Even though there are more barriers to personal interaction now because of the pandemic, Nicholas Karbach, OD, said the flip side is students and their patients are now going through a shared experience that gives them another point of connection.Dr. Nicholas Karbach

“I’m always asking patients how they’ve been doing, who they’ve quarantined with and what their experience has been like because it’s a shared experience and I think that’s able to give us a deeper connection in some ways,” he said.  

Dr. Karbach initially joined the faculty in 2018 after completing his degree and residency at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University. He works mainly as a clinical preceptor, usually in primary care and the special population services at The Eye Institute (TEI), PCO’s main clinical facility. He also works in clinical problem-solving in small group settings and helps out as a CPR instructor for that course.

“It’s been great having the same faculty that I worked with as a student continue to invest in me as a faculty member and continue with me in a mentorship role,” he said. “It also helps me identify with the student experiences and be able to understand what they’re going through at different stages.”

Dr. Karbach, originally from Roanoke, Virginia, completed a 3+4 program for his undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology, from Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. That’s what put PCO/Salus on his radar.

“Salus has some 3+4 programs where you could overlap your last year of undergrad with your first year of optometry school,” he said. “That was attractive for the obvious reasons. I came to visit and I’ve been here ever since.” 

Pivoting to online teaching during the pandemic and the technology involved in that was among the early career hurdles Dr. Karbach has had to master. “I feel for the students, especially the ones who are in clinic who have had their clinical experiences interrupted,” he said. “It’s reduced us to talking to students online. So I’ve tried to bring an extra dose of the real-world experience, the hands-on experience and perspectives to students since they haven’t been regularly seeing patients for the past couple months. And, just trying to stay positive and make sure they stay encouraged. Anytime you’re isolated it’s easy to lose motivation.”

Despite those challenges, Dr. Karbach said the PCO/Salus faculty has really stepped up during the pandemic to make sure the students continue to receive a quality education. 
“The whole faculty and staff at Salus, it’s a great community,” he said. “It’s small enough where you can really get to know a lot of people and get a sense of that community. Everybody is really friendly, and everybody has a commitment to the quality of their work, which you can feel spreads throughout the whole University.”

When he’s not concentrating on the academic side of his life, Dr. Karbach is a self-proclaimed nerd. And, not only that, he’s an advocate of being a nerd. “I love playing Dungeons and Dragons and video games and stuff like that. I think it’s interesting that video games kind of started when my generation was children and now that we’ve grown up, it’s still a thing for children nowadays but you have adults who are up playing video games, so it’s more of a common thing for my generation,” he said. “It’s a cool way to stimulate youDr. Karbach & his dogr mind and it’s an injury-free, safe hobby, especially as you get older. You don’t have to worry about injuries from playing sports.”

And, recently, he just got a new dog, a Labrador mix rescue, named Thomas.“I always think it’s kind of funny when dogs have real people names. We just had to make sure it wasn’t someone that we knew closely,” he said. 

Right now, Dr. Karbach has been training Thomas. The new family member does pretty well in the house, even if he gets a little too rambunctious during his walks.  “But he’s absolutely been a sweetheart,” said Dr. Karbach.