What program are you in and what type of practice are you preparing for?

We are both third year optometry students at UAB’s School of Optometry. We have a 2025 graduation date and plan on practicing in the armed forces.

Where did your interest in Optometry come from?

SC: I became interested in optometry and vision because I thought the eyes were the most beautiful part of the body. I loved drawing them in the margins of my notes in high school, and when I found a connection with science – which I also loved – I decided quickly that eye doctor was my career of choice. This feeling was only confirmed when I went on a mission trip my sophomore year of high school where I was able to shadow an optometrist and an ophthalmologist and give out free glasses to those who needed them. It was a wonderful experience that set me on the track to where I am today: halfway through optometry school and more in love with vision care than ever.

DJ: I’ve had a lifetime love of science which prepared the foundation for my optometric aspirations. I’ve had to visit the optometrist since I was seven years old due to my progressive myopia, so optometry has been a major part of my life. Over the years, I’ve had great encounters with optometrists, and I want to be an inspiration to the future generations like those doctors of my past were for me. I vividly recall a couple visits during my undergraduate sophomore year that helped solidify my desire to be an eye doctor. I also value becoming a proud resource to my community, and I’m driven to fill the need for more African American representation in the field.

As one of our projects that is being implemented by two Fellows, what are the benefits of working with a partner?

SC: I enjoy working with Demetric because he is very levelheaded and organized. I feel like we complement each other’s strengths and are able to pick up where the other falls off. We can bounce crazy ideas off each other and encourage each other. As part of a partnership, I know that if I am ever overwhelmed, I have someone on my team that is in the same boat as I am that I can turn to for support.

DJ: Since we are in the same cohort at UAB School of Optometry, my partner Sam definitely understands the workload of our professional program. Not only is the coursework rigorous, but both of us hold officer positions in various optometric student organizations. Having a partner that’s accountable, reliable, and passionate about serving others makes our project not only gratifying but feasible.

How did you connect with Cahaba Valley Health Care and what is it about their work that made you want to partner with them?

SC/DJ: Cahaba was introduced to us through Dr. Marcela Frazier, who has worked with them since they were founded. CVHC was founded with the specific intention of helping the Hispanic population in and around Birmingham, so we could not have found a partner whose goals were more aligned with ours. Their clear passion for their work and their willingness to put in extraordinary effort for the benefit of their patients persuaded us to partner with them very early on.

How did you come into contact with Dr. Yeargen, your site mentor?

SC/DJ: Dr. Yeargen was introduced to us by Cahaba as the person who had the right amount of authority and passion to facilitate our project. We are very much looking forward to working with her!

You are wanting to work specifically with Alabama’s Hispanic population. How did you come to the realization that this was the direction you wanted for your project to take?

SC/DJ: As part of our curriculum, we regularly encounter patients who speak Spanish. We noticed the huge language and cultural barriers that they had to overcome to make an appointment with an optometrist. We are both passionate about removing such barriers, so our heart went out to the Hispanic population of Birmingham. Not only does this fellowship give us an opportunity to brush up on our Spanish skills, but we also get to help build trust between healthcare providers and Spanish-speaking patients. A trust, we hope, that will last long after we graduate and are gone.