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The Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science community is a prestigious group of educators, researchers, clinicians, and students. Here, we’re focusing on a few so you can get to know them better.

Dr. Wilmer

Dr. Christina Wilmer

Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs
University of California, Berkeley

To a generation of optometry students, Dr. Chris Wilmer is one of the most thoughtful teachers and determined mentors they have ever known. “She pushes students to have a higher level of professionalism,” says Ashley Craven O.D. ’14. “We’re held to a higher bar in her mind.”

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Dr. Jacobsen

Dr. Carl Jacobsen

Chief, Ocular Disease Clinic
University of California, Berkeley

As chief of ocular disease for the most comprehensive and cutting-edge O.D. program in the nation, Carl Jacobsen has built a robust training program where each student sees as many as 12 patients a day and manages a complex variety of ocular diseases. Since joining the faculty in 1993, Jacobsen has dramatically expanded Berkeley’s Ocular Disease Clinic, which serves 6,000 patients annually.

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Students from the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science share their stories about the benefits of philanthropy.

Sheng Yeh

Sheng Yeh ‘24

Doctor of Optometry (OD) Student
University of California, Berkeley

I majored in art and moved to L.A. intending to pursue a career in the animation industry. While taking classes to enhance my skills, I worked part time in optometry to support myself. In the optometry job, my mentors left a profound impact on me. Their dedication to helping people, even those unable to afford treatment, showcased the transformative power of optometry. I recognized the immense potential optometrists have in making a meaningful impact on people’s lives. The realization that people fear blindness more than death struck a chord with me. As an artist, vision is a precious gift, and the ability to appreciate the beauty of the world is invaluable. This realization fueled my desire to protect people’s vision, ensuring they can continue to experience the wonders of the world. As an optometrist, my aspiration is to safeguard people’s ability to cherish every moment of joy in life by preserving their vision.

My journey has evolved from pursuing artistic happiness on screen to a deep commitment to ensuring that others can visually experience the happiness that life offers. Berkeley’s optometry program distinguishes itself through its robust curriculum, extensive clinical experiences, specialized clinics, and exposure to a diverse patient population. These factors align seamlessly with my academic and professional goals, making it an ideal choice for my optometric education.

I am applying for the residency program in pediatric optometry at the New England College of Optometry. My passion for working with pediatric patients stems from their refreshing perspectives and the joy of forming strong bonds with my patients and their parents. With my cheerful demeanor, passion for kids, and offer of positive reinforcement, I readily develop rapport and communicate efficiently with pediatric patients. I believe I will be a good pediatric optometrist.

Hana Alsoudi

Hana Alsoudi ‘25

Doctor of Optometry (OD) Student
University of California, Berkeley

I met Mariam, a 13-year-old Syrian refugee, in a makeshift hospital in the small town of Reyhanli, Turkey during my two weeks as a medical assistant in the refugee hospital. She had been experiencing blurry vision for months and could not participate in everyday school activities. After completing an in-depth eye exam, the volunteer optometrist concluded that Mariam would need prescription glasses. The simple intervention of prescribing eyeglasses provided a rapid, positive outcome in Mariam’s life, which left me awe-inspired. When I fit the new eye lenses onto her small face, she beamed excitedly and burst into tears. For all Mariam had gone through as a refugee, protecting her vision may have had the most profound effect on her future. In the refugee hospital, the burden that was placed on healthcare providers due to the lack of proper equipment and resources was astounding. This strain was felt by people like Mariam, whose visual health and quality of life were forgotten in the midst of the hardships of the civil war.

Similarly, I have witnessed a strain on our healthcare system in the United States, with fundamental faculties of health neglected in the most vulnerable populations. In both settings, I have been inspired by the resilience of medical providers in the face of crises. I hope to one day yield the same dedication of the medical providers I have met through my diverse experiences to best treat those in need.
My time at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science has been nothing short of extraordinary, and your generosity has played a pivotal role in shaping this experience. As a result of scholarship support, I have been able to focus wholeheartedly on my studies and practical training, gaining invaluable insights that will undoubtedly shape my future in the field.

I have had the privilege of collaborating with esteemed faculty members and participating in hands-on clinical experiences. These experiences have not only expanded my knowledge but have also deepened my passion for optometry and strengthened my commitment to making a meaningful impact in the field.

I am committed to dedicating my skills and knowledge to addressing the eye care needs of those who are often overlooked. Upon graduation, my primary goal is to work in domestic and international community hospitals, focusing on assisting underserved communities.

I want to express my deepest gratitude for your support. I look forward to carrying forward the spirit of generosity and making a meaningful impact on underserved communities in the years to come.

Rebecca Harbert

Rebecca Harbert ‘24

Doctor of Optometry (OD) Student
University of California, Berkeley

When I was younger, I had mixed-type amblyopia, so I had to go to several optometry and ophthalmology appointments. The positive experience during those appointments made me want to pursue a career in optometry. Optometry is a great field as it provides direct patient care and allows building solid connections with patients.

What attracted me to Berkeley’s optometry program was its strong emphasis on clinical learning and the diverse patient population it serves. These factors and the excellent community at Berkeley motivated me to apply and attend the program. My classmates have fostered such a strong bond, and we help support each other through the program. The professors and attendings are amazing as well — they truly care about each student and want to help support and foster their learning.

After graduation, I hope to pursue an ocular disease/primary care residency. Through my clinical experiences at Berkeley, I have developed an interest in ocular disease, especially in a primary care setting. Ever since the beginning of my optometric education, I have been intrigued by the various manifestations of ocular and systemic diseases and how to approach the diagnosis and management of these conditions. This is what has intrigued me to learn more and gain more experience in this area.

I genuinely thank you for your generosity in offering this scholarship fund to students. It truly makes a difference and helps to support us through our education and our adventures out in the optometry field.

Molly Vang

Molly Vang ‘26

Doctor of Optometry (OD) Student
University of California, Berkeley

My first patient interaction was at the Hmong Lifting Underserved Barriers (HLUB) Clinic, a UC Davis student-run clinic. Growing up in a Hmong household, I lived through the hardships and consequences of the mistrust of primary healthcare firsthand. Without hesitation, I joined as a Hmong patient advocate, educating and translating for the few Hmong patients in primary and ophthalmology clinics. I had the opportunity to work alongside health professionals and optometrists to witness the care and passion for their local community, in which I also aim to be a selfless optometrist, dedicating my time to serving underprivileged communities.

HLUB Clinic also exposed me to the ongoing problems in healthcare. I recognized a low priority of eye care services and a lack of knowledge about ocular diseases, especially within the Asian community. Many patients came into the primary clinic for common concerns but left with a referral to an ophthalmology clinic due to their expired eye prescriptions or untreated glaucoma. In a rapidly evolving healthcare system, it is clear that high-quality eye care should be delivered with compassion and empathy to all patients.

I am privileged to work as a research assistant in Dr. Teresa Puthusssery’s Lab, studying glial responses in non-human primate retinas following stem-cell-derived photoreceptor transplantation. My work involves analyzing immunohistochemistry and optical coherence tomography images to investigate the changes in the retina post-lesion and transplantation. This fragment of the research is essential for understanding the factors that may limit the efficacy of stem cell transplantation therapy and, ultimately, restore vision and improve life quality for patients with retinal degeneration. It has been an honor to learn more about vision science and gain research experience from Dr. Puthussery and her team.

My long-term goal is to play a role in resolving existing health disparities for the Hmong population. I have worked first-hand with this vulnerable population and witnessed the ongoing problems they face in healthcare accessibility. I will continue to advocate for my community and other underserved communities.

Steve Van Grouw

Steve Van Grouw ‘25

Doctor of Optometry (OD) Student
University of California, Berkeley

My first experience of optometry came in high school. I didn’t really realize I was having difficulties seeing things clearly because I never had anything to compare my vision to. I was struggling in school, and my parents decided to book me an appointment with an optometrist. He quickly solved the issue and prescribed me glasses. The impact was immediate. I was amazed by the clear vision I had been missing out on my entire life. This is what drew me to optometry — the opportunity to have a lasting impact on the lives of others.

My experience at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science has been very enjoyable. I have taken advantage of being a part of a large public institution by participating in rec sports, attending sporting events, and meeting a wide array of people. Within the program, I have especially enjoyed the pharmacology and pediatric-centered courses. Transitioning into the program’s clinical and patient care aspect has been truly rewarding. I was beginning to feel burnt out with the heavy course load within the first two years, but I have been rejuvenated since beginning direct patient care.

I was selected to be a part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program with the U.S. Navy at the end of my first year here at Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. Along with this comes a commitment to serve in the military upon graduation. I am very excited about this opportunity.

Landen Longson

Landen Longson ‘25

Doctor of Optometry (OD) Student
University of California, Berkeley

Optometry is not only academically rigorous and stimulating but also harbors a humanitarian component that will enable me to provide high-quality eye care to those in my community. Ever since I chose optometry, I knew that UC Berkeley was my dream school because I wanted a high-quality education from this rigorous program, and also exposure to a diverse patient population in the Bay Area.

My favorite classes have been anatomy and contact lenses. I have been very interested in contact lenses throughout my clinical experience so far. As a second-year optometry student, I was the Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH) president who led a group of students on a four-day, free humanitarian clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, in January 2023.

When I graduate and become an optometrist, I will continue to serve communities locally and internationally by delivering high-quality eye care to all.