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Carey Dillard being hooded at her Convocation and Hooding Ceremony

Shortly after Carey Dillard, O.D., joined UAB Eye Care as a clinic coordinator, she knew she had found her calling.

Dillard had known she wanted a career in health care, but she had been struggling to find the right avenue to pursue.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Tougaloo College in Mississippi, Dillard received a master’s degree from the UAB School of Health Professions. During a stint working at UAB Hospital, she realized she wasn’t following the right career path.

“I knew I wasn’t happy, and so I went back to school.”

As she pondered what would come next, she recalled her participation in a program during college learning about different health professions. One of the activities was a dissection of a cow’s eye.

“I remember I was just fascinated with the eye,” she recalls.

That prompted her to start courses with the UAB School of Optometry’s Vision Science Graduate Program.

Still, she knew she hadn’t found just the right fit and thought she might be suited for a more clinical career. She sought out advice from faculty members, who suggested she she start rotating through UAB Eye Care, the School of Optometry's clinical operation. She was soon offered a position as a back-up clinic coordinator.

“I loved what I was doing,” she said.

Shortly after, she took the job on full-time, and it wasn’t long before Dillard realized she wanted to be an optometrist.

“What really made me realize that I wanted to do it was the fact that when I got up every morning, I was excited about going to work because I knew that I would be seeing patients.”

She worked at UAB Eye Care for three years, during which she completed courses, prepared for the Optometry Admissions Test, and in 2013, she was accepted into the School’s optometry program.

“During that time, I was able to see what [eye care] was all about, and it made me really happy to be there,” she said. “Anything else I tried before, I knew wasn’t it.”

While being clinic coordinator allowed her to interact with many patients on a regular basis, providing care for the first time as an optometry student thrilled her.

“It was so exciting to finally get to experience giving patient care.”

Now that she has graduated, Dillard plans to practice in Alabama. She says she knows she has found the right career.

“Someone once told me that if you find something you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Dillard says. “I have found that to be true.”