Student Focus on Ruth Regassa
Name: Ruth Regassa
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio (Originally from Ethiopia, though)
High School: Whitehall Yearling High School
Undergraduate Institution: The Ohio State University
Undergraduate Degree: Health Sciences major with a minor in Studio Art
Anticipated #OSUopt Graduation Year: 2026
How old were you when you received your first eye exam? What was the experience like for you?
My first comprehensive eye exam was actually well into my undergrad years; I think I was 21. Before that, since I lived in Ethiopia until I was 14, primary eye care wasn’t really a thing there (and is still pretty rare). Once coming to the U.S., I was like the majority of the population who think they don’t need an eye exam since they “see fine.” But my first eye exam experience was good. By that time, I knew I wanted to pursue optometry as a career and I actually had my exam with a doctor I shadowed before, so it was a great experience.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in optometry?
I knew for sure I wanted to pursue optometry as a career my sophomore year of undergrad. I started volunteering at Faith Mission helping Dr. Joan Nerderman, and I really saw the type of impact that optometry can have on people’s lives. There were a lot of patients who came in after losing their glasses and unable to drive or do work. And many of the patients who came in didn’t have the ability to pay. So, seeing them receive the eye care they needed in an affordable way made me want to be a part of this amazing career.
Why did you choose Ohio State Optometry?
I went to Ohio State for undergrad, so I was exposed to Ohio State Optometry. In addition, I worked at the Eyewear Gallery since my sophomore year of undergrad, which allowed me to interact with optometry students at the time and pick their brain about different things. What made me really want to come to Ohio State Optometry though, was IDOC. IDOC allowed me to meet (virtually) the faculty at the college and the impression I got was how supportive everyone was. I knew that optometry school was going to be hard, but I also knew that I would be supported in every way here at Ohio State.
What was your first impression of Ohio State Optometry?
My first impression of Ohio State Optometry was the supportive culture that is present among the faculty and students.
Which clubs/organizations have you joined at Ohio State?
The clubs that I’m actively participating in are NOSA and FCO, but I would love to get involved in more clubs in the coming years.
Who has most positively affected you during your time as an optometry student so far?
Outside of my family, my classmates, who have become my friends, have positively impacted my time thus far at the college. It has been really nice to have friends who have the same passions as me. It has also been great to support each other inside and outside the classroom.
What was your favorite part of optometry school so far, and what are you looking forward to in future years of the program?
My favorite part thus far has been going on FCO’s Jamaica service trip in December. Even though I was only a first-year student at the time, it was a great experience. Beyond doing a lot of pretesting, the trip allowed me to get a glimpse at the need for eye care globally. During our time there, we saw patients of all ages suffering from significant vision impairment from conditions that could be easily treated here in the U.S. Even though I was far from being able to diagnose or even recognize these conditions when I went on the trip, I still was able to see the big impact that eye care was having on the patients. I hope to do more trips like this in the future, and I would highly encourage others to do the same, either through FCO, SVOSH or RAM trips.
What advice do you have for the class of 2027 as they start optometry school?
My advice is to really embrace the journey, and just allow yourself to be uncomfortable. I would also say to take things one day at a time. It can be easy to get overwhelmed when looking at everything ahead of you, but just try to focus on what you have in front of you and before you know it, it will be the end of your first year. I would also say use the resources available to you, ask your professors and even classmates for help; it will make things so much easier