My Navy Optometry Experience

Sabrina Charrier, O.D., F.A.A.O.


Some of you may not know this but I served in the United States Navy. With Veteran’s Day this month, I wanted to talk to you about my experience.

When I graduated optometry school, I had several options for my next step in my career. One was to buy into a practice, another was to take a year for a residency program, and the last was to join the Navy and serve as a Naval officer. I had already applied for the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP), a competitive program in which you serve a designated amount of time as a Naval officer in return for a certain amount of loans being paid back. This is different from the scholarship program in that it is paid after your completion of school. I was awarded the HPLRP and knew that was the path I would take. It was probably one of the best decisions I could have taken.

After going through a 5 week course of Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island, I then drove completely across the country to California. I have never seen so much of the country, albeit brief visits through each state. I lived in southern California and served on the Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton and the Naval Hospital. I served as an optometrist and for the next 3 years of my life I saw men and women from each branch, wearing the gamut of Navy uniforms in my stay. Fun fact, I had 5 different uniforms, depending on the work being done and season. PLUS, I had my first two children while serving in the military and thus had maternity versions of those uniforms as well. Working in a hospital setting helped prepare me for working at St. Hope Foundation where I now work with multiple departments and can aid in taking care of my patients from head to toe.

I look back at my active duty time favorably. I was able to experience something not every person has an opportunity to do: serve my country, travel out of my wonderful home state of Texas and live in another amazingly beautiful state, develop lifelong friendships with other military members and civilians who I could visit at the drop of a hat, and begin my career and family in the best place possible.

There is an instant comradery one has with another military member independent of the branch. We know what the other person experienced. We are proud of what we have been able to do. I know there are other military members here at St. Hope and in our patient base. To all of you and your family members who also served, I would like to say thank you for your service!

Happy Veteran’s Day!