Devin Sasser, a third-year optometry student at UMSL

Devin Sasser, a third-year optometry student at UMSL, holds leadership positions in several local and national student organizations. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Devin Sasser was a determined child. When most 6-year-old boys wanted to be a baseball or football player, the Dallas native was adamant that he someday enroll in law school and become a lawyer. By age 11, he’d moved past that and set his sights on a health-science field.

“If you talk to my mom, she would say I’m her child who had too much focus at too early of an age,” he says, laughing.

Now 25, Sasser is getting closer to his goal as a third-year optometry student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. And his ambition hasn’t waned a bit.

In addition to his class and clinic workload, Sasser holds leadership positions in the American Optometric Student Association, UMSL Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity and the National Optometric Student Association. (UPDATE: Sasser has since been elected president of the AOSA, which represents more than 6,400 students attending the 23 schools and colleges of optometry throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.) In the simplest terms, he described the organizations in this way: AOSA helps students, SVOSH helps people in other countries and NOSA helps the St. Louis community.

Being involved beyond the classroom appeals to Sasser because he wants to avoid complacency and be able to grow within his profession. Networking has been a huge plus too.

“I’m meeting so many people,” Sasser says. “Just a couple days ago we were in D.C. where we were doing a Congressional advocacy conference (on student loan relief for optometrists who practice in areas devoid of health-care services), and I had a chance to meet with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do. In the short time I’ve been at UMSL, it’s been a crazy ride – just awesome.”

His biggest leadership role so far is as member of the AOSA Board of Trustees. He represents UMSL.

“When students at our school tell me of concerns, I’m able to bring that to the national board,” he says. “It’s really quite awesome that we’re able to make change to better our education and experiences as optometry students.”

One of NOSA’s big events is an annual Easter egg hunt for the visually impaired in the courtyard facing the Thomas Jefferson Library entrance at UMSL. This year, Sasser even dressed up in a bunny suit and braved the unseasonably hot spring day in head-to-toe faux fur.

Through SVOSH, he helps clean and prepare eyeglasses that are sent to people in developing countries. Organization members also go on mission trips. Sasser hopes to fly to Ghana next year to deliver optometric services to the African country’s residents.

“That’s probably the most rewarding of the organizations because you’re able to bring something to people who probably won’t ever have the opportunity to get that service,” he says.

Sasser chose UMSL to pursue his optometry degree because he felt the faculty and students were supportive and encouraging – something he says he didn’t feel at other universities. He says he loves St. Louis, but after this year, Sasser, a self-described “Southern boy,” will likely return to Dallas for fourth-year rotations. It’s the last step en route to completing his degree.

Sasser then hopes to complete a yearlong residency, perhaps at a veterans affairs hospital in New York, before returning to the South. He might then work for a couple of years at a hospital to gain further experience before branching out into a private practice.

Regardless of his path, Sasser remains as fervent about his future now as he was as a young aspiring lawyer.

This story was originally published in the fall 2013 issue of UMSL Magazine.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz

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