Featured Alum: Stephen Wetick, O.D., Natural Science 2000

Stephen with wife Emilie at his graduation from the Southern College of Optometry.

Greetings Buccaneer community and science connoisseurs. It is an honor to be this month’s SOS featured alum. My name is Stephen Wetick and I have lived in Memphis for most of my life. I am a graduate of the CBU class of 2000. It took me 5 years to complete my degree, which at that time, earned me the nickname among my friends as the “5th-year senior.” As is the case with many high school graduates, I entered college not knowing what career to pursue. To be honest, this was an awkward stage in my life. I mean, just two years ago I was worrying about passing my driver’s exam, and now all of the sudden I’ve got to make decisions that will impact me for the rest of my life. “What do you like to do?” my parents would ask me. I would think to myself, “Well, I enjoy rockin out to Led Zeppelin, mountain biking, and hanging out with friends.” Needless to say, I knew this dream job did not exist. In the end, I relied on my inner voice to help me determine which career path to take. Something inside pulled me in the direction of becoming a healthcare provider. I guess the best way to describe it is an “innate sense.” Yes, I know this sounds strange, but at the same time I believe this is a unique ability we all possess. I am sure you can think of a time in your life when you did something for no rhyme or reason, other than the fact you knew it was the right thing to do.

College life at CBU was filled with a lot good times and some bad. I made several new friends, learned a ton of fascinating things in the classroom, and had many moments of fun and laughter. Some of the bad moments were results of me not applying myself hard enough, such as failing to turn in a paper on time, or receiving a poor grade on a test due to lack of preparation. Other tough moments included the death of a friend, the death of my grandmother, and my parents moving eight hours away due to a job transfer. Just as CBU was there to provide good times, CBU was there to help me through bad times. It was perhaps my professors, who helped me the most by providing a constant source of encouragement. I recall Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald really being able to connect with her students through her laid-back approach. Dr. Fitz made it seem as if there were not any limits to my capabilities as long as I set my mind to it. With this encouragement I found the strength to get through tough times—both in and out of the classroom. As a result, I left CBU with a sense of accomplishment, and even more important, confidence in my ability to overcome challenges and achieve any goal I set forth. I truly believe this would have not been the case had I attended a larger university where one is simply a “face in the crowd.”

After college, I obtained a job as a technician at a private eye care practice. A fellow CBU classmate also worked at the practice, which helped me tremendously in procuring the position. Eventually, I was accepted into optometry school and graduated from the Southern College of Optometry (SCO) in May of 2008. CBU gave me the foundation to get through courses such as optics, pharmacology, pathology, and neuro-ophthalmology. Thanks to confidence in my ability, I graduated with honors AND in four years (no more 5th-year senior!). I am currently pursuing an ocular disease residency at a co-management facility in Memphis. Working in a referral center provides for exciting and challenging days. You never know what problem you will have to face. The eye is an incredible structure—it has vascular, lymphatic, neurological, muscular, dermatological, and connective tissue components. This unfortunately means a lot of things can go wrong with the eye! Similar to my college experiencing, working in healthcare has a lot of good moments and bad ones. Helping someone get better is a wonderful feeling. Telling someone that their vision cannot be restored is not easy, but offering encouragement and help to overcome this obstacle can be just as rewarding.

Speaking of rewarding, my wife, Emilie, and I are expecting our first child on March 18th! Claire Cecille Wetick might have arrived by the time the March newsletter is released!! My plans after residency include becoming an associate at a practice or possibly returning to SCO as a didactic/clinic staff doctor. I truly enjoy patient care, but the idea of educating and providing guidance to optometry students is something I could see myself enjoying as well. It would most certainly give me an opportunity to provide students encouragement similar to what I received during my time at CBU. I honestly believe that attending CBU and pursuing studies with an emphasis in science was one of best choices I have ever made. For current students, I can assure you that the knowledge gained during your time at CBU will be heavily utilized in whatever career path you happen to take. I wish you all the best of luck.