Jennifer Ramey, OD
OPTOMETRIC PHYSICIAN BASED IN OUR LEWISTON, IDAHO, OFFICE
Friendly, caring and down-to-earth, Jenny Ramey is calm, conscientious and enjoys a good laugh. Born in Hurst, Texas, Jenny enjoyed being a Girl Scout, playing on a soccer team, being in her high school’s marching band color guard, taking piano and dance lessons, and participating in church activities. Early on, she also knew she wanted to be a doctor and help people.
: As a Texas girl, what are some of your favorite memories growing up?
: Doing things with family and friends. When I was in high school, for example, my dad introduced me to autocross racing. He wanted me to be able to understand the car’s limits and know what to do if something went wrong. My dad’s friends would set up cones on a course, and I would race the clock against my own best time. The first time, I was timid, slow and cautious. Every time we went racing, I got more and more competitive. Then I got too close to my dad’s best time [laughing], and he’s like, “We’re done. Don’t want you to beat me!”
My dad was a commercial pilot. He would be gone two weeks and then be home two weeks. When he was home, it was always fun doing things together—being outside and bonding, whether that was riding bikes together, racing or skiing.
When dad was away, my mom would run the ship. All power to her. She was the nutrition director in charge of meal planning for the local school district. I look back and think what a strong woman to be working full time and raising me and my sister. Wow! Getting us to all of our activities and making sure we still had good grades. She’s the best hostess when people visit. She’s got snacks. She’s got sweet tea. And she also has the best shoulder to cry on when I need it.
: With your mom as a nutrition director, did that mean nothing but healthy food at home?
: Well, it was a balancing act [laughing]. She knew we were getting good food at school, and we’d have good snacks at home too. But, every once in a while—I mean, you can’t cook in the south without putting a stick of butter in everything, so…
: Do your parents still live in Texas?
: Yes, they do. They just had their anniversary and also just recently retired. They’re living the life, getting used to being together more, and going on new adventures.
: When did you first have the idea that you wanted to be a doctor?
: I was probably 8 or 9 years old. At first, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but as I grew older I became more interested in helping people. In high school, I really enjoyed science and math classes. So when I got to college, I shadowed different people in medical-related fields. As I watched one optometrist, who was a family friend, I noticed she had such a good rapport with her patients. She also had a great work-life balance. I thought to myself, this is it. This is what I want.
: How did the goal of being a doctor play out in your early interests at school?
: Well, I definitely liked my science and math classes, and that seemed to be a good fit with wanting to be a doctor.
: Did you have a specific science teacher you looked up to?
: I had a lot of really great science teachers. My high school biology teacher, in particular, was so passionate about what she was doing. She was spunky—and Type A. She got everyone excited about science and was laser-focused on her goals. I thought, yes, that’s how I am too. She inspired me.
: How did your parents contribute to your educational journey?
: They were completely on my side. My dad would encourage us to get better grades by promising to take us out to dinner wherever we wanted if we got a 100% in every class. My sister ended up snagging a trip to New York to have dinner at a place that did a Broadway show. And my mom, she was always making sure we got our chores and homework done before we went to hang out with friends. She kept us on track.
: You have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. How did you choose that specific major?
: Many people going into the medical field choose a biology degree. Because I enjoyed chemistry and wanted to stand out, I chose biochemistry. I also did a minor in business because I figured I would need those skills if I wanted to start my own practice someday.
: As you were finishing your bachelor’s degree, had you already decided on optometry school?
: Yes. By my senior year, I was dead set on it and had already started applications. Before I graduated, I was accepted at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry in Texas.
: What interested you the most about optometry?
: I thought everything was fascinating about eyeballs. They were way more intricate than I had thought. People say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I agree. You really can see so much about the body just by looking at the eyes. You can pick up on pathology throughout the body without making any cuts or drawing blood.
: Have you ever second-guessed your choice to become an optometrist?
: There was a time when I wanted to be a trapeze artist [laughing], but I just don’t have the upper-body strength for that.
: How did Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute enter the picture for you?
: My friend told me to go to this job fair while we were at a national convention. I walked in completely underprepared—no resume, nothing. I wanted to work in the Pacific Northwest, so I walked over to that section. The person representing PCLI asked me what I was looking for. I told him I wanted to find a medical practice in a small town that had actual seasons during the year and snow skiing nearby. He said, “Boy, do I have a deal for you.” PCLI was looking for somebody to be in Lewiston, and I was looking for the exact same thing but just didn’t know it would be Lewiston! It all worked out.
: What is the most fulfilling part of your work?
: I like being able to see patients’ appreciation after they’ve had cataract surgery or LASIK. They’re always so happy to have better vision, and I’m grateful I can make a difference in their lives.
I’ve also had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Ecuador with Dr. Jim Guzek, one of our surgeons. His wife was the nurse, and his teenage children came along too. In two weeks, we did one hundred surgeries for cataracts and growths from sun damage — pterygiums. Some of the people, blind or nearly blind, walked hundreds of miles to get to our clinic because they knew somebody would be there who could help restore their vision. The days were long and filled with hard work, but also really rewarding and worth it.
: Back home, here in Lewiston, Idaho, you’ve had a chance to rekindle a high school passion—color guard.
: Yes! In high school in Texas, I did color guard, which is the flag team next to the marching band. I loved it! When I moved up here to Lewiston, I reached out to the high school band director and said, “I’d like to help you with your color guard program.” He responded, “Well, we don’t have a color guard program.” I asked, “Why not?” He said, “We don’t have anyone to run it.” So I said, “OK, I’ll do it.”
That was about six years ago, and I’ve been able to build the program from the ground up, which has been so much fun and is also good for the kids. Last year, at championships, we had a villain-type of show. The kids were all wearing masks and trench coats. We won second place. I was so proud of the kids!
: You mentioned an early interest in being a veterinarian. Do you have any pets?
: Yes, I have a cat. He’s 12 years old and has been deaf since birth. When I got him, I thought he was a girl, so I named him Penny. When the vet told me he was a boy, I was like, oh well, it doesn’t matter that his name is Penny because he can’t hear [laughing]! I also have a dog named Mae. She’s a mini Goldendoodle—a cross between a Golden Retriever and a small Poodle. She’s the most loving, sweet dog. She’s smart and easy to train too.
: During your time with patients, what do you hope they remember most about you?
: I hope they notice that I put value in listening to what their goals are. I want to help my patients achieve better eyesight based on their priorities, and I want to help identify what those priorities are. I’ve had people come in who used to be artists but had been unable to continue because of vision problems. After surgery, they were so grateful to take up art again. And then there are grandparents who just want to be able to read the numbers on the back of the jersey at a grandchild’s basketball game. And some people just want to clearly see the numbers on a phone. The reward is in helping improve vision so those goals are met. It’s what I love to do.
2015 – University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry, San Antonio, TX
2016 – Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry, Fayetteville, AR
2016 to present – Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute
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