Hard work is something that all optometry students have been told is what creates success. At times, students work so hard that the journey is ignored and experiences forgone. Some students may also feel that the fruits of their labor were not as they had expected. Even when the path is not so clear and a goal is not in sight, hard work does create a fulfilling and rewarding environment in the field of optometry. If one person were to exemplify resilience, hard work, studiousness, and having many achievements, that person would be Dr. Helene Clayton-Jeter.
“Nothing replaces hard work in goal achievement”. Dr. Clayton-Jeter has lived by these words for much of her higher education. She originally had her goal set on medical school during her undergraduate education at Virginia Commonwealth University. However, her optometrist, Dr. Howard Cohen, had suggested to her to research optometry as a career path as there were not many minority Optometrists at the time. While she had applied to both medical school and optometry school, she decided on choosing the path of optometry and attended Salus University at Pennsylvania College of Optometry.
Dr. Clayton-Jeter has had many achievements in the field of optometry and public health. In 2011, Dr. Clayton-Jeter created the Cardiovascular and Endocrine Liaison Program for the FDA. Her goal was to advance the public health mission of the FDA through education, collaboration, and structured discussion between the cardiovascular and endocrine community and the FDA staff related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. By creating a program that helped facilitate interactions between patients, healthcare professionals and the FDA, she helps to educate, solve problems and address concerns with Agency policies and programs related to human medical product development and safety.
In 2014, Dr. Clayton-Jeter was awarded the AOA Leadership in Public Health Award for her efforts in promoting awareness of the dangers of colored decorative contact lenses. As of 2017, Dr. Clayton-Jeter is the first African-American Female Board Chair of the Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Health Professions, where she leads 23 health professional licensing boards. She is a board member of the Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Optometry and a community member of the Association of Black Cardiologists, to name a couple of organizations whose objectives are to promote public health and patient care.
“My optometric career has not been a straight path to where I am today so I would encourage prospective optometry students, especially those of color, to pursue what you love, work hard yet smart and stay true to yourself and your calling… The road to a fulfilled career path may not be straight so enjoy the journey”. Dr. Clayton-Jeter has experienced what it is like to be a woman optometry student of color and has had a unique and inspirational journey.
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