Skip to main content

Student stories: Fall 2016


MBKU attracts some of the best optometry and PA students in the nation. We are proud to bring their stories to you here.

Inspired by an SCCO alumnus, Kappes looks to inspire others in her community

For many, career goals begin in childhood and often change with maturity and the benefit of life experiences. But for some, the journey to a rewarding and dynamic career begins early and never waivers. Such is the case for Kallie Kappes, a third-year student at Ketchum University’s Southern California College of Optometry. At age four, Kappes met an optometrist during a routine eye exam that would start her on a journey to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming an optometrist.

As a young girl in Nevada, Kappes frequented the office of SCCO alumnus Dr. Kurt Alleman, ’81, a local optometrist with a successful practice. She watched closely as the doctor performed exams and took note of the care he provided her and to the rest of his patients. After several years of treatment with Alleman, Kappes’ optical condition began to subside, and she had an epiphany: she knew she wanted to become an eye doctor. As Kappes puts it, “I really looked up to Dr. Alleman; he inspired me to want to be an optometrist.” In time, Dr. Alleman would become a friend, a tutor and one of her most influential mentors. He would eventually help guide her on which optometric school to attend and the courses she would need to complete, starting her on a journey that would lead her to MBKU.

Upon registering, SCCO students are automatically enrolled in the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA). AOSA chapters represent more than 6,600 students attending universities throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Each chapter is dedicated to promoting the optometric profession, as well as to enhancing “the education and welfare of optometry students.” Kappes’ involvement with the AOSA has helped her to channel her passion for helping others by providing her with the tools to share her acquired knowledge with other MBKU students.

In fact, Kappes and another student are spearheading the AOSA’s annual fall fundraising conference, to be held this year at the MBKU campus in Fullerton, California. The funds raised will be used to help SCCO students attend optometric conferences held in other areas of the country and for continuing education courses. Funds are also distributed to students who travel to disadvantaged areas to volunteer their time and professional services. These student volunteers distribute medications, perform routine eye exams and offer other necessary optometric services. This year’s conference will be attended by students from the Fullerton campus, as well as several other schools located in California and Arizona. The AOSA expects more than 300 optometric students to attend.

As Kappes continues through her third and fourth year at MBKU, she hopes to continue working with those around her to reimagine the future of health care education.

Charitable work rewarded with the first Crystal Caduceus Award

While working as a medical assistant earlier in her career, Rachel Wang realized she wanted to do more. She wanted to give more. She wanted to be more.

She spent the next several years working to get into the coveted MBKU School of Physician Assistant Studies. Now part of the Class of 2017, Wang has always had a passion for medicine that was matched only by her passion for helping others.

“Before I was accepted into MBKU’s PA school, I was doing a lot of volunteer work. I saw a lot of need in the health industry,” Wang says. “While I was helping people with exercise, education and fundraising, I wanted to do more!”

This drive to give back was what earned Wang the first ever Crystal Caduceus Award, honoring a student who has demonstrated a passion for the field. Nominated by her peers, Wang was reluctant at first to apply for the recognition. But true to her mantra of always trying to “use everything for good,” she opted to apply and see what might happen. When she received a $1,000 check as part of the unrestricted award money, she decided to donate $400 of it to an upcoming community outreach trip to Rosarito, Mexico.

“Winning the award was so surreal and totally unexpected,” Wang recalls. “But it really reinforced my ethic about giving without any expectation of receiving. And when you are in a position to give, give generously.”

Wang finds a lot of that charitable spirit comes from a close connection not only to her family but also to her church. In selecting MBKU, she was excited to be able to stay near to those she loved the most. In addition, she knew there were great opportunities for rotations within the leading hospitals in the area, including St. Jude, St. Joseph and Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Wang and her peers will start their rotation program this November, finishing in November 2017.

With the PA field becoming an ever-growing opportunity for new health care providers, Wang was impressed with the cutting-edge innovation throughout the MBKU program. Through guest lecturers and hands-on lessons, the PA school is challenging and progressive — made for the innovative and experienced students in the school.

“I think PAs are an amazing asset to the health care team,” she says. “As more and more people are covered under the Affordable Care Act, PAs are offering a great solution to a growing need for patient care.”

While she is unsure about which doors will open ahead, Wang is confident that her education will steer her in the direction of her passion for helping others. “I’m excited about my next adventure, whatever that may be, because I can’t wait to get out there and use my skills, my training and my medical knowledge to make a real impact in people’s lives.”

PA class president looks to expand the legacy of giving back

As the 2017 Class President at MBKU’s new School of Physician Assistant Studies, Steven Bayer is looking ahead to a world of possibilities.

Evolving from a college focused on optometry, Ketchum University has now welcomed three classes to the new PA school. This sophomore class represents a group of truly gifted students who have excelled at a challenging first year involving an intensive regimen of on-campus classes and lectures followed by 15 months of clinical work.

Building on MBKU’s emphasis on helping underserved communities and populations through health care, Bayer and his classmates are looking to make this summer a season of giving back. “In August, the class planned a trip to Rosarito, Mexico,” he explains. “We provided health screenings and education to an orphanage to help improve the lives of the children and surrounding community.”

Helping the underserved is one of the things that first attracted Bayer to MBKU. After graduating from Colorado State University and working as an EMT in Denver for two years, Bayer wanted to extend his real-world experience into a lifelong career of helping people. Based on a record of giving back to the community and an innovative approach to PA instruction, it was clear that MBKU was the place to make Bayer’s wish a reality.

“I really like that being a PA allows me to contribute in a more team-based approach to health care,” Bayer says. “With such a large aging population, the PA field feels like the future of medicine — a relatively new and young profession with great opportunity for growth.”

In his first year as a PA student, Bayer has been humbled by the impact MBKU has had on him. “From the professors and guest lecturers, to the dean and my classmates, they have all affected my life so much more than I had ever imagined,” he shares. “I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity and am excited for the year of rotations ahead to continue giving back to the community.”

As part of the MBKU rotation program, students are expected to complete eight rotations: seven rotations in required fields of medicine and an eighth that is an elective selected by the student. In addition, students are required to complete one of their rotations with an underserved population. Bayer says this requirement reinforces the commitment of MBKU to the wellness, treatment and care for everyone.

He believes it’s a tradition of community service that truly sets MBKU apart. Last year, the inaugural class of PA students helped establish the Ketchum Classic. This year’s golf classic is set to continue to build awareness for the School of Physician Assistant Studies when it tees off November 5 at Coyote Hills Golf Course in Fullerton, CA.