Graduating student optometrist Nishan Pressley didn’t always know that optometry was her dream career. In fact, she had never even had an eye exam until she was 18 years old. Growing up in the small town of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, her first exposure to the profession that would become her career was a field trip when she was a high school senior the Penn State Hershey Eye Center. The experience grabbed her interest, and she started shadowing optometrists in that clinic. “That’s when I fell in love with the industry and all it has to offer,” Pressley recounts.
This spring Pressley is graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. Her decision on which optometry school was the best fit for her wasn’t based on location, however. Salus University offers an expedited 3-year optometry school program for exceptional candidates in addition to their traditional 4-year curriculum. The Accelerated Scholars Program typically accepts between 10-14 students and is a new option for optometry students to consider. Pressley’s class of 2019 is only the 3rd graduating class. The Accelerated Scholars Program is a rigorous and intense course load, and as such the application process is extremely selective. To be considered, students need:
- at least a 3.5 GPA
- at least 330 or higher on the OAT
- minimum of 100 hours of shadowing experience before starting optometry school
The program requires students to be very intrinsically motivated; many courses are online and there is a focus on independent-based learning. Despite the condensed schedule, participants in the program take the same number of courses and credit hours as the traditional 4-year program students, and have the same amount of clinical care hours. In fact, her class started seeing patients in their school clinic by February of the first year.
Even though she had less time to study for National Boards than her peers, Pressley felt very prepared for these tests. “A lot of the information was very fresh on my mind because I just had those classes,” she shared.
What did she decide to do with her extra year? She considered residencies and even went on interviews, but she got a job offer in an MD/OD practice in Florida that was her dream job and couldn’t pass it up!
In addition to sharing her experience in the Accelerated Scholars Program, Pressley shares the inspiration behind her popular Instagram account, @eyesonnish. She started using Instagram in optometry school to document her journey as a student. The account really took off when she began a “Case of the Day” feature. Many of her followers didn’t really know what optometry was, and it opened their mind to the medical side of the profession. She would post pictures that were HIPPA compliant online and ask her followers “what do you think this is?” engaging them with the idea that optometry could unlock a number of systemic diseases and conditions. As an African American optometry student, she felt inspired to share her experiences and her journey through school to make more minority students aware of the profession at a younger age.
Through the popularity of her account, this year she attended her first Vision Expo conference. Tarrence Lackran, Director of Industry Relations at Reed Exhibitions, was a long-time follower of her on Instagram and he reached out with an invitation to serve as a student ambassador for the conference. Through the experience, she served as a student ambassador at Vision Expo’s brand new Career Zone where she interviewed companies that were interested in hiring new grads and young ODs.
If you want to learn more about her journey or her experience in the Accelerated Scholars Program at Salus University, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her on Instagram at @eyesonnish.