Eye Exam Leads to Career in Optometry

Dr. Marianne Boltz works in an pediatric eye care facility

Dr. Marianne Boltz ’92 graduated magna cum laude from LVC with a B.S. in biology before heading to Philadelphia to pursue a doctor of optometry degree at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. After completing her degree in 1996, she moved to Chicago for a residency in pediatric optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry. She returned to central Pennsylvania in 1997 enter private practice, later joining the faculty of the Penn State Hershey Eye Center in 2003, where she specializes in pediatric eye care and low-vision rehabilitation. She is an associate professor of ophthalmology and regularly provides both didactic and clinical education to medical students as well as residents in the fields of ophthalmology, internal medicine, and family medicine.

Boltz was named the Pennsylvania Optometric Association’s Optometrist of the Year in 2007 and is the 2014 president of that organization, having served on their board of directors for the past six years. She also was recently appointed by Governor Tom Corbett ’71 to the Advisory Council for the Blind of Pennsylvania. Boltz has been an LVC Career Connections Mentor for many years and was chosen to be one of the College’s 2014 Lazin Series Resident Scholars.

It wasn’t always clear to Boltz that optometry would be her chosen field. Originally an elementary education major at LVC, Boltz changed her major to biology in her sophomore year. “At that time, I was still unsure whether to pursue a career teaching biology or enter the medical field,” she says. “Then, the summer between sophomore and junior year, I went for my yearly routine eye exam. I told my family optometrist about my career dilemma and he asked me if I ever thought about optometry. It’s rare that you can look back on a single conversation that really changed your life, but honestly, it led me to a career that I love.”

How did you acquire your competitive spirit?

If someone would just ask me that out of the blue, I would say I really don’t see myself as a competitive person. But I’ve always been motivated to do my best and to be the best I can be.

What motivates you?

I have always had intense personal internal motivation to succeed, but never felt the need to compare my accomplishments to those of others. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been critical of myself and would most likely be considered a perfectionist. My parents never, ever had to tell me to do my homework and get good grades—it was just what I expected of myself.

What activities, people, or courses at LVC helped you prepare for success?

As a biology major, it was a big advantage to have smaller class sizes, particularly in higher-level biology classes where there were 10 to 20 students in each class. Professors knew you personally, not as a number. You not only felt compelled to do well for yourself and your GPA, but for feat that you might hear from the professor if you didn’t do your best! I can still remember Dr. Erskine [Dale, chair and professor of biology] walking down the hall in Garber and asking me what happened to me on one not-so-stellar quiz! They knew you well enough to light a fire under you if they thought you weren’t working up to par—there was truly an investment made by those professors.

Then there was also the rigor of the academic program, particularly in biology/pre-med. I think many of my biology classmates who went into the medical field would agree that our graduate medical education wasn’t so profoundly more challenging than our studies at LVC. In other words, we were very well prepared for success as we entered our graduate medical training programs.

I was lucky to have been chosen for a Presidential Leadership Scholarship while at The Valley. I have no doubt that the leadership courses I was required to take as part of that scholarship program helped prepare me for future leadership positions I would hold.

What’s most important to remain competitive in your field?

Optometry is a very equipment-oriented and technology-based field, so that requires me to stay on top of the latest advances in that technology. The continuing education I’m required to complete on a yearly basis also helps me learn about any new medical advances, ocular disease treatments, and new medications. This information helps me provide the best care to my patients and to be at the cutting edge of the field.

How do you prepare physically and mentally for competition?

I remember what my mother and father always told me” make sure to get enough sleep!

Who is your favorite competitive role model?

My competitive role model is actually one of my good friends, Dr. Christine Allison. She’s a professor of pediatrics at the Illinois College of Optometry, and she has insatiable energy and drive that’s just amazing. She is married with three children and balances that with a career full of outstanding accomplishments. Christine has always had a competitive drive in sports; somehow she finds time to run marathons and play in tennis tournaments. I admire her ability to do all these well and maintain a balance in her life. She makes it look easy.

Do you have a guiding philosophy about competition?

In general, to be the best person I can be to succeed, but balance that internal pressure so as not to give myself an ulcer!

Which leaders inspire you? Why?

The leaders for whom I have the most respect are those leaders who are in the trenches with others, those that lead by example and inspire others to do their best. I always liked the quote by Lao Tsu that says, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, and when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his people will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

Good leaders don’t care about their position: they’re focused on fulfilling their vision, their passion—those are the people you’re going to want to follow.

What makes LVC competitive?

I would say that the strong academic scholarships and quality education help attract those top students that could attend other excellent colleges, but choose The Valley. Case in point, this happened to one of my patients, an extremely talented young woman who probably could have had her pick of Ivy League schools. Other than that, the benefits and attributes of the school really speak for themselves. If you’re looking for a private liberal arts education, Lebanon Valley makes it an easy decision.

What advice would you give to current LVC students?

First, I would stress the importance of finding a balance between work and play, studying and socializing. Yes, the primary reason you’re in college is to get an education, but there’s also life lessons to learn from a social perspective. Once you can attain that balance, it will carry through for the rest of your life.

Second, is to avoid procrastination. I struggled with this for so many years. Procrastinating doesn’t make life easier—it makes it much harder. I wish I’d come to that realization sooner.

Finally, I’d tell students not to be frustrated if they come into their freshman year undecided on a major or future career. Know that the right choice will eventually come to you, one way of another. Time, and a little bit of research and talking to or shadowing people in careers that interest you—finding out what they do day to day—can really be helpful.