College of Optometry faculty member and graduate Dr. Angel Novel Simmons (’03) may have just completed the first recruiting event for the class of 2036. Dr. Simmons, who serves as the Director of 4th Year Clinical Rotations, spent a March afternoon in the science lab at Pershing Elementary in the University City school district. The idea came from a discussion with Dr. Simmons’ sister, veteran teacher Kellie Novel. Ms. Novel has taught in the area for 15 years and is in her first year teaching 3rd grade at Pershing. She asked Dr. Simmons about doing an inservice at her school, and the plan was put into motion.
Dr. Simmons purchased 25 cow eyes, and the 38 students came to the lab with their teacher and two aides. After a discussion about the basic parts of the eye, the students were paired up and began to dissect and identify the structures of the eye. After the initial reaction to the smell—“It smells so bad!”—some students really got into the dissection. One group took off the orbital fat, made a cut and laid it open. “They were really excited,” Dr. Simmons said. Another group found the tapetum, the reflective material that serves as a protective mechanism. “One of the students asked if he could take it home and show his parents!”
Perhaps even more important is a byproduct of the hour spent in the lab that afternoon. Dr. Simmons, Ms. Novel, and Dr. Simmons’ son Michael have started an Emerging Doctors Club at the school. The group plans to have additional meetings, lectures, and dissections for students who might be interested in the medical field. “The idea is for different medical professionals to come in and talk to the students, and then the next meeting they will dissect a related organ,” said Dr. Simmons. “Many of these students come from low-income areas of the community. They don’t always get exposure to the options available. You can’t be what you can’t see! We hope to show them that they can fit into the medical world.” Perhaps Dr. Simmons lit the spark in one of our future optometry students!