UIW Alumna and Chief of Bowden Eye Care and Health Center Reflects on Her Career and Achievements

December 1, 2023
Janet Summers Headshot

The UIW community is contributed to by a variety of talented, driven, and noteworthy people that have graciously made the University a part of their stories. UIW's Assistant Clinical Professor at the Rosenberg School of Optometry (RSO) and Chief of the UIW Bowden Eye Care and Health Center, Dr. Janet Summers, has passionately nurtured her community through years of dedicated service towards the field of optometry.

Summers is a first-generation college and professional school graduate. Before she embarked on her journey through higher education, she wasn't set on a particular career path. In high school, she worked for an optometrist whom she described to be intelligent and highly medically and functionally oriented. Her mentor continuously demonstrated the love he had for his work and the enthusiasm he had for his career was contagious. Summers felt inspired through observing him and decided that she too wanted to pursue a career in optometry.

She earned her BS in Biology from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She then studied at the Pennsylvania School of Optometry Salus University in Philadelphia, where she earned a BS in Vision Science and Doctor of Optometry.

Throughout her career, she has been appointed Chief of Optometry at Penn Group Health Plan, established five private practices, and served on various optometry organization boards, and was subsequently recruited to San Antonio as a Vice President of Clinical Standards and Medical Care. She was also nominated for the Jefferson Award for Public Service at the national level.

"To serve the community and to keep on learning became my personal mission, and optometry has been the perfect vehicle," Summers shared of her experiences.

Janet Summers Graduation Ceremony

Summers joined the UIW community in 2018 as a clinical professor and mission trip leader at RSO. She explained that it has ultimately been the University community that she has enjoyed most about her position. "Interactions with patients, colleagues, students, and other healthcare professionals are intellectually stimulating and enjoyable, and that has been the most satisfying element of my career. They have provided the impetus for me to continue expanding my knowledge as well as my horizons."

In addition to being a UIW faculty member, she is also a recent UIW alumna, having graduated with an MS in Organizational Development and Leadership with distinction in 2022. She explained that her degree helps to support her initiatives at RSO and in optometric education. "I very much appreciate having been able to achieve it while working full time. The program faculty was outstanding and always accessible."

For her many accomplishments, Summers was recently honored by Chatham University, her first alma mater, as the recipient of the 2023 Alumni Cornerstone Award in Optometry. The award is meant to recognize the achievements and leadership of Chatham undergraduate alumni. Summers noted that the women at Chatham provided her with the education, voice, confidence, and the resilience to thrive in what was then a male dominated profession.

As many current and aspiring optometry students prepare and strive towards the same profession, Summers offers some advice. "My advice comes from experience: times may get tough, and the goal may get foggy, but faith is the beacon, and for me optometry has provided the light along the path."