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Karen Vanoy, OD, is happily married to Will Vanoy, PhD, for 19 years and is the mother of two amazing children, Brady and Julia. She graduated from the University of Mobile with a BS in Biology in 1992 and from the UAB School of Optometry (UABSO) in 1997. Vanoy practices in Homewood, AL, with Eye Care Associates since 2016. She has served on the Alabama Optometric Association (ALOA) board and is currently active as a legislative key person in Alabama's pursuit of scope expansion. 

Q: Where did you grow up?  

A: I was born in Gadsden, AL. My dad was a pastor and was called to pastor a church in Naples, Italy when I was six years old. So, my elementary years were spent living in Italy. At age 12, we moved back to Gadsden, where I attended middle and high school. I love Italy and all things Italian. 

Q: What made you choose optometry as a profession? And why UABSO?  

A: My grandmother loved to say that she grew her own optometrist. She was an optician and opened an optical dispensary in 1975 in Gadsden. Her love of glasses came from her father who was a refracting optician at the turn of the century. He had a trial frame, lens set and a chart that he used when traveling to different towns where he performed refractions and ordered glasses for people. She worked as an optician for several years and then opened her own business at the age of 52. I grew up around the optical business and it was my summer job to help out in the family business. I learned how to cut and edge lenses as a college student and then decided to apply to optometry school. After graduating from UABSO in 1997, I did a year of residency at the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of South Alabama and then came back to Gadsden to work with my grandmother. I opened a private practice within her optical and practiced there from 1998 to 2014. I chose UABSO because of its stellar reputation and because it was in-state.  

Q: Who is/are your favorite mentors while a student at UABSO? 

A: So many professors touched my life at UABSO. I would have to say that John Classe , OD, made a big impact on me. It was in his Intro to Optometry class that I learned that my actual great-grandfather was the "grandfather" of the profession and that always stuck with me. I sought Classe's counsel in several instances in dealing with legal issues. I had John Essinger, OD, as my primary care clinic instructor for every rotation from second year on. He had a huge influence on me in the clinic. 

Q: Was there a moment that sticks out that made you realize UABSO was the right choice?  

A: When I realized that most of the textbooks we were using were authored by our faculty, I knew I had made the right choice for optometry school. UABSO has always recruited the best of the best in faculty and students. I was always proud to attend the American Optometric Student Association's (AOSA) events and talk with students from other schools who realized the textbooks they were using were authored by the professor who was teaching our courses at UABSO. 

Q: What is one important life lesson that your experience taught you at UABSO to help your career? 

A: Sometimes the most important interactions I have with my patients have nothing to do with their eyes or their eye exam. Don't ever forget to treat the whole patient. Sometimes patients need a listening ear or just some encouragement. Don't be so focused on their eyes that you miss an opportunity to help or encourage someone in another way. 

Q: What life advice do you recommend for current students/residents?  

A: Keep things in perspective. Optometry is an amazing profession and I know it is what I was called to do, but being a wife and mom is the greatest joy of my life. No matter what you do for a living, if you are gone tomorrow, the profession and industry will move on without you. Your patients, staff and colleagues will miss you but life moves on. What you do within your four walls is what your true legacy will be.  People will find another eye doctor, but you are the only spouse or parent your family will ever have. Make sure you keep that in perspective.