Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight (Sept 15-Oct 15)

Student Interviews

Cledis Ramirez

  • What year are you in optometry, what school?
    • Class of 20/20! 4th year at SUNY College of Optometry
  • What is your ethnicity? 
    • I’m Hispanic/Latina, born in El Salvador and raised in Queens NY after the age of 9.
  • How does your latina heritage motivate you to give back in optometry? 
    • I have had the great pleasure of rotating through sites that serve primarily Spanish speaking communities, where the famous “blue phones” are always a resourceful gadget. When I introduce myself and proceed to speak my native language, patients have this immediate look of relief on their face. My favorite ice breaker is “don’t worry! Spanish is my first language, I had to learn English” which always makes my patients laugh. It makes communication much easier, I can quickly start a problem-oriented exam without having to worry about missing anything. As an Intern, I can make a difference for the patients and doctors when communicating; As a doctor, I will be the one examining and following these patients…si, en Español!
  • Talk about your journey to optometry school, and any challenges you have faced along the way and how you overcame it and the lesson to be learned? 
    • My road has not been anything close to easy! I graduated from The City College of New York where I pursued a degree in Biochemistry. As I explored different graduate areas, I came across Optometry. Dr. Guilherme Albieri and 1st year student (then) Dr. Barbara Mendoza were guest speakers for the CCNY pre-med club. I immediately became interested, asked lots of questions and was invited to the SUNY open house. This is where I learned about the summer CSTEP program; unknowingly, this program opened all the doors for me. I took a year break between undergrad and grad school, during that year I applied to the position as one of the imagers on the Ocular Disease department at SUNY, a job that was offered to all those taking a gap year and who had participated in the summer CSTEP program. Dr. Joseph Stamm who was the chief of the department then, granted me an interview along with the head imager Dr. Stephen Pereira. To my disbelief, I was offered the position a couple of days later. During my year as imager, I saw a great deal of cases and made friends among the Interns, faculty and staff. Many of the Interns and doctors I imaged for then, are my preceptors now. Most students follow the same path to optometry school, from undergrad to grad without any breaks in between. I was fortunate to be accepted to the only school I applied to, to be where I dreamt to be, but I took the road less traveled. To anyone who is looking into applying to any of the optometry schools, no matter how hard it may look you have to keep fighting the good fight. If your heart truly desires to achieve something, look at different ways to achieve it. There is not a single solution to the same problem, you have to trust yourself and stay confident.
  • What are your goals in optometry and where do you see yourself in optometry?
    • I’m still working on deciding what mode of practice I prefer, whether that may be private practice or community centers to name a few. I have spaced out my externship sites to cover a couple of these areas so that I may learn about my likes and dislikes. I know that I have been trained to succeed in any area, I will have a positive impact on all my patients no matter the setting. I can only hope to find a working environment where I can continue to be challenged professionally and continue growing clinically.
  • If you could speak to your first year self, what advice would you give?
    • “Don’t worry, the best is yet to come!” As a first year it’s difficult to apply the material you are learning in the classroom to clinic. To build a house you need to make sure you have a solid foundation; similarly, in first year we all just want to get to the part where we interact with patients but we have to build momentum. I would definitely tell my younger self to be patient, ask questions, and enjoy your free time because you won’t have much left soon. Clinic time is coming fast, you will see many patients in time.