On Friday afternoon, May 18, 2018, 45 future doctors of optometry were honored with the presentation of their white coat, symbolic of being awarded clinical privileges. For the “Class of Vision,” this represented the culmination of months of practice examinations and the successful passing of the Clinic Privileging Examination.

This special occasion was attended by a large number of family members and friends at the Millennium Student Center. The honorees were welcomed by Dean Larry Davis for whom this was truly a special occasion: “The ceremony is always an exciting and celebratory event. This year will remain forever etched in my memory as I had the opportunity to assist with the presentation of white coats to each member of the Class of 2020. They are among the most accomplished and talented classes that I’ve had the pleasure to see during my time at UMSL.” The Class of 2020 selected Associate Clinical Professor Dr. Aaron Franzel to present encouraging words.  Likewise, they were welcomed by Dr. Thomas Greene (‘85) representing the Missouri Optometric Association.

As is tradition, the class being honored has the opportunity to select a 4thyear student to provide advice.  Valerie Leff (’19) was given this honor, and her words were very inspirational: “First off CONGRATULATIONS to the Class of 2020 on this amazing milestone in your optometric career! I am honored to be up here speaking to you today as you finally begin your journey into patient care. I was lucky enough to have been a Clinic TA and Tutor for the past the year.  I’ve been able to witness the transformation in your clinical skills and have a personal attachment to your success. You’ve come a long way!  You’ve completed dozens of practice exams. Spent basically an entire semester with your eyes dilated and have all passed your clinical privileging exam.”  Valerie then provided 10 “words of wisdom” for third year clinic with the tenth being especially pertinent: “Be CONFIDENT in YOURSELF!  You would not be here if you did not have the tools to be an amazing clinician.  Keep working, keep trying, and keep picking yourself up every time you fall down – and you’ll get there.”

Of course, the highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of the white coat, which was performed by Dean Davis with Assistant Clinical Professor, Dr. Casey Hamm.  Assistant Dean Ed Bennett introduced each honoree. He emphasized what an exceptional academic performance this class had, both in their undergraduate career and the fact that no member of the class is on academic probation at the College of Optometry.  He emphasized their engagement within – and outside of – the College, their excellent relationship with a great group of mentors, the Class of 2019, their numerous campus intramural championships, and the excellence they have demonstrated as ambassadors for our program.  He concluded with the following: “So who knows what your future will bring to these 45 future doctors of optometry.  . . . but based upon your first two years at the College, it’s evident that you have a very promising future in the profession – notably with your outstanding interpersonal communication skills, your ability to work together and – of course – your clinical ability – and we feel over time you will bring much positive recognition to the College of Optometry and you will make a difference in our profession.  It was apparent from the very beginning that you embodied all that is significant and positive about the Class of 2020; this is obvious – not only in your passion and dedication – but also in the fact that you are and will forever be: truly the Class of Vision.    You are all deserving of the honor being bestowed upon you today and we are all very proud of you.”


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