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VANIHCS Optometry Resident Named Optometry Student of the Year

African American woman standing next to optometry equipment.
Dr. Otoo is currently completing her Residency in Ocular Disease and was named the 2022 Optometry student of the year by the American Optometric Association.

Mary ‘Araba’ Otoo OD was named the 2022 Optometry student of the year by the American Optometric Association (AOA).

Dr. Otoo is a resident optometrist at the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System (VANIHCS) at the Fort Wayne Campus.

Dr. Otoo was raised in Ghana, West Africa and moved to the United States at 18 years old to pursue higher education. She is a 2022 graduate from the Ohio State College (OSU) of Optometry and an alumna of University of Illinois at Chicago, School of public health.

Dr. Otoo is currently completing her Residency in Ocular Disease and set to complete her training by June 2023. The Ocular Disease residency means that 80% of her patient encounters will be managing some ophthalmic disease state.

“The VANIHCS residency positions are historically competitive, averaging 4.5 applications per slot so we are afforded the luxury of being scrupulous in our decision-making process.  Dr. Otoo immediately stood out from other candidates based on her obvious passion for Public Health issues both nationally and internationally,” said Dr. Case, Residency Program Coordinator.

“I love working at VANIHCS. I have found myself among a group of dedicated clinicians whom I have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from during this year. I love being a clinician and serving patients through a Public Health lens.,” said Dr. Otoo.

Dr. Otoo was nominated and selected as the 2022 AOA Optometry Student of the Year for her outstanding service and efforts on educating communities on eye health through various public health avenues. Her leadership roles with organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian optometry and the OSU Black Graduate and Professional Student Caucus were contributory. To date, Dr. Otoo remains involved with organizations such as Prevent Blindness, the American Public Health Association and the American Optometric Association.

In 2020, Dr. Otoo established a nonprofit organization called Cherish Eyesight, and Vision. Inc. The mission of her nonprofit organization is to improve visual health literacy among people to alleviate the toll of preventable blindness and vision impairment.

“With the nonprofit, I am intersecting optometry and public health and whatever path it will take is yet to be determined. At this point, we are trying to address health literacy surrounding eyecare using entertainment education. Content created are disseminated through different social media sites to mass educate the public,” said Dr. Otoo.

Dr. Otoo and her team write scripts and stories that highlight real life implications of eye conditions and diseases. Those stories are then passed to animators who animate the stories in culturally appropriate manner to better engage their audience.

“Being awarded the AOA Student of the Year comes as no surprise to those of us involved in her training as we observe her daily balance numerous external projects with her academic pursuits and clinical duties,” said Dr. Case.

The VANIHCS Residency program has seen 100% placement of its Residents since its inception in 2002.

“While we do not yet know where or in what capacity Dr. Otoo will choose to practice, we have no doubt she will excel,” said, Dr. Case.