As we approach these summer months, having just hooded the Class of 2021 to begin their journey as Doctors of Optometry, we have an opportunity to reflect on the many things that shaped this year. From a global pandemic to heightened awareness of social issues that continue to impact our nation and world, the past year has presented many challenges and opportunities to gain new perspective.
As a clinical program, there was no option to conduct classes fully online. As a result, our students had the opportunity to learn how to safely pursue their clinical education alongside faculty and administration who were also learning how to navigate a global pandemic. Our faculty and students honored their commitment to our patients at the IEI, and their externship sites, and showed remarkable skill at adapting to continuing changes to guidance and protocols as the pandemic advanced. They recognized and responded to the fact that our patient community was both at higher risk of Covid-19, and that sight-threatening conditions could not wait until “things got better.” I am incredibly proud of the work that our frontline staff, students, and doctors did in ensuring that the Illinois Eye Institute continued to serve our patients well throughout the pandemic. In the uncertainty of a pandemic, it was only natural for fear to creep into the equation, but the Illinois Eye Institute team used science to mitigate that and meet the needs of our patients even when that meant finding new and creative ways to deliver service via telehealth visits or even curbside pickups for prescriptions and glasses.
Our faculty and staff ensured our students did not experience delays in their program and came up with ways to ensure that a hybrid option would keep everyone on track in a hybrid learning environment. We found ways to continue serving our students and carrying out daily business, first virtually and then returning to in person. Our facilities team did a tremendous job of keeping our environment safe by leading the charge with all the expanded sanitizing requirements.
Being able to conduct an in-person, on-campus Commencement for the Class of 2021 was a tremendous undertaking but provided a wonderful opportunity for us to send our newest doctors forth from the Lecture Center where their ICO education began.
In a year where stewardship of resources became even more important, our community came together to ensure effective and efficient uses of resources and close budget management and fiscal responsibility. Because of this, ICO was able to carry forward its mission to its full extent.
Our newly formed DEI committee has begun its work on campus as we seek to recognize ways to be more inclusive and responsive to the needs of every member of our community. I am excited to see their work unfold in the months ahead.
During this year, our community came forward and did whatever it took to ensure that we continued to serve our mission safely and effectively. I am inspired by their commitment.
To our Alumni, I look forward to the opportunity to welcome you back to campus as travel again becomes more possible. I look forward to opportunities to reconnect with you in person as professional meetings and conferences resume. I also invite and encourage you to mentor the young people you see in your practices and help cultivate in them the understanding that their dreams are within their reach. It takes a community working together to make a difference, and I am proud to count you as members of our community.
Mark Colip, OD ’92