Optometry Care Residency
The Mission of the Optometry Residency at the St. Louis VA is to inspire and cultivate capable and skilled optometric practitioners. The primary care Optometry Residency seeks to fulfill its mission by providing clinically focused post-graduate education in a multi-disciplinary VA setting with emphasis on an adult and geriatric population. The residency will provide didactic opportunities, scholarly activities, and a broad clinical experience all while fulfilling the Medical Center’s commitment to provide high quality eye care to our veterans.
The St. Louis VA Optometry Residency is designed to cultivate skilled, knowledgeable optometric practitioners based on a 4-prong approach:
I. Patient care
- Perform primary care eye examination
- Manage patients with ocular diseases including glaucoma and macular degeneration
- Perform low vision examinations bimonthly
- Fit specialty contact lenses at UMSL College of Optometry bimonthly
- Precept optometry students from UMSL College of Optometry during the second half of the residency
II. Hospital Rotation
- Rotate through selected specialties within our hospital including dermatology, oncology, radiology, serology and pathology
III. Didactic Experience
- Attend optometry Grand Rounds at the St. Louis VA on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month
- Attend weekly Ophthalmology Grand Rounds at Washington University in St. Louis
- Present lectures at Grand Rounds and Optometry Residency Day at the UMSL College of Optometry
- Review relevant journal articles in optometry and ophthalmology with optometry externs
IV. Scholarly Development
- Present one academic poster at an academic meeting during their residency year (i.e. AOA, AAO, SECO, Heart of America)
- Complete a paper of publishable quality by the completion of their residency year.
Goal and Objectives
The goal of the curriculum is to provide post-graduate training in primary care optometry. The curriculum is deigned to accomplish the mission, goals, and objectives of the residency.
The objectives of the curriculum are:
- To improve the resident’s skills and competency in patient care through the management of a broad range of visual, ocular and systemic disorders
- To develop the resident's ability to function as a member of the health care team through participation in a multidisciplinary health care delivery system
- To develop the resident's knowledge of the characteristics and needs of the elderly and the skills to better care for this special patient group
- To broaden the resident's clinical knowledge through lectures, seminars, grand rounds, and continuing education
- To enhance the resident's appreciation of clinical research and scholarly activity
Clinical experience makes up approximately 80% of the learning activities while conferences, grand rounds, teaching, seminars, and library and literature review compromise the remaining 20%. The resident’s clinical experience is comprised of primary care, emergent care, ocular disease management, specialty contact lenses and low vision.
Teaching methods include: examination and discussion of patient care, clinical demonstration of exam techniques and procedures, case presentations and discussions, lectures and seminars, literature review and independent study, and formal quarterly evaluations. Residents maintain a daily patient log with documentation of clinical activities in order to assess that the residents are meeting outcome measures. Residents are under supervision by a staff optometrist at all times.
The residency participates in the Optometry Residency Matching Service (ORMS). All ORMS applications must be completed by February 1 in order to be considered for the residency position, and offered an interview. The selection committee will consider an applicant’s file complete and ready for consideration once the following items have been received:
- Personal letter of interest
- Curriculum vitae
- National boards scores
- Optometry school transcripts
- Three letters of recommendation
- Must be eligible to obtain a state license in optometry
The selection committee will review and evaluate all applications. Those applicants whom the Committee feels to be the most competitive will be selected for a required interview. Interviews are typically conducted between December and February.
Requirements for Successful Completion
- Complete a one-year residency term beginning July 1 and ending June 30th of the following year
- Graduate from a school or college of optometry recognized by the AOA
- Obtain a current state license in optometry
- Pass all sections of the NBEO Examination
- Comply with all VA St. Louis Health Care System and Optometry Service policies during the residency
- Attend clinic as assigned
- Must be in good academic status and not be on probation, remediation or suspension at the time of completion
- Comply with the evidence-based patient care and practice guidelines such as those published by the AOA
- Complete all residency outcome measures
Academic affiliate: University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) College of Optometry
Positions available per year: 2
Weekly schedule: Monday-Friday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Optometry Residency Matching Service (ORMS):
Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO):
University of Missouri, St. Louis College of Optometry’s Affiliated Residency Programs:
Matthew Simpson, OD, FAAO
Acting Chief of Optometry
Dr. Matthew Simpson graduated from the Indiana University School of Optometry in 2007. After graduation, he completed an ocular disease residency at the Huntington, West Virginia VA Medical Center. Following residency, Dr. Simpson served as a staff optometrist at the Lexington, KY VA Medical Center and the Huntington, WV VA Medical Center. While at the Huntington VA, Dr. Simpson served in multiple capacities including: student extern program coordinator, optometry residency director and chief of the optometry service. He became a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in 2014. He is a member of the Armed Forces Optometric Society and the American Optometric Association. Dr. Simpson served five years in the Indiana Air National Guard at the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is currently a Major in the US Army reserve. Dr. Simpson has been in practice at the VA St. Louis Health Care System since 2015.
Kristen Buskirk, OD
Acting Assistant Chief of Optometry
Dr. Buskirk was born and raised in Springfield, IL and received a bachelor of science at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. She earned her OD (doctor of optometry) at Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, IL in 2014. During her optometric training she had external rotations at Harry S. Truman VA, the University of Kentucky department of ophthalmology, and Family Vision Center. She completed her ocular disease residency at the Cincinnati VA. Dr. Buskirk has spent her entire career at the St. Louis VA. She enjoys all aspects of optometry and currently splits her time between primary care optometry and low vision optometry. She is an active member of the AOA and AFOS. In her spare time Dr. Buskirk enjoys rooting for the Indiana Hoosiers (!!!), traveling, spending time with her family, and learning to cook.
Allison Schafers, OD, FAAO
Dr. Schafers graduated from the University of Missouri –St. Louis College of Optometry in 2016. After graduation she completed her residency training in primary care at the St. Louis VA Medical Center in 2017. She serves as adjunct faculty at the UMSL College of Optometry and was the externship coordinator at the St. Louis VA from 2018 to 2019. She became a Fellow in the American Academy of Optometry in 2019. Dr. Schafers is a member of the American Optometric Association, National Association of VA Optometrists, Armed Forces Optometric Society, Missouri Optometry Association, and St. Louis Optometric Society. She serves on the membership committee of the Armed Forces Optometric Society.
My-Chau Nguyen, OD
Dr. Nguyen graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry in 2018 and completed her residency in primary care at the St. Louis VA from 2018-2019. She has been in practice at the St. Louis VA since 2018 and her areas of interests are primary care and low vision. She also serves as adjunct faculty at the UMSL College of Optometry. Dr. Nguyen is a member of the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the National Association of VA Optometrists (NAVAO).
Utham Balachandran, OD, FAAO
Dr. Balachandran graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in 2013. Upon graduation, he completed his Residency at Salus University in Primary Care. Dr. Balachandran is a Fellow in the American Academy of Optometry. He participates in patient care for the Department of Defense at Scott Air Force Base as well as oversees the Compensation and Pension Optometry Clinic at Scott. Dr. Balachandran is also involved in teleretina examinations for the St. Louis VA. Dr. Balachandran serves as adjunct faculty for the UMSL College of Optometry and is a member of the National Association of VA Optometrists.
Jennifer Sutter, OD, FAAO
Dr. Sutter graduated in 2014 with clinical honors from the Illinois College of Optometry. She completed her residency at the Marion VAMC in Southern Illinois. Following residency, she accepted a staff optometrist position at the Evansville Health Care Center (Marion VA). During her time in Evansville she was the externship coordinator, adjunct faculty at the Indiana University School of Optometry, a member of the visual impairment services team, and volunteered on various committees. After 4 years in Evansville, Dr. Sutter accepted a position with the Saint Louis VAMC and is adjunct faculty at the UMSL school of optometry. As a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry she serves on the admittance committee evaluating submissions from candidates and performing oral examinations at annual meetings. Dr. Sutter is also a member of the American Optometric Association, Armed Forces Optometric Society, National Association for VA Optometrists, and Beta Sigma Kappa.
Ramya Natarajan, OD
Contact Lens Coordinator
Dr. Natarajan received her Doctorate of Optometry from the University of Missouri – St. Louis College of Optometry in 2018. She then completed a residency in Primary Care and Ocular Disease Management at the Veterans Healthcare System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, AR and the Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry in 2019. She currently serves as adjunct faculty at the UMSL College of Optometry. Dr. Natarajan is a member of the American Academy of Optometry, American Optometric Association, and Missouri Optometric Association.
Jessica Hanson, OD
Low Vision Clinic Coordinator
Dr. Hanson earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical sciences at Minnesota State University, Mankato where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. Dr. Hanson then attended Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry where she graduated in the top of the 2018 class with multiple clinical honors and a Doctorate in Optometry. Following graduation, Dr. Hanson completed a residency focusing on ocular disease and primary care at the Marion, IL Veterans Affairs Medical Center. During residency, she had the opportunity to work clinically with student externs and provide low vision exams. Dr. Hanson is adjunct clinical faculty with the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry.
Mary Chivetta, OD
Dr. Chivetta graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. She earned her Doctorate of Optometry in 2019 from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. During her optometric training, she completed clinical rotations in ocular disease and surgical co- management at Bennett and Bloom Eye Centers in Louisville, KY and in specialty contact lenses at Advanced Eye Care in Tulsa, OK. After graduation, Dr. Chivetta completed her primary care residency at the St. Louis VA Medical Center in 2020. She serves as adjunct faculty at the UMSL College of Optometry and is an active member of the American Academy of Optometry, the American Academy of Optometry, National Association of VA Optometrists, Armed Forces Optometric Society, Missouri Optometric Association, and St. Louis Optometric Society.