Celebration Profiles – May 1-5
In honor of our centennial anniversary, we are featuring members of our optometry community — past and present — each day of 2023!
See below for this week’s profiles.
Alexander Belsten, BSAlex is a vision science student from Cuddebackville, New York. He studied computer and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. During this time, he got his first exposure to neuroscientific research at the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies in Albany, NY. After his Bachelor’s, he was involved in the development of technologies for intracranial electrophysiology research at Washington University in St. Louis in the Department of Neurosurgery. During his time working on brain-computer interfacing technology, he observed the amount of time-series neural data being recorded and was enthralled with the idea of extracting meaningful information from it and describing the algorithms that produced it.
Alex believes that the visual system provides an excellent model to understand neural computation. His current research involves modeling the visual system during retinal motion from the photoreceptor level, where inputs are dynamic and constantly changing, to the cortical representation of objects, which are stable and consistent. At UC Berkeley, Alex seeks to expand his skill set and do research with real-world impact, allowing him to continue a career in academia post-doctoral graduation.
Cristen Adams, ODCristen Adams, OD is a Bay Area, CA native and a first-generation college graduate. She holds a BS in Life Science from the Pennsylvania State University where she was a charter member of the campuses’ first pre-optometric society, and a Doctor of Optometry Degree from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry. Her practice experience varies, including OD/MD practice, OD private practice, corporate optometry, and boutique-style optometric care.
Dr. Adams is passionate not only about the diversification of the optometric profession, but in creating inclusive environments that facilitate equity and belonging. As such, she co-founded the Black Advancement Initiative at Berkeley Optometry. She humbly received the Michael G. Harris Distinguished Service Award from the school for this contribution and other leadership efforts. She is eager to continue serving the Berkeley Optometry community through teaching and will kick off her first term as Assistant Clinical Professor in the 200 series Fall 2023. Dr. Adams is a fierce advocate for mentorship and hopes to connect with as many students as she can in that facet to enrich their experience and improve their success.
Dr. Adams’ favorite part of optometry is patient education. She believes in transparency of care and is committed to partnering with her patients via knowledge sharing, motivating them to be better self-advocates regarding their health. Her hope is to shift the patient-doctor dynamic to one rooted in trust and accessibility.
George L. Schneider, ODGeorge Schneider was a founding member of the California State Association of Opticians, serving as its first secretary until 1901. Around 1905, he opened an optometric practice in Berkeley and soon became the first secretary of the Alameda County Society of Optometrists (1907–10). Always civic-minded, Schneider served in the early 1900s as president of various city organizations in Berkeley: the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Association, the City Planning Commission, and the Rotary Club.
In 1914 he arranged University Extension night courses in anatomy, physics, physiology, physio-psychology, theoretical/practical optics and mathematics for licensed optometrists. The California State Association of Optometrists appointed a new committee, headed by Schneider, to negotiate with the University. As negotiations continued, Schneider launched a statewide fund-raising campaign in late 1922, succeeding in acquiring pledges from licensed optometrists and optometric organizations to subsidize the first year of instruction.
The California State Association of Optometrists also introduced a bill before the state legislature to raise the annual optometry license renewal fee from $2.00 to $10.00, the difference supporting optometry courses and research. The law was passed on May 23, 1923, thus guaranteeing long-term funding beyond the pledges, and the UC Regents approved the curriculum. Instruction began in the Department of Physics on August 17, 1923, with Schneider as the first Lecturer in Optometry (he taught Practical Optics, Elementary/Advanced Theoretical Optometry, and Practical Optometry). Schneider persuaded optical companies to donate instruments and supplies, establishing the most completely equipped school of optometry in the nation.