American Optometric Association 2019 Optometric Educator of the Year

By

Zanna Kruoch, OD, FAAO, Dipl., University of Houston College of Optometry

During her cornea and contact lens management residency at Illinois College of Optometry (ICO), Dr. Kruoch says that she began reconsidering her career plans to pursue private practice. The residency site provided services for inner-city residents who needed access to affordable eye care, a mission she appreciated; plus, she worked with ICO students. “Working with the students became my niche.” And they responded to her, too, paying her the highest compliment in encouraging her to pursue teaching.

Dr. Kruoch returned to the Dallas, Texas, area, where she grew up, and she found two excellent opportunities. Most of her time from 2010 through 2015 was spent at the Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic in Dallas. Dr. Kruoch also started working part time at the Cedar Springs Eye Clinic, an external rotation site of her alma mater, University of Houston College of Optometry, where she could continue working with optometry students. Both settings allowed her to work with patients whose access to eye care services was limited. “We don’t turn any patient away, insured or not,” she says.

By 2015, Dr. Kruoch transitioned to a full-time assistant clinical faculty position with Cedar Springs. Her team of five other faculty members, 11 optometry students and one resident provides vision and advanced medical care to more than 5,000 patients a year. Dr. Kruoch is also responsible for creating a program that provides extensive training in medically necessary contact lenses that is funded by area contact lens companies, which enables the program to provide the lenses to patients in need at no cost.

Dr. Kruoch says that she’s energized by the students’ attitudes and eagerness to learn during their lecture and clinical time. “It’s neat to not only provide education and impact young adults who absorb everything you say but also to watch their evolution and growth.”

Dr. Kruoch says that she was shocked to receive the phone call about the national recognition. “It makes me feel empowered to continue impactful work with education at an even greater level,” she says, adding that she hopes to expand the exposure of her clinical lectures from local and state continuing education to a national audience.