Happy Friday, y’all!
For a change of pace on this Friday morning, I’ve decided to do a (fun?) introduction post in the ever popular interview format. Enjoy!
I: Easy question – what’s your name, and what do patients call you?
OD: I’m Hannah Vollmer. Immediately after graduation I had considered having my patients call me Dr. Hannah since it felt less formal, but at this point I’ve pretty solidly adapted to Dr. Vollmer.
I: Where did you go to school, Dr. Vollmer?
OD: I attended The Ohio State University College of Optometry, and graduated in May of 2019.
I: May 2019 – that’s over a year ago now. What have you been doing over the past year?
OD: I decided early on in my optometric career that I wanted to pursue a residency after graduation to become further specialized. In March of 2019, I matched with University of Houston College of Optometry as their Brain Injury Vision Rehabilitation resident for the 2019-2020 academic year. So, in June of 2019, I moved down to Texas, where I have resided ever since.
I: Ohio to Texas – that’s a pretty big change!
OD: For sure. Thankfully, I had lived in both North Carolina and New Mexico as part of my optometry school rotations, so the heat wasn’t a huge shock. Plus, I’ve always dreamed of a world of endless summer. I think Texas fits the bill.
I: I think you may be right. Do you think you’ll stay in Texas?
OD: That’s a great question that I’m honestly trying to decide right now. I’ve always figured that I’d move back to the Midwest at some point – the question is really just when – be that 2 months, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, etc.
I: Well, good luck as you make that decision. Let’s switch gears. Did you always know that you wanted to become an optometrist?
OD: Absolutely not. I honestly always tell people that I chose optometry because I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. As a lifelong musician, I initially planned on becoming a cognitive neuroscientist with research emphasis on how music impacts the brain. It was really only after my junior year of undergrad, after several neuroscience internship opportunities fell through, that I found myself shadowing several optometrists, and then landing a summer internship with one of the offices. At the end of the summer, I figured I had nothing to lose and decided to give it a go.
I: That seems a little late in the game – was it hard to apply for schools from that point?
OD: After talking with other optometry students after getting into school, I realized just how late in the game it was – considering most other applicants were already applying at the time that I was taking the prerequisite courses. At the time though, it didn’t seem like all that hard. I think the biggest challenge was taking the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) before I had taken several of the prerequisites – I had no real understanding of OChem, but it was one of the largest sections of the test. Thankfully, however, it all worked out, and by August of 2015, I had packed my bags and moved to Columbus for school.
I: I’m glad it all seemed to work! You said that you decided pretty early that you wanted to do a residency – what drove that decision?
OD: When working in the private practice for both my internship, and then as a summer job the next year, I realized pretty quickly that I would get bored just asking people “which is better, 1 or 2” all day. I had always loved working with kids, and so figured that I would specialize in pediatrics. However, during my time at OSU, I saw relatively few peds, but a ton of brain injury patients. I fell in love with them and their stories, and so decide to pursue a career in neuro-rehabilitation instead.
I: Was that as significant of a change as it sounds?
OD: Honestly, no. There is a surprising amount of overlap between the two populations. Severe brain injuries can leave patients non-verbal – very similar to young pediatrics – therefore requiring virtually identical exam techniques. In addition, both patient subsets may exhibit binocular vision deficits that optometrists trained in vision therapy are able to assess and treat. If I’m completely honest, my favorite population is actually combination of the two fields – neuro-peds. It can be heartbreaking to work with these little ones who have been through devastating circumstances, but to be able to give even a glimmer of hope to patients and families who have been through the unimaginable is incredible.
I: That sounds awesome. Is there a certain type of practice that will allow you to provide this care?
OD: Great question! I’m still working out what exactly this may look like. It has been my dream to be a part of an out-patient interdisciplinary neuro-rehab team that includes OT, PT, speech, optometry, and potentially neuro-psych. Finding that team, thus far, has been difficult though. So, for the time being, I’m planning on starting small – joining a private practice and building a patient population, until I am able to move on and create a facility that will provide the care that these patients deserve.
I: Incredible. Well, I think that concludes the questions for today. Thanks, Dr. Vollmer!