Kiera Jeschke's, OD ‘21, ‘22Resident, story with optometry started at a young age. As a child she used to figure skate and visited her local optometrist to be fitted with contact lenses.

“It was hard to spin with glasses. I talked to my optometrist about contact lenses – I was pretty young for contacts. He said let’s try it. Going to the eye doctor was always a fun experience for me,” Jeschke said. “He was always very interesting and there were no needles - I took a liking to that.”

In high school, Dr. Jeschke knew she wanted to help people in some way. She explored the optometry field, shadowed and loved it. She decided this was the profession she wanted to go in and continued with that mind set in undergraduate school at Messiah University, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Jeschke applied to the four-year program at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University - got into the Doctor of Optometry Scholars program and graduated in three years. Her interest in Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease came later. Her first rotation for the PCO/Salus externship was in the Neuro Department at The Eye Institute (TEI), the main clinical facility for PCO/Salus, which she found rewarding.

“Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease, a two-year residency, can seem a little overwhelming at first. The eyes are connected to the brain. I think of all optometry as neuro related,” she said. “A lot of the conditions we deal with and a lot of the patients we see have things going on in the brain that are affecting their eyes. We do some pretty in-depth testing, specifically entrance testing to look for any deviations of the eyes, visual field loss, anything that can relate back to the brain. Then usually we’ll order other tests such as MRI, blood work, CT scans to figure out what’s going on. The focus is on the optic nerve. If it’s affecting the eye or pushing on the brain – we’ll try to localize it.”

Some of the cases seen in this specialty include cranial nerve palsies, optic atrophy, normal tension glaucoma, strokes, thyroid eye disease and infections such as Lyme disease and syphilis which can affect the optic nerve.

Dr. Jeschke hopes to work in the neuro-ophthalmic field in a hospital setting but hasn’t closed any doors. “With this residency I think I’ll get a good taste of the clinical side of things as well as the teaching side. Hopefully in a year or so I’ll know what road I want to go down,” she said. “It’s only a few weeks in and I’m having the time of my life. It’s long hours but the days go so fast and I’m learning so much. It’s so fascinating. You can be an optometrist who only focuses on the eye or an optometrist who looks at the eye but also looks at the whole body.”

Dr. Jeschke is engaged, getting married next summer and would like to start a family eventually. “I’ve talked to a few optometry doctors who have children about how that work/life balance works out and seems it works nicely. You can tailor your schedule. Working is important to me as I’m very passionate about this,” she said.