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Meet Nicolis Russell in our Ophthalmic Medical Technology program

Meet Nicolis Russell in our Ophthalmic Medical Technology program. He is our featured Student Highlight #UAMSCHP

My name is Nicolis Russell. I have family and friends that call me Nico, because of the untraditional spelling of my name. I also don’t mind when people call me Nic, because I realize that is the traditional “nickname”. I was born in Little Rock and I am proud to tell people I’m from Arkansas. I’ve lived in Denver, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia, but nothing is like home. My parents and I graduated from Little Rock Central High School. Go Tigers! Go Hogs!

I was a student at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, when I learned about this program at a college fair on campus. My anatomy & physiology instructor, Dr. Eshelman, encouraged students to attend the college fair. While I was at the fair, I noticed there was an OMT program at UAMS. The first question I asked was, “What does OMT stand for?”, and I was told that it was ophthalmic medical technology. I had never heard of this field prior to that day. I only wanted to learn more about the field from that point and I ultimately decided to apply for this program, because I was genuinely interested.

What I like most about the OMT program is that there are so many great minds at the Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute. I’m enlightened when I go to Grand Rounds and listen to the doctors. I’m challenged when I go to the operating room and assist in surgery. Everyday is different and I always learn something. Most importantly, there is always someone willing to teach.

I’m in the 2nd and final year of the program. My classmates and I get to walk across that stage in May of 2018, but we have one more summer semester and don’t officially graduate until August 2018. UAMS has the only OMT program in the country where you can graduate with a bachelor’s degree. I will be one of only three people in the country to graduate with an Ophthalmic Medical Technology degree in 2018. All healthcare professionals have to maintain a standard. I will continue to learn, even after I graduate. I have to be aware of the new technology and advancements in Ophthalmology. I look forward to working with my employer and providing exceptional patient care.

My mother used to say, “Nobody listens to a quiet man”. That statement is very true. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to talk loud. You can lead by your actions, provide a positive example for others. Often times, your character will speak for itself. My mother has also been the biggest influence in my career. If a single mother with two children can get a master’s degree, then surely I can. She was the first person to tell me about the Allied Health field. Last August, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I watched her go through so much, yet somehow she remained focused on my education. She no longer has cancer and loves the fact that I’m about to graduate from UAMS.

Ophthalmic Medical Technology is a great, rewarding profession. There is a huge need for more skilled technicians and I hope more people become interested in this field, because working with eyes can be fun. I already feel like I’m helping my community. I’ve had the opportunity to help numerous patients and veterans get prescriptions for glasses/contacts, which allows them to remain independent. I get to help people keep their drivers license and their jobs.

In my free time, I like to travel… Honestly, I like to travel to new food destinations. I pretend that I’m Andrew Zimmern whenever I go out of town. Foodies know what I mean. Other than indulging in great food, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Melanie, and family.

I love what I do. I wake up knowing that I will help someone each and everyday. There is a special relationship that can be shared with the patients. Sometimes, I truly believe that they don’t need me, but I’m depending on the patients to give me a sense of purpose.

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