Our Why: An Inspirational Story


Former Black Hawk Pilot and mother to be, Senator Tammy Duckworth spoke at the AOA’s Rally on Capitol Hill last year at AOA+ to share her inspirational story as well as her support for optometry. Duckworth, who was severely injured during her service in the military prior to becoming a senator, credited her optometrist for her sight and survival.

The Illinois representative and former US Army Lieutenant Colonel addressed a group of students at the AOA+ rally for optometry students and optometrists on June 21, 2017 where she relayed her story of how an optometrist had made a difference. When she shipped out to service in Iraq as a helicopter pilot with the US army, she was examined by an optometrist who, taking into consideration Duckworth’s refractive error as well as her position as a pilot, prescribed appropriate and durable corrective frame and lenses. After she deployed, Duckworth sustained multiple devastating injuries when a rocket propel grande exploded in her lap. The prescribed spectacles saved Duckworth’s eyes from destructive shrapnel which had otherwise caused severe injuries. “Because of her, I am here today,” Duckworth said, referencing her optometrist.

For many optometry students and even pre-optometry students, the story is an inspiration. At some point, all optometry students and optometrists had to answer the proverbial question of “why pursue optometry.” And for many, our “why” is the chance to make a difference.

Whether you are a pre-optometry student applying to optometry school, a third year student preparing to take boards, or even a long-practicing optometrist, it is important for us as professionals to remember to remain motivated and diligent. We are not “just” optometrists. We are primary care providers who have committed ourselves to preserving vision, protecting our patients, and a lifetime of learning.

While Senator Duckworth’s experience has inspired her to become an avid supporter for the profession of optometry, her story is also an inspiration to thousands of students and optometrists who know that one day, they too may be called upon to make a decision that saves their patient’s sight.


Scroll to Top