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Single mom keeps her eye on an ophthalmology career

Parshanna Wilson works at USC Village and studies at USC Roski Eye Institute clinics around Los Angeles

working full time and earning degree certificate
Parshanna Wilson is training to be an ophthalmic technician and also works full-time in student housing. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Parshanna Wilson may be tired, but she still has a vision.

“I’m going to help people see better,” she said, suppressing a yawn. “I’m learning about the LASIK procedure, glaucoma screening, cataracts, retinal imaging — that’s all part of it.”

The yawn is an understandable symptom of fatigue for a single mom raising two teenage sons while working and studying full-time.

Wilson works each day at USC Village in student housing before heading to USC’s Health Sciences Campus, where she’s nearing completion of the Ophthalmic Technician Education Program (OTEP) certificate program at the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute.

Why she’s looking at an ophthalmology career

“My entire family wears glasses, or most of them do anyway,” Wilson said. “Helping people to see better — taking them right up to the point where they’re ready for an optometrist — that means something.”

Born and raised in the South Los Angeles area, Wilson worked in the biopharmaceutical industry for years, then took a job at USC Village. She was hired on the spot during a career fair in early 2017 and started in the spring that year.

“I came here because I wanted to work for a great college and take advantage of everything they have to offer,” Wilson said. “I never get bored at USC Village or Roski, and that’s a big deal because I get bored easily.”

Focusing on real-world experience

Like all OTEP students, Wilson rotates through USC Roski Eye Institute clinics around Los Angeles, working under the supervision of ophthalmologists, residents and ophthalmic technicians. She has her eye on a full-time career in ophthalmology. She could start as early as next fall, but sees other options as well.

“I can see the finish line, but you never know. I may take my education to the next level after that. We’ll see.”

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Single mom keeps her eye on an ophthalmology career

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