this article was written, Kimberley Brunk, Cherokee,
was a third-year student in the Northeastern State
University Oklahoma College of Optometry
Kimberley Brunk’s introduction to optometry altered her life and eventually drew her into optometry. “When I was in kindergarten I had trouble seeing the board, so my mother took me to a local optometrist,” she says. “I distinctly remember driving home in downtown Fort Smith, Arkansas wearing my new glasses. For the first time in my life, I saw the birds on the top of tall buildings. It changed my life because it was like a whole new world opened up to me.”
Early in her life Brunk decided she wanted to be an optometrist. “I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field. I knew the impact my optometrist had on me. I wanted to do the same for other people. In high school I did honors classes in chemistry and biology. I had excellent teachers and got a really good education. My parents wanted me to have a college education. They let me choose the career that I wanted.”
Brunk earned her associate degree at the University of Arkansas. Knowing that she wanted to attend the college of optometry at NSU, she decided to become familiar with the campus and so finished her undergraduate degree at NSU, her father’s alma mater.
As a third year student, Brunk spends more time seeing patients than does second-year-student, Christopher McDaniels. As a third-year student, she also now has a wider range of clinical experiences. In the vision therapy clinic, she typically works with children but also has adult patients who need exercises for their eyes as part of their treatment plan. “Often we see patients for six weeks,” says Brunk. “Then we do a progress exam and, depending on how they’re doing, we schedule more sessions or let them graduate from the program.”
When Brunk and her classmates work in rural clinics, they provide primary care. When they work at Hastings Hospital or the clinic on campus, they also have opportunities to provide more specialized care, including working with contact lenses.
Brunk examining a patient's eyes.
A Look to the Future
Brunk still has classes and labs. She says that the small class size (26 students) makes it possible for classes to be interactive. Students learn from each other, for example, by practicing new skills on each other and discussing their patients. Brunk says that teachers make classroom topics come alive by giving class examples. In general, Brunk is very pleased with the teachers who she says encourage questions and welcome students into their offices after class.
When Brunk graduates she hopes to open a practice in her hometown of Roland, which is home to both her family and her husband’s family. Brunk loves the people in this town of about 5,000 people, most of whom are Cherokee. She is proud of being Cherokee and says that her knowledge of her tribe was deepened during her high school days in Roland when she served on the Cherokee National Tribal Youth Council.
Living in Roland, she says, will make it possible for her to live out her dream of having both a family and a career. She adds, “My husband, who is a financial advisor, will be a great asset when I open my practice.”
Brunk recommends that prospective optometry students develop good study habits and be prepared for a long process. She also recommends working for an optometrist so they can better understand the field of optometry.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2008 issue of Winds of Change. The cover artist, Brent Greenwood, Chicakasaw/Ponca, lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.
In 2009, Kimberley Brunk was one of five optometry students from around the US who received an educational grant from the America Contact Lens Society. Dr. Brunk completed her OD and now has her own solo practice in Roland, Oklahoma. She says that the practice is stressful but very rewarding.
Kim is on the far right.