Maddie Smith

The University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry stands as a vision of hope for increased access to optometric care in Central Appalachia as well as for aspiring optometrists. For first-year UPIKE student Maddie Smith, KYCO is bringing her vision of an optometry career into focus.

Smith, who graduated among the top of her class from Belfry High School in 2017, came to a realization in second grade that she would one day need to attend college in order to advance her dreams. She had just received orthodontic services in the form of braces and wanted to become an orthodontist. Her father, Mike, told her about Pikeville College, now UPIKE. Smith took her father’s comments under advisement and replied, “Someday I’ll go to Pikeville College and be a scientist.”

Her career goal changed to chemical engineering in high school and by her junior year, she was set on becoming an optometrist. Smith was aware that Central Appalachia was underserved with regard to vision care. She knew that with the advanced scope of practice afforded to optometrists in Kentucky, she could make a positive difference by practicing in the region she called home. What she did not know at the time was that a unique opportunity for her to pursue her calling would soon be within reach.

“When UPIKE announced it would be home to Kentucky’s only college of optometry, I felt like it was a sign from God that I was meant to be at UPIKE to study optometry,” she said.

Since establishing her career path, Smith has maximized every opportunity to gain exposure to the profession in which she is eager to serve. In summer of 2017 Smith was selected to attend KYCO’s Optometry Camp, a three-day experience on campus that expanded her knowledge of the optometry profession.

She also applied for and received acceptance to UPIKE’s Optometry Scholars Program (OSP) in the 2017 fall semester. KYCO offers admission to a designated number of OSP students who meet required academic and testing criteria during their undergraduate coursework at UPIKE. Smith entered UPIKE with 27 college credit hours, further exhibiting her ambition and love for learning.

The time she has invested as a work-study student in KYCO’s Optometry Clinic on campus has provided a valuable a glimpse into the future she envisions. This experience also enables Smith to see firsthand how KYCO is preparing students in a state-of-the-art facility with cutting-edge technology.

“KYCO is a beacon of what’s to come in optometry,” said Smith. “Its students will be the best optometrists our nation has to offer.”

As a first-year student, Smith feels at home with her UPIKE family.

“The faculty have the time and resources of a small school and the curriculum and drive of a large school,” she said. “UPIKE offers an exciting, wonderful educational experience.”

With her eyes turned toward a bright future, Smith is grateful for her journey and motivated by the growth of UPIKE.

“I’m so happy that this opportunity is available to me. I believe UPIKE is pioneering the movement to provide professional education in our area.”