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Ten members of the Class of 2025 have been selected as Southern College of Optometry's newest student ambassadors.
Student ambassadors assist in student recruitment, admissions, and public relations functions of the college. They are selected each spring from the current first-year class on the basis of academic performance, nominations by faculty and staff, and personal interviews.
Below is a full list noting each ambassador's home state and undergraduate school:
Class of 2025 Student Ambassadors:
Kyle Garner (Kentucky/University of Kentucky)
Amanda Gorr (Michigan/Michigan State University)
Jessica Jones (North Carolina/North Carolina State University)
Savannah Krall (Michigan/Grand Valley State University)
Noah Linhart (Kansas/Wichita State University)
Saniya Merchant (Illinois/University of Illinois)
Amy Overland (Hawaii/Purdue University)
Kayli Standridge (Arkansas/University of Central Arkansas)
Calista Trenerry (Alberta/MacEwan University)
Haley Varcoe (Minnesota/University of South Dakota)
Congratulations to each of these students!
MEMPHIS, Tenn., Jan. 13, 2022 – Although 75% of American adults require some sort of vision correction, only about half have vision insurance to help defray the cost. The uninsured tend to be lower-income households, including adults and children. But thanks to a $250,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare, eligible patients in the Mid-South can now access vision care at no cost at any Southern College of Optometry-affiliated clinic.
Originally slated to begin in March 2020, the program has been a year in the making. Last spring, it encountered an 18-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And according to doctors at SCO, the stark increase in new virtual engagements – including school, work and even social events – has added extra visual stress for patients across the board.
“The need for accessible vision care like this has always been great. But the circumstances of the last year have made the situation especially challenging for many Memphians who cannot effectively work, learn or even drive without proper correction,” said Suzy Sonnier, Vice President Strategy and Development, UnitedHealthcare Community & State for Tennessee. “From an insurer’s perspective, there is great value in preventive optometric care, which can identify visual impairment as well as a number of other health issues, like diabetes, which can lead to adverse health outcomes if left unchecked. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide this resource for the Memphis community in partnership with SCO.”
The grant, which covers the cost of an individual’s vision exams and eyeglasses for one year, is available to both adult and pediatric patients living in Memphis’ 38126, 38106 and 38108 ZIP codes. Patients who do not live in these areas but who lack major medical insurance, TennCare or Vision Discount Plan benefits may qualify. Grant-funded services are available at all SCO clinics, including The Eye Center at SCO in Midtown, The FocalPoint at Crosstown Concourse and University Eyecare of SCO on the University of Memphis campus. Appointments are available until the funding is depleted, and the college hopes to serve more than 3,000 people in that timeframe.
“Untreated visual impairment is a critical issue that contributes to other societal concerns, like school drop-out rates, unemployment and incarceration,” said Dr. Lewis Reich, president of SCO. “Addressing these issues now, both for adults and children, is a step toward improving their lives for years to come. It’s life-changing for them, rewarding for us, and impactful for our community as a whole.”
To inquire about eligibility or to book an appointment, call 901-722-3250. Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better for everyone by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. In the United States, UnitedHealthcare offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 1.3 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. The company also provides health benefits and delivers care to people through owned and operated health care facilities in South America. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health care company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @UHC on Twitter.
About Southern College of Optometry
Southern College of Optometry was established in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1932. SCO is an independent, not-for-profit institution of higher education with more than 500 students and residents from 40 states. The Eye Center at SCO serves nearly 60,000 patients annually, helping make the college one of the top in the nation for clinical optometric education. SCO’s Community Outreach Program reaches more than 12,000 children through vision screenings provided annually to Shelby County students in public, private and charter schools. Additionally, SCO opened a second clinic, University Eye Care, on the campus of The University of Memphis in 2013. For more information on SCO, please visit www.sco.edu.
Faculty, students, residents, and alumni enjoyed representing SCO at the first in-person meeting of the American Academy of Optometry in two years.
Held in Boston, the Academy meeting drew a large number of SCO attendees eager to participate after last year’s meeting in nearby Nashville went virtual during the height of the pandemic.
SCO’s student team placed third out of 23 optometry schools in the Essilor Academic Challenge. Congratulations to Meredith Fry, ’23, Regan Stone, ’22, Maria Bontrager, ’22, and faculty team advisor Morgan Ollinger, OD, for a job well done.
A total of 34 SCO academic posters were presented. Two SCO residents/recent graduates, Alexis Williams Smith, OD ’21, and Casey Krug, OD ’21, joined SCO’s Chief of Low Vision, Karen Squier, OD, in a winning academic poster. Ocutech, a low vision device company, started a new program to fund travel to the Academy meeting for low vision researchers with the winners chosen on the basis of their academic poster submission.
Thanks to all our alumni who attended SCO’s first large-scale reception for alumni and friends. The Class of 2021 had the best attendance as they enjoyed a mini-reunion of sorts with more than two dozen of the recent graduates in attendance.
More photos from Academy:
SCO's Beta Sigma Kappa Optometric Honor Society has formally welcomed 60 new members. Yesterday evening, BSK’s officers held an induction ceremony and administered the organization’s oath.
Congratulations to the following new members:
After being delayed for a year and a half because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2020 celebrated with a formal commencement ceremony during Fall Homecoming and CE Weekend. Held on Saturday, October 2 at the Peabody Hotel, the ceremony saw nearly 100 graduates return in cap and gown for their deferred ceremony.
Dr. Lewis Reich, SCO President, noted in his address to the class that 25 percent of graduates had completed a residency, while 20 members of the class had married. In fact, several members of the class were in absentia as they attended the wedding of Haylee Taylor, OD ’20, on the same day.
Since receiving their diplomas by mail in May 2020, the class had welcomed four babies, with three on the way as of this year’s ceremony.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, who had been scheduled to speak to the class at its original ceremony, delivered short remarks by video. Class Vice President Cassandra Croy, OD ’20, and Class Secretary Hayley Vasilko, OD ’20, delivered class comments in which they celebrated the class’s historic distinction as the only optometry students to have graduated officially in the year 2020, a date with optometric significance.
In lieu of honorary degrees traditionally presented during commencement, alumni awards were bestowed on two outstanding individuals. Jon Reid, OD ’12, received the Young Alumni Award, while the late Jeff Foster, OD ’81, posthumously was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor awarded by the college.
Torrie Garner, OD ’20, was recognized as Class Salutatorian, followed by Callie Mashburn, OD ’20, being recognized as Class Valedictorian. A reception honoring the class followed the ceremony.
The ceremony was livestreamed and recorded:
Photo Gallery: click here for full gallery