emphasis on the importance of diversity and inclusion, and incredible sense of humor make Ohio State Optometry an awesome place to be a student.
What was your favorite part of optometry school so far, and what are you looking forward to in future years of the program?
I made so many great memories during my first year here at Ohio State. From volunteering for Hispanic Service Day to AOSA’s Eye Ball banquet, optometry school has offered me a tremendous amount of experiences that I will cherish forever. But if I had to pick one, I’d say my favorite memory was rush week for Epsilon Psi Epsilon. It was so cool seeing all of my classmates being creative and getting out of our comfort zone to achieve a common goal. We had so much fun actively participating in the only optometry fraternity in the nation, and I loved the sense of camaraderie that was built at the end of the week. I look forward to learning clinical skills and seeing patients in the next few years, and I can’t wait to continue this optometric journey with all my friends.
What advice do you have for the class of 2028 as they start optometry school this fall?
Growth is uncomfortable. If something interests you, don’t hesitate to pursue it. The amount of school work, extracurricular activities, and social events optometry school offers can be overwhelming. But once I realized that I was in charge of making the most out of these best four years of my life, I tried to get out of my comfort zone and started to participate in things that are important and exciting to me. However, at the same time, don’t lose yourself in the process. Keep your social circles active and alive, call your parents often, and continue the hobbies you had before coming to optometry school. Remember, you can’t thrive as an optometry student, or as a doctor, without taking care of yourself and treating yourself with kindness!