Gabriel Fickett, OD, FAAO, jokes that starting a new job during a pandemic probably means that it will be a while before his colleagues know what the bottom of his face looks like, given the mask protocols.

But Dr. Fickett, whose first day was Sept. 1, 2020 as assistant professor in the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University (PCO) and The Eye Institute (TEI) looks at it as a tremendous opportunity to return to a learning environment. Dr. Gabriel Fickett

“I have a formal background in education. I taught high school for a couple of years after undergrad before going to optometry school. Working with people who are learning new concepts and sharing my knowledge and my excitement for their learning has always been really exciting to me,” he said. “So having the opportunity to circle back to that at this point in my career and to get into the learning environment was something that I wanted to do.”

Dr. Fickett, as a member of the Contact Lens Service at TEI, draws on his extensive experience fitting specialty contact lenses. He focuses on fitting contact lenses for adults and children with corneal disease, post penetrating keratoplasty, keratoprosthesis, aphakia, and ocular trauma.

After receiving his BS from Messiah College — now called Messiah University — in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Fickett went on to earn his Doctor of Optometry, summa cum laude, from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee. He received numerous honors including the Dr. Freddy Wilfred Change Endowed Scholarship and the Jimmy Sheridan Memorial Scholarship. He was inducted into the Gold Key International Honor Society and served as the chapter president of the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society. 

He completed clinical internships at the Eye Center at the Southern College of Optometry, the Albuquerque Indian Health Center, as well as Specialty Eyecare Group in Seattle, Washington. In addition, he volunteered a week of his time each summer providing eye care to the people of Central America through Student Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity. After graduation, he completed his optometry residency at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where he received training in the diagnosis and management of ocular diseases, contact lenses, and vision rehabilitation.

Dr. Fickett is a U.S. Air Force Reserve optometrist; and was an instructor in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School while concurrently a staff optometrist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

He has spent his first few weeks learning the ropes at PCO and TEI, shadowing some of the providers when possible, and learning the software programs and current protocols. “It’s been a lot of fun getting to know everyone here. One of the great things about Salus is that family atmosphere. Everyone knows each other and is on the same page. I’m excited to be part of that,” he said.

Dr. Fickett calls teaching during a pandemic “a real mixed bag of fun challenges and real strangeness.” He believes he approaches problems pragmatically and can bring a fresh voice to problem-solving. “It’s going to be one of those things where we take everything day by day and be proactive when we can. But otherwise there’s going to be a lot of problem-solving on the go and conquering each new challenge as it arises,” he said.Dr. Fickett and family

Aside from the excitement of joining a top optometric teaching institution, his new job offers him and his family a chance to move closer to home. 

His parents live in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, Bucks County, and his wife Nelly’s parents live in Central Pennsylvania. The couple have two children, three-year-old daughter Juniper and one-year-old son Wildon. “When we were first married, we were in Tennessee, and then Massachusetts for the past few years. So being within two hours of our families is a real luxury at this point,” said Dr. Fickett.