↓ Expand ↓

Category → health

Let there be sight: A chemist opens her eyes to the world of optometry


Karen G. Carrasquillo, Ph.D., O.D., FAAO, chemist and optometrist at Boston Foundation for Sight. Courtesy photo

Ever touch a hot pepper and then touch your eye? It hurt, didn’t it?! That’s capsaicin binding to the pain receptors on your eye, which has more pain receptors per area than any other organ in your body— fascinating, huh?

Karen G. Carrasquillo certainly thinks so— she’s an optometrist at Boston Foundation for Sight. She remembers always being intrigued with the eye.

She also had a thing for chemistry and earned her Ph.D. in chemistry (2001) from the University of Puerto Rico. Towards the end of her degree program, she decided to go for clinical research and did a postdoc at Harvard Medical School in conjunction with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

During her postdoc years, she realized that her dream job would be one that let her pursue original research on the eye, teach younger scientists and interact with patients.

The first step towards this career goal was to complete a doctoral degree in Optometry (New England College of Optometry, 2005). Since she already had a Ph.D., she qualified for the accelerated academic program. This was followed by a residency in Cornea and Specialty Contact Lenses at the New England College of Optometry.

Now she is an optometrist who specializes in Cornea and Specialty Contact Lenses and works in a clinic, the Boston Foundation for Sight, treating patients that suffer from corneal diseases.

“My career path, although it may seem like a divergent one, it really isn’t,” Karen said. “One thing led me to the other almost seamlessly.”

She initially thought she would focus exclusively on research on vision and the eye, but a desire “to interact with patients and provide them with a more tangible solution and help” led her to pursue the path to becoming a clinician.

“I see patients that suffer from severe corneal disease every day,” Karen said. “It’s very satisfying to see patients for which our treatment is most of the times their last resort and seeing how we can change their lives – we give them their lives back.”

Karen said the experiences and skills she acquired at each stage of her career all built on each other: Writing peer-reviewed journal articles, collaborating in research and teaching are all skills in her tool box, and she uses most of them on a daily basis as an eye doctor.

In addition to meeting with patients, Karen has a managerial role, working with ophthalmic technicians and managing daily clinical operations. Continue reading →