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UNF education helped prepare grad for optometry school

elizabeth dow
She discovered her professional calling at the University of North Florida, so it only made sense for Elizabeth Dow to return to the First Coast to start her career.

The newest optometrist at Family Eye Care in Mandarin, Dr. Elizabeth Dow, credits UNF with helping her discover her professional passion and giving her the skills to excel in her chosen field.

“At UNF, I was really helped along the way and guided toward finding a career that was the best path for me,” Dow said. “I fulfilled my goals and found a path that really correlated with my personality. That balance of finding a personally and professionally enriching career is, in my opinion, the purpose of your undergrad degree. In that respect, UNF was a great success for me.”

Dow, a Winter Park native and 2006 UNF graduate, said her parents had a prepaid college fund ready for when she graduated from high school, and she wanted to put the money to good use by attending a Florida university. After touring a few different campuses, including the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and UNF, she knew right away where she’d start her college career.

“There was just something about UNF that I really liked,” Dow said. “It was a combination of things. I liked the attitude, the natural environment and the people who welcomed me. It just felt like the perfect fit.”

Much of her freshman year was spent determining what she wanted to study, and a general education class offered to freshmen and sophomores by UNF Career Services helped her chart the course for her professional life. The course offered her a battery of assessments and Myers-Briggs style personality typing, and the results pointed her toward optometry.

Dow declared chemistry as her required science major and soon carved out her academic niche at UNF. Dow credits the chemistry faculty with giving her the support to excel during her undergraduate career. Her professors even allowed her to customize her major course schedule and take additional classes from the physics and biology departments so she would be uniquely prepared when she entered the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tenn., in 2006.

Her faculty mentor from the chemistry department, Dr. Kunisi Venkatasubban, now an emeritus faculty member, also allowed her to work closely with him on a number of projects with practical, real-world applications, such as Alzheimer’s drug research for the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

“She was an exceptionally talented student,” Venkatasubban said. “It’s very good that she returned to Jacksonville because her talents will benefit the city.”

After four years in optometry school and another two years of externships across the country, Dow said she’s excited to contribute to Northeast Florida at her new practice in Mandarin. She loved her time in Jacksonville because of the climate, the proximity to the beach and the city’s sprawling, eclectic nature.

Dow also said she’s looking forward to reconnecting with her alma mater. She took a stroll through campus shortly after returning to Jacksonville and was blown away at the campus’ development. Despite all the new buildings and a more bustling campus environment, she said it still felt like home.

It’s been that way for her from an early age.

“I didn't realize it until I was much older, but my family lived in Jacksonville for a few years when I was very young, and I attended the Child Development Resource Center on UNF’s campus,” Dow said. “I didn't know that at the time when I chose to attend UNF, but it makes sense now. It just felt natural — that welcoming, kind of homey feeling you get when you’re at a place that’s familiar to you. I guess I was destined to go to UNF.”