Alumni & Friends Spotlights

Valerie Colby

B.S. '97, O.D.'99

Dr. Valerie Colby (B.S.’97, O.D.’99) is an IU School of Optometry alumna currently working as a missionary, clinical director, and staff optometrist for His Eyes Mission in la Clinica Cristiana Cuerpo de Cristo (Body of Christ Christian Clinic) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. His Eyes Mission works in and around Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to provide help for those hurting both physically and spiritually. Over the years, she has worked with many students from IU and other optometry schools, examining thousands of Honduran patients and giving out glasses and eye drops.

Q&A

Where did you grow up?

“Near Lafayette, IN, in the country”

What got you interested in Optometry as a career?  Where did you get your BS? What was your major?

“I got my first pair of glasses when I was 9 and returned to the optometrist when I was 12.  It was at that 2nd visit that I remember being mesmerized by the trial lens set he had hanging on the wall, and I was immediately interested in optometry! Going into undergrad at IU (my father graduated from IU and my grandparents met as students at IU!), I knew I would eventually apply to optometry school so I got my prerequisites done in 3 years and was accepted at IUSO.”

Who was your favorite instructor during your time at IUSO? Why?

“Carolyn Begley … she was so friendly and energetic!”

 What is your favorite IUSO memory? 

“Walking from Bryant Park to the optometry school every day!! Also, the 2 trips I took to Honduras with the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists (FCO) group…  practicing my Spanish and my o-scope ‘skills’”

 What was your first job in Optometry? 

“I worked as an optician as a teenager and all through college, which really prepared me to train my Honduran opticians here!  After graduation I worked 8 months for an OD before moving to Honduras.” 

Can you share a little about His Eyes and your work at the clinic?

“His Eyes started when the previous missionaries in Honduras wanted to start a medical/eye clinic and asked for prayer from our IU FCO student group back in 1998.  My husband and I decided to help start the clinic, never thinking that we would be back as full time missionaries in less than 2 years! My work in the clinic as an optometrist is so fulfilling! The patients are so kind and appreciate the attention and explanation of their eye problems.  Most Honduran doctors do not do much patient education, and the patient might go from doctor to doctor searching for treatment for something as easy as allergic conjunctivitis or something untreatable like a macular toxo scar.

 His Eyes Mission has grown to include many short term mission teams (from churches or medical/eye groups), used clothing ministry, cell churches, coffee farms, and a Christian TV station!”

 What have been your career milestones? 

“Just being in Honduras working in optometry for 14 years… we never thought we’d be missionaries and to stay for so long and love it so much… it’s a blessing.”

 What is the most rewarding aspect of your career? 

“I love talking with patients, getting to know each one, not only their eye problems, but also their family and emotional things as well.  Also, working in a Christian clinic, speaking Christ into the community is so fulfilling.”  

What do you wish someone would have told you when you graduated from IUSO?

“How do you tell the difference between conjunctival papillae and follicles?!?”

 What advice would you offer to new Optometry grads?

“Ask questions and don’t be afraid!  I felt like I didn’t know much right out of school, and then God sent me to Honduras where I was all by myself, but practice and experience (and The Wills Eye Manual) has gotten me through all these years!”