Since Erin Draper, OD, FAAO, joined the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University faculty following her residency there in 2010, she’s seen a lot of change.
 
The University had just started its Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program – the first cohort graduated in 2009 - and was steadily growing its Optometry and Audiology programs.Dr. Draper examining a patient
 
“Since I came on board, it’s a much more tight-knit faculty and you can reach out to your colleagues much more frequently than we did in the past,” said Dr. Draper, a PCO assistant professor in neuro-ophthalmic disease. “It’s more of a family experience now than when I first started, even though we have grown.”
 
She said that closeness among the faculty is a tremendous benefit to the students.
 
“They know that we’re talking with each other all the time and having our meetings to discuss best practices. I think they realize that in the long run, we’re all working together to give them the best experience,” she said about the cohesive nature.
 
Teaching during the pandemic has created unique challenges for educators and Dr. Draper’s experience has been one that many parents have faced — juggling work-life balance while having young children in the house as a result of quarantine protocols.
 
“When you’re in the house all day, they think you’re there to play,” said Dr. Draper, who husband is also a teacher. The couple has a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old.Dr. Draper and family
 
“Trying to explain to them that you have to work, that’s the hardest thing to juggle. I don’t have a separate office in my house,” she said. “Work goes seven days a week. It’s always kind of been that way and I think turning the work switch off now when you’re just home all the time is challenging. If I don’t respond to a student in 24 hours, it’s a bigger deal than it was in the past.”
 
But it’s not all work all the time. Dr. Draper and her husband do take advantage of the extra time they have to spend with their children and devote that to family activities. They’ve started an online book club with their daughter and her friends and a neighborhood newspaper entitled Crosswicks Chronicles.
 
“Everything I do is trying to increase time with the kids. Right now I just want to enjoy them. In 10 years, I’ll have plenty of free time to have hobbies,” she said.
 
Dr. Draper's dog - Aunt BettyThe family also got a dog earlier this year, an eight-year-old Beagle named Aunt Betty. “Everybody loves Aunt Betty. I take 45-minute walks with her every morning,” said Dr. Draper. Because she was older when they got her, they decided to name her Aunt Betty. “There is a story about an Aunt Betty in the family, but we never really had an Aunt Betty,” she said.

Graduating from PCO, completing her residency there and then joining the faculty has all-in-all been a great experience, said Dr. Draper. “It was a little surreal because in some ways I was working with the people that I looked up to and now I am their colleague,” she said. “It’s a pretty awesome experience to do that and feel like you’re at the level of these people that you’ve held in such high esteem. That you’re able to work alongside them and continue to learn from them. It also makes the transition easier from student to faculty when you already know the ins and outs.”