OS: Casey Dillard is a member of the American Optometric Student Association Board of Trustees. He is now the AOSA Trustee for the Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry. Casey, tell us a little about yourself!
CD: Well, I have lived in Oklahoma my entire life. I grew up on a country road outside of Sallisaw, Oklahoma where I learned the values of hard work, patience, and helping others. By the 8th grade I knew I wanted to help people feel better, so I set my sights on the healthcare professions. I graduated from a tiny high school, in fact, our school was so small, we played in an eight-man football league (yes eight… that’s not a typo). After high school, I was awarded a leadership scholarship to Northeastern State University where I began my collegiate journey. It was there that I developed a notable interest in the wonderful profession of optometry.
OS: What has been the best part about being a member of the AOSA Board of Trustees?
CD: My single favorite part is being able to see so many different perspectives from optometry students all across North America. We are all basically learning the same thing: how to provide the best possible care for our patients. Every single one of us has had a different optometric experience. We all represent a student body with different wants, different needs, and different goals. We may have differing opinions on various issues, but at the end of the day, we move optometry forward.
OS: What do you think is the best advantage that AOSA brings to students?
CD: The AOSA does a lot to make optometry school the best experience it can be. But I believe the very best thing we have to offer students is an access point to what’s going on in our profession. This information can be given through the Trustee, Foresight Magazine, or providing travel grants to learn and network at national meetings. Our aim is to give the optometry students the best information possible to help them be better clinicians, choose a good fit for modality of practice, and to be aware of changes occurring in our profession.
OS: What have you learned from being a part of the AOSA Board of Trustees?
CD: The AOSA has taught me so much about optometry outside of Oklahoma. I was totally oblivious to the limitations of scope that some areas face. As a student interested in advanced procedures, this has given me a profound appreciation for the advances the leaders in Oklahoma have been able to make in our profession. The AOSA has also taught me that we cannot and we must not stand idly by as legislation sculpts our rights of practice.
OS: What do you think is the best way for optometry students to get involved in optometry outside of school life?
CD: There are multiple ways to get involved! That’s the beauty of our profession! Are you into politics? Go to the Congressional Advocacy Conference! Do you plan to have a VT focused practice later in life? Then go check out the COVD meetings as well. State and National meetings are a great way to learn more about optometry while networking with your future colleagues. Another way you can get involved is to volunteer with local VOSH groups, Special Olympics Opening Eyes, and local philanthropic groups. Professional students add energy, happiness, and a high level of skill to these organizations.
OS: Do you plan on doing a residency, and if so, in what area?
CD: As of now I am interested in doing a residency. I’m not entirely sure where, or in what field, but I am constantly learning more and refining my interests to make the most informed decision I possibly can. All I know right now is that I would like to live somewhere outside of Oklahoma while I further my knowledge and skills as an eye care provider.
OS: Tell us one interesting fact about yourself.
CD: I can dunk a basketball better than anyone else in our program. It’s a title I’m very proud of.
OS: Where do you see yourself practicing after graduation and in what type of setting?
CD: This is another decision that is yet to be made. I truly believe I have the ability to open my own practice in Sallisaw, though recently I have been contemplating other options. This is mostly because I would rather live in a city where things are more conveniently available. Ideally, I would like to work my way into a partnership in a multi-doctor private practice.
OS: What has been your greatest achievement so far?
CD: In 2007, I coached a 2nd and 3rd grade youth league basketball team. We lost EVERY SINGLE GAME that season. I could tell that the kids were discouraged and quite frankly, they weren’t having fun. So I gave them the stereotypical “we’ll do better next year” speech and we went on our way.
The next year, miraculously, all of the 2nd graders on my team came back to play as 3rd graders. I told them that if they worked hard, spent a lot of time practicing, and really wanted to win, then they could (I also told them I’d buy them all pizza if we went undefeated that year). I don’t know if it was the desire for free pizza, or something I said that motivated them, but from that day forward, they gave everything they had in practice and at home. We won EVERY SINGLE GAME that season. I have never seen a group of kids so excited. I have never been more proud of a group of 7 and 8 year olds in my life. These kids believed they could get better and so they did.
That moment was pivotal in my life and it showed me that being a leader can make a difference. Whether that’s on a basketball court, in an exam lane, or on a mission trip. Leaders are needed to make the world go round. Leaders are needed to make a difference. Leaders are needed in optometry.
OS: You can really jam out on guitar! Tell us about your musical background…
CD: Haha! I decided two things in Junior high… The first, as aforementioned, was that I wanted to work within the realm of healthcare. The second was that on the weekends, I would be a rockstar!
Music is a great stress reliever for me. I wholeheartedly enjoy providing music and a fun environment for my friends (or anyone who will listen). Two other students and a professor at our school have formed the band “Rocktometry”. Our current album is projected to tie the record for least albums ever sold (zero… but hey, it’s hard to sell an album that doesn’t exist!).
OS: If you had a time machine to go back in time what would you change in history and why?
CD: Wow! That’s such a tough question! I believe I would go back and stop the terrorists on September 11th from crashing into the World Trade Center. It seems as though every time I fly now, I think about what I would do if I were faced with such a situation. It gets me a little stirred up and angry every time, even though it’s now 12 years later and I was 1,500 miles away when it happened.
OS: If you were stranded on an island and you could only bring three things what would they be?
CD: I would bring an extremely heavy-duty tent, a wide plus lens to start a fire, and a knife. Anyone who claims to be a country boy should be able to survive with those three things!
OS: When you are not studying for optometry school, what do you like to do in your free time?
CD: I spend a good deal of my free time with my classmates at social events. I also enjoy playing basketball, playing guitar, working out, chatting with my friends, and hanging out with my girlfriend. In the summer months, I enjoy being at the lake and jamming out around a campfire.