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Opportunities Large and Small

Dr. Erin Tomiyama, Assistant Professor in the Southern California College of Optometry, is uniquely suited to appreciate the advantages of MBKU’s small size, both as a current faculty member and as an alumna. When she was an undergraduate at UCLA, she recognized that she was one out of a great many, and she enjoyed it, embracing the experience fully. When it came time to study at the graduate level, however, she knew she wanted something different: more hands-on, with more opportunities for personalized attention from faculty.

“I really treasure all the relationships I built with faculty members here at SCCO,” she says. “When I was a student, I got to know them really well. I had a formal level of respect for them as my teachers and mentors, but I also developed a personal level of respect for them as well – which has only multiplied as I came to work here myself and we became colleagues.”


Now as a faculty member, Dr. Tomiyama has another appreciation for MBKU’s smaller size. After completing her optometry degree at SCCO, she went on to do a residency in cornea and contact lenses at the University of Houston. There, she got a healthy dose of a large institution from the perspective of a graduate student, as she went on to complete a master’s and then a PhD in physiological optics. Though the large size of the University of Houston had its advantages – there aren’t many places where one can transition so seamlessly from optometric residency to PhD – it is also true that, as Dr. Tomiyama has discovered, a place like MBKU gives her the opportunity to put a more unique stamp on the institution itself. This starts with the fact that she feels no obligation to favor her academic focus with respect to clinic, classroom or lab. “In clinic, I’m seeing patients with students and interacting with them, I’m involved, of course, in didactic education, teaching labs and giving lectures to students, and I am also able to do research, currently spearheading two industry trials. SCCO has allowed me to deep dive into what I’m really passionate about, approaching it from all fronts, in clinic, in research and in educating students,” says Dr. Tomiyama.


And because of MBKU’s small size, Dr. Tomiyama’s talent in these areas can have an outsized impact. When she returned to SCCO as a faculty member, one of her goals was to channel her passion for myopia management into a more structured service offering at Ketchum Health. Now the new Myopia Management Clinic not only provides a more cohesive intake process for patients, it also gives the students who rotate through the clinic essential exposure to one of the leading issues facing optometrists today. Another of Dr. Tomiyama’s passions is mentoring students and crafting career and academic opportunities like the ones that proved so helpful to her own path. “When I was a PhD student, I was brought on to work on a large NIH grant at the University of Houston. The fact that I was given that opportunity makes me feel that I need to get to a level in my own career where I can help students be involved in similar opportunities to help launch their careers as well.”