Dr. Jennifer Schad, an associate professor and the interim chief of Primary Care Services for the Michigan College of Optometry of Ferris State University, was honored as the Michigan Optometric Association Educator of the Year at the Great Lakes Eyecare Conference in Rochester.
Schad took a humble perspective when considering her MOA award.
“The recipient must be a practicing optometrist, a member of the association and part of the MCO faculty,” she said. “I am honored that our third-year students recognized my qualifications, but the real reward is my experiences with dedicated students who make the most of each opportunity in preparing to join our profession.”
Schad is an MCO alumna and brings a range of learning and experience to her role as an instructor, with the distinction of holding an Associate of Applied Science degree in Pre-Optometry, a Bachelor of Science in Vision Science, a Master of Healthcare Administration with an executive concentration and her Doctor of Optometry degree, all earned on the Big Rapids campus.
“I practiced in a large ophthalmology group and had experience with a national commercial optical practice,” Schad said. “During that time, I developed a proficiency for the billing and coding required by government and private insurance. I was intrigued by how they directly impact the economics of eye care practice. It brought me to earn my MHA degree, where Dr. Gail Bullard and the MHA program faculty helped me take those skills to the next level and enhance my teaching.”
Schad said she is not unique among her MCO peers, with clinical and classroom instruction roles.
“Leading didactic and patient-focused clinical education is simply part of the reality for faculty in a professional college of our size,” Schad said. “I am glad to have developed skills that support teaching our Practice Management curriculum.”
Her lecture and clinical involvements are with second-to-fourth-year MCO students, but Schad noted fresh energy at the college each fall.
“With each new cohort of 36 students, it is easy to recognize and benefit from their pursuits and development as they master their abilities and prepare as professionals,” Schad said. “I see them in some courses after their first year, where they strive for excellence in offering clinical care and build their skills to forge a successful career.”
Beyond her faculty role, Schad is an advisor for Ferris’ chapter of the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society and mentors students in MCO’s Michigan Optometric Student Private Practice Association.
“Beta Sigma Kappa is an honor society, emphasizing scholarly research and supporting academic excellence,” Schad said. “The MOSPPA chapter is a very active group, also involved with collaborative learning through eye care practice management experts and industry partners, to broaden their understanding before entering their careers.”
Schad said the MOSPPA recently held its Great Lakes Private Practice Conference at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, where students were focused on upholding the association’s goals in an academically demanding season.
“This conference really brings students important ‘tips from the trenches,’” Schad said. “It was our first chance to offer the event in several years. Those third-year students who organized the conference offered a valuable gathering and dialogue, managing to do this while they prepared for and completed their National Board examinations.”