Dr. Brittany Wright, a self-described “professional student,” is thrilled to be back in academia. Dr. Wright joined the UMSL Optometry faculty in 2019, and she has been getting settled into her roles in the clinics and an instructor for the 1st year Project-Based Learning course.
Brittany started thinking about optometry a little later than many typical optometry students; she was going into her senior year in college. “I didn’t see an OD growing up,” she said. But during a health career fair at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, she visited the Illinois College of Optometry booth. “I knew I wanted to go into healthcare, but I didn’t know where.” She started researching and shadowing ODs while completing her master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology at SIUE. “I liked the interactions between the ODs and the patients, and how it combined with healthcare.” Originally from the Chicago area, she applied at ICO and Southern College of Optometry, where she also had family nearby. Brittany chose SCO and continued on her educational journey.
When asked about adjusting to optometry school, Brittany said that she had a pretty good idea of time management from her graduate school years. “I knew how much time to commit to the classes and other things.” During her 4th year rotations, she figured out what areas she was drawn to. “I thought that I would love pediatrics, but my first rotation was in our peds clinic, and I discovered that I didn’t have the energy to work in peds!” Ocular disease and low vision began to stand out to her, especially during her rotation at the Chicago VAMC. “I loved working with the VA population. Each clinic is run differently, but you can focus on giving the patient the best care. And I liked the puzzle aspect of disease and figuring out how to best help them.” Brittany’s strong organizational skills helped her find time to be involved as a school ambassador and to serve as the national president of NOSA during her 4th year.
Brittany realized that completing a residency would improve her skills and be attractive to community health groups she was interested in working with. After her VA rotation, she knew she wanted to get back to that setting. “I was lucky enough to match with my first choice, the VAMC in Kansas City. I had heard from previous residents that they had positive experiences there.” As the now-graduated Dr. Wright headed to Kansas City, she was also planning a wedding to her longtime boyfriend, Chris. “I had told him that I didn’t want to get married during school, so he proposed in December of my 4th year. The wedding was four days after the end of my residency!” A planned move to Texas was instead switched for Colorado, as Chris had accepted a job in the athletic department at Colorado State University in Denver. Dr. Wright spent a year working part time at two Denver-area practices, and then moved to a full-time position at a multi-disciplinary group practice with three MDs and seven ODs. The newlyweds loved Colorado for the mountain views and the fun college football scene.
One day, Chris got a call that a job was opening up in the athletic department at SIUE, which was also his alma mater. He applied, interviewed, and was offered the job. “Although we were happy in Colorado, being back in Illinois, closer to both of our families, was important as well.” Chris moved back to the area in August 2018, and Brittany followed in November. They are able to attend many sporting events and travel to see family. And, in November 2019, that family will expand to include baby Aston! The parents-to-be are so excited about this next step in the journey. “We have many close friends who live nearby, who are also having babies. And our families have already planned some trips down to see us.”
Brittany has truly enjoyed coming to work at UMSL. “I’ve appreciated how supportive and embracing everyone is. So many people have offered to help in this transition. The students have been great, and have helped me get excited about the future of our profession. I love seeing the growth between the 3rd and 4th year in clinic.”
The UMSL family welcomes Dr. Brittany Wright (and her family) to St. Louis. We look forward to her contributions to our students’ education and our patients’ well-being.