As an alumna of the Southern California College of Optometry, Associate Professor Dawn Lam, MSc, OD, is well-acquainted with the generosity of the SCCO community: she herself experienced it as a scholarship recipient when she was a student. At the time, Dr. Lam was grateful for the help in offsetting her tuition and proud of having been identified as a student who was deserving. As the years passed and she began her career as optometrist and educator, the meaning of those scholarships became even more impactful. “I reflect back and see that someone decades ago thought it was important to set up a scholarship,” she says. “They didn’t know who was going to get it. They just wanted to help students in optometry school and I was a lucky recipient of some of those scholarships. I am so thankful for that. Now I’m in a position to give back. There are lots of ways to give back, and everybody picks what speaks to them, but I do it because I’m appreciative of the opportunities provided to me.”
A Larger Perspective
Dr. Lam is also thankful for the education she received at SCCO, where she learned not just the technical aspects of optometry, but also in how to relate to patients and understand their health from a larger perspective. “I remember learning it’s not just about determining the patient’s prescription,” she explains. “You have to look at the whole picture. Just because a patient is manifesting a certain prescription doesn’t mean that’s the right answer. That was a hard lesson, but looking back, it was very significant.”
Now as an educator at SCCO, Dr. Lam enjoys the privilege of imparting this lesson to her students. She loves the challenge of delivering complicated concepts to students in ways that make them understand and then seeing that learning applied later as they begin their clinical education. “I enjoy breaking down the lesson plan into easy digestible concepts. Learners appreciate knowing what is expected of them and they rise to meet each challenge. The rewarding part of education is working with a student in the clinic where they can apply the concepts from the classroom to the patient they are caring for.”
Dr. Lam models the collaboration at the heart of the MBKU experience in her research as well. She is part of a research group called Contact Lens Assessment in Youth (CLAY) with faculty members from other institutions and just completed a study that is developing a scoring algorithm for a contact lens risk survey. The goal is to develop a tool that doctors can use to more efficiently diagnose problems that contact lens wearers experience. So whether through giving, teaching or her research, Dr. Lam is someone who, with great gratitude, is always seeking new ways to contribute to her profession.