New Faculty Join UMSL Optometry
Through the efforts of Dean Larry Davis, the College was finally given the green light to replace faculty who have recently retired. The result was an outstanding pool of interested candidates and, ultimately, the hiring of four very qualified young faculty who fill important needs for the College. Each brings a passion, work ethic, and dedication that will benefit our students. They compliment the efforts of another recent faculty hire, Dr. Erin Brooks, who is beloved by students for her outstanding teaching performance in the challenging Anatomy, Physiology, and Disease Processes course sequence. They are also a reminder that turnover of faculty can represent a very productive change and environment for the College and a very positive learning environment for the students.
So who are our new faculty? Two are UMSL graduates who were exceptional tutors and teaching assistants during their tenure at UMSL, both graduating with high honors. Each went on to complete prestigious post-graduate residency programs, with one of them becoming employed as a part-time faculty member for two years after completion of the residency. Another member of our “New Faculty Dream Team” completed a residency in Low Vision/Ocular Disease followed by employment in both a private practice and a medical model (i.e., “disease-based) clinic and, most recently, as an instructor in UMSL’s low vision program. Our fourth member brings several abilities to the program, earning a Master’s Degree in Vision Science with a pediatric interest followed by a primary care residency with an emphasis on ocular disease at a Veteran’s Administration Medical Center.
Dr. Patrick Stark (’12). Dr. Stark was an exceptional graduate of the Class of 2012. He completed a residency in primary care and ocular disease at the Oklahoma College of Optometry. He joined the faculty in Oklahoma as a clinical instructor for two additional years following his residency. Dr. Stark then moved back to St. Louis, and began working part-time for UMSL and a practice. He is excited to now be a full time faculty member with UMSL, “I realized that I enjoyed working with students during my residency. Being from St. Louis originally, I always intended to return to be close to family. I was working part time for UMSL for a year and appreciated the environment and commitment to providing a solid education for our students.” His teaching responsibilities are many and diverse and his long-term goals include an active participation in clinical research, “Currently my teaching responsibilities are mostly clinical. I supervise third and fourth year students in the clinics,” he comments. He also assists with the clinic course laboratory section for the second year students as well as the problem-based learning course with the first year students. Additionally, he is the coordinator for emergency care with the residents. His long term goals include becoming involved in clinical studies in the future at UMSL.
Dr. Casey Hamm (’15). Dr. Hamm is a St. Louis native who, following her graduation from UMSL, completed a residency in Primary Care with emphasis in Ocular Disease at NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There she had the opportunity to observe many different ophthalmology specialties such as retina and oculoplastic. Dr. Hamm also gained invaluable experience in working with optometry students and is excited to pursue a profession that she has long desired to be a part of, “I knew that I wanted to teach even before I decided to pursue a career in optometry. I have been interested in education for as long as I can remember—I love the academic setting and the fulfillment that comes from working with students. After attending UMSL as an optometry student myself, I knew that the personable, motivating environment, and small class sizes would be just as enjoyable from the teacher’s perspective as it was from the student’s. I feel very fortunate to be able to call my former professors my colleagues, to work with driven and inquisitive students, and to be able to utilize the beautiful new Patient Care Center!” Like Dr. Stark she has many diverse teaching responsibilities with the ultimate goal of emphasizing clinical instruction, “I am the instructor for the first year Biochemistry course. I also work with third-year students in the Advanced Topics in Ocular and Systemic Disease laboratory alongside Dr. Tom Landgraf. My clinical responsibilities include supervising third year students at the Patient Care Center on campus, as well as overseeing fourth year externs during their community service rotation at the People’s Health Centers clinic located on Delmar Blvd. My long-term goals in education include a continued strong presence in clinical teaching –I enjoy guiding students in the application of their didactic knowledge to “real-life” patient care. I also look forward to continuing to hone my abilities as an effective teacher in the classroom setting, in both the Biochemistry course as well as any potential future responsibilities.”
Dr. Katie Niermann. Dr. Niermann brings a very good experience and passion in low vision to the College of Optometry. After completing a residency in low vision at the University of California- Berkeley, she had the experience working as a staff optometrist in a private practice in Northern California and with an ophthalmology clinic in the St. Louis area. Last year she began assisting Dr. Katie Boland with the low vision program. She also continues to work as a low vision optometrist with the Comprehensive Low Vision Project (CLVP) sponsored by the Lighthouse for the Blind- St. Louis. This program serves students who are visually impaired throughout Missouri and provides low vision evaluations, prescribed optical devices, and instruction of devices at no cost to the student or school district. She also recognizes this is a great opportunity occurring at an opportune time, “It is quite an exciting time to be at the College of Optometry! What was already a well-respected college in the St. Louis community now expands its reputation with the opening of the new Patient Care Center. I became interested in pursuing academia during my low vision residency at UC-Berkeley. I am motivated by our students’ drive to become future leaders in our profession. UMSL has been a perfect fit as I grew up near St. Charles and love living closer to family and fellow Cardinals fans!” She is currently teaching the low vision laboratories for third year students and the problem-based learning sequence for the first year students. In addition, she provides clinical instruction at both the Lindell Eye Center and the University Eye Center. She is very interested in advancing her career and her abilities, “I look forward to expanding my teaching techniques and pursuing leadership roles at the college. My long term goals include involvement in clinical research and becoming a Fellow and Diplomate in Low Vision of the American Academy of Optometry.”
Dr. Linda Nguyen. Dr. Nguyen, a California native, brings a dual interest and experience to UMSL: ocular disease and pediatrics and she is using both of these abilities in her role at UMSL. She earned a doctorate degree in optometry and a master's degree in vision science from The Ohio State University. She then completed a primary care residency with emphasis on ocular disease at the Marion Veterans Administration Medical Center. She was very motivated to pursue a teaching position and appreciates the opportunities it presents, “My motivation to pursue a full-time faculty position at UMSL is to continue life-long pursuit of self-learning in an academic community as a mentor to students and a contributing team leader to fellow optometric colleagues. I greatly appreciate the many opportunities to build and contribute my didactic knowledge and clinical experience to students at different stages in their academic careers and in various clinics including pediatrics, ocular disease, and primary care. I enjoy stimulating the students' curious minds with clinical challenges and sharing enthusiasm for learning with positive feedback and constructive criticism. I believe in a higher standard of patient care supported with personal zeal and internal drive for continual self-learning and development.” Her teaching responsibilities are consistent with her interests and background. She serves as a clinical preceptor to fourth year students in pediatrics, ocular disease, and primary care clinics as well as teaching the second year students in didactic courses focusing on ocular motility and clinical examination skills. She brings a very positive presence to the College and has a tremendous desire to become the best educator she can possibly be: “My long-term goals in education are to firmly grasp the intricacies and nuances of teaching. I will become an effective educator in both didactic and clinical courses. Once my skill sets in teaching become firmly established, I plan to pursue research focusing on improving visual potential and efficiency in school-aged children as well as understanding disease trends in end-stage ocular disorders to find effective management and treatment plans.”