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A Passion for Helping Others See Clearly

March 9, 2009

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Robert Register, president of the SUNY Albany Pre-Optometry Club

Robert Register volunteered to take over the Pre-Optometry Club when he was a sophomore. The club has grown from 2 to 23 members. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Robert Register and Matthew Geller met as freshmen roommates, finding out that they have a lot in common: a passion for optometry.
Register, of Rome, N.Y., and Geller, from Plainview, N.Y., share a vision for the future of optometry that is bigger than just making a good living.

"Our main goal is to help people, not to make a ton of money," said Register, who is considering a stint with Doctors Without Borders after optometry school. "I want to invent a program or find a cure for optical disease," he said.

Like Register, Geller wants to "expand the world of eye care for the better." Register and Geller have harnessed their dream in a practical way, by reinvigorating the SUNY Albany Pre-Optometry Club, and by growing the club from two members to 23 over a few years.

The two senior biology majors were sold on optometry as a career after meeting Dr. Edward Johnston, director of admissions and vice president of student affairs for SUNY Optometry College in NYC.

Matthew Geller is the club's vice president.

Matthew Geller is convinced optometry is the career for him. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

"Pre-health adviser Neilia Campbell told me he was coming in to talk to students so I figured it would be a cool idea," said Geller. "After speaking with Dr. Johnston, I was convinced that this career was for me. I remember leaving the office on a nice sunny day with a smile from ear to ear."

"Robert and Matt have created a thriving organization, providing members with a trip to SUNY Optometry and a visit to UAlbany by the New England College of Optometry," said Campbell.

The UAlbany Pre-Optometry Club is offering its first conference on Saturday, March 14, at 6 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom. Johnston is attending and is making half-hour appointments from noon to 5 p.m. to meet with individual students. 

Meanwhile, Register and Gellar are preparing for the next stage of their careers. Register works part-time as a Single Certified Optician at a nearby Walmart Vision Center, assisting patients who either pay out of pocket for their exams and glasses, or who have low insurance coverage. Geller, on the other hand, works at the Optix Family Eyecare Center, a high-end merchandise optical boutique that specializes in contact lens care.

"The most compelling and valuable experience that I have had at the vision center is my ability to help others," said Register.

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