Casey Mahan ’20 has wanted to become an optometrist since high school, and throughout her time at Hollins she gained a wide range of valuable experience in the field.
“My desire to practice optometry really solidified during my sophomore year when I traveled to North Dakota to work with a nonprofit organization called OneSight, which provides eye exams and glasses to children and adults who can’t afford them,” she says. “The following year I spent J-term working with Dr. Vin Dang, an optometrist in Bakersfield, California. I was able to shadow him as well as other optometrists and ophthalmologists, and view surgeries. As a senior I interned at a small optometry practice and loved every aspect of it, especially the relationship between doctor and patient.”
The biology major/chemistry minor from Virginia Beach says she began researching schools of optometry when she entered Hollins, and from the moment she talked with the Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), “I knew it was where I wanted to go, especially because of the early clinical experience they offer. I was also impressed with PCO graduates and what they had to say about the school. Obviously grades and coursework are a top priority for admission, but there’s also a heavy emphasis on getting to know students at the personal level during interviews. Optometry school is rigorous: It takes four years, including three summers, and they need to ensure students are well-prepared as undergraduates.”
Mahan is confident she is ready for the challenges ahead, thanks to both the “student” and “athlete” experiences she has enjoyed. “The biology department played an integral role in my acceptance to PCO, especially Associate Professor of Biology Morgan Wilson. When he became my advisor, he discussed with me the exact coursework I needed to take, when to take it, and how it could make my application stronger. He was always realistic with me about my goals. My friends at larger universities didn’t get the same personal connections with all their professors that I had, and I am forever grateful to Hollins for that.”
As captain of the Hollins volleyball team, which set the program record for victories in a season last year, Mahan believes she “became a better person, leader, and mentor, and better able to adapt to my surroundings. I learned valuable lessons about team dynamics and how they differ from year to year.”