Student Focus on Katie Exline


photo of Katie ExlineName: Katie Exline
Pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Jackson, Ohio
High School: Jackson High School
Undergraduate Institution: Otterbein University
Undergraduate Degree: BS in Biology
Anticipated #OSUopt Graduation Year: 2024


How old were you when you received your first eye exam? What was the experience like for you?

I was in elementary school when I had my first eye exam. I don’t remember too much about the experience, but since I’m a low myope, I definitely remember putting on glasses for the first time and the feeling of, “Whoa, look at the leaves on the trees, Mom!”

When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in optometry?

By the time I was a freshman in high school, I had pretty much decided I wanted to be an optometrist “when I grew up.” A couple of my great uncles and my great grandfather had keratoconus that required corneal transplants, and my younger cousin was born with a coloboma in one of his eyes, so my interest in learning about eye conditions began at a very young age. I actually have a paper from my sophomore year of high school explaining why I thought optometry would be a good fit for me. I’m very glad 16-year-old Katie stuck with the plan to be an optometrist!

Why did you choose Ohio State Optometry?

I grew up in Southeastern Ohio, and I think every kid sort of dreams about being a Buckeye. Ohio State Optometry was always my number one choice, and as I became more familiar with the college community, I knew it would be a great fit for me. From professors to peers and attendings to alumni, everyone involved with Ohio State Optometry is kind, supportive, and genuinely invested in your growth as a developing optometrist. More importantly to me, they’re invested in your growth as a person and providing opportunities for you to learn inside and outside of the exam room.

What was your first impression of Ohio State Optometry?

I first visited Ohio State Optometry during my freshman year of college. To this day, I remember Dr. Earley and Dean Zadnik speaking to the visiting students, and Dr. Lai giving my group a tour. They all seemed to genuinely love Ohio State Optometry, and they were incredibly kind and easy to talk to. I could immediately see myself studying to be an optometrist here, hoping to model my growth after some of the incredible people I’d already met. (It’s been an awesome experience getting to learn directly from them, too!)

What surprised you most about Ohio State and/or Columbus?

Ohio State and Columbus are HUGE … until they aren’t. Coming from a small town in rural Ohio, I chose a smaller college just north of downtown Columbus for my undergraduate degree. I was excited, but nervous, to move to Ohio State’s campus as I started at Ohio State Optometry after graduation. I can now confidently say, you will find your circle more quickly than you think, and there’s nothing better than having surprise run-ins with people you know around Columbus. The best part is that Ohio State Optometry is a smaller, tight-knit community, but you still get all the amenities of being a Buckeye, like football games, a beautiful campus in the city, and incredible places to study!

Which clubs/organizations have you joined at Ohio State?

The best part about Ohio State is that there is an opportunity to get involved in almost anything you’re interested in! I currently serve as the President for the Class of 2024, and I have loved being able to communicate with my class, professors, and administration to make sure everyone is having the best experience possible. I also am completing the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, which is a program designed to serve underserved communities. My project is based in Appalachia, where I’m from, to provide eye care and education to the community while also introducing optometry students to the area as a possible place to practice after they graduate from optometry school.

Who has most positively affected you during your time as an optometry student so far?

My support system for optometry school spans far and wide. My boyfriend, family, friends, and professors have given me more love and support than they even realize. I could go down the list and mention how every professor and attending has positively impacted my Ohio State Optometry experience so far. I have to give a special shout-out to a mentor that I met during my time at Otterbein, though. Dr. Jeff Myers (who’s also an Otterbein and Ohio State Optometry graduate) gave me an opportunity to observe at his practice in Canal Winchester during undergrad as well as an opportunity to work there between first and second year of optometry school to gain more optometric experience. He always has just the right words when I reach out to him and has been such a positive impact early in my optometric career.

What was your favorite part of optometry school so far?

My favorite part of optometry school has always been, and will always be, spending time with patients. I love hearing people’s stories, listening to their concerns, and working with them to find a solution to best care for their eyes and vision.

What advice do you have for the class of 2027 as they start optometry school this fall?

I think the best way to view optometry school is that you are officially a young optometrist (in training). Ohio State Optometry accepted you because they know you will be an incredible eye doctor someday. Realize that everything you’re going to learn from this point forward is just adding to your knowledge bank to better care for patients! You don’t have to get a 100% on every exam or be perfect on every practical as long as you commit to lifelong learning and continuous growth during and after school.