Get to Know HFC: Dr. Kathy Campbell leads program with 100% employment rate
For 46 years, ophthalmology has been HFC Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) Program Director Kathy Campbell’s passion. It is that same passion she brought into the classroom at HFC more than eight years ago.
“I enjoyed being a technician and first assistant in the OR and the clinic so much that I wanted others to share similar success,” said Campbell, who has taught at HFC since 2013. Currently, she lives in Madison Heights with Neil, her husband of 41 years. Together, they have two adult sons.
A native of Detroit, Campbell is a graduate of Regina High School in Harper Woods. A 3-time alumna of Central Michigan University, Campbell earned her bachelor’s degree cum laude in healthcare administration, her master’s degree in human resources, and her doctorate in healthcare administration.
Her dissertation – Integrated Use of Telemedicine During Annual Physicals for the Early Diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy – discussed how a Retina Vue portable camera used in primary care clinics could result in the early detection of diabetic retinopathy.
Campbell has been a Certified Ophthalmic Technician since 1988. She was also a Certified Ophthalmic Surgical Assistant for 30 years. When she joined the faculty at the College, she had to surrender this certification. In order to stay certified, she had to participate in 30 surgeries over the course of three years, which was no longer possible as she was focused on the classroom.
Teaching and mentoring technicians
Campbell got her start in the ophthalmology field right out of high school, serving as a receptionist for an ophthalmologist in Detroit. This sparked her interest in the profession.
“The rest is my life history,” she said.
For more than 30 years, Campbell worked at Oakland Ophthalmic Surgery, P.C. in Birmingham, MI. There, she worked closely with renowned physicians Dr. Robert Stephenson, Dr. Robert Erickson, Dr. Timothy Page, and Dr. Maria Jancevski.
“I went to surgery with each physician, served as a tech in the office, scheduled patients, and mostly supported and taught the other technicians,” said Campbell. “I really enjoyed the rapport with the patients every day.”
She enjoyed teaching and mentoring the other technicians so much that it wasn’t hard to extrapolate into a classroom setting as she made her return to academics. HFC alumnus and COT faculty member Eric Smith considers Campbell a mentor. She recruited him to teach at HFC.
“Kathy Campbell loves Ophthalmology, and she teaches it amazingly well,” said Smith. “Her passion for the field of Ophthalmology shows in the way she runs the program.”
Michigan’s only accredited COT program boasts a 100% employment rate
HFC has the only accredited COT program in the state of Michigan. It is also the second largest accredited COT program in the United States. Currently, it has 35 students.
The COT program has externship agreements with Henry Ford Health System, Beaumont Health, and the Detroit Medical Center. It also has 16 private practice agreements. The COT program has a 100% employment rate. There’s a huge demand for technicians because many left the field due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Campbell.
“I am very proud of the success and reputation of the COT program,” said Campbell. “I’m honored to play a part in it.”
Dr. Susan Shunkwiler, retired Dean of the HFC School of Health & Human Services, enjoyed working with Campbell and has fond memories of her.
"Dr. Campbell is an absolute joy to work with and has been an inspiration to me," said Shunkwiler. "She is an eternal optimist, always focusing on the positive. Her kind, caring demeanor, high professional standards, and passion for education and student success have made the COT program one of the premier programs at the College."
Creativity and determination leads to needed equipment
When she first came to the College, Campbell reached out to ZEISS Vision Care about purchasing its IOLMaster 500 instrument, which measures optical biometry. The instrument is valued at $38,000. With the assistance of HFC Assistant Director of Advancement Shai James-Boyd, she wrote a proposal to ZEISS, asking if they would donate an IOLMaster 500 to the COT program.
“This was the instrument my doctors relied on to help them achieve great results on their cataract surgeries. I explained I left Oakland Ophthalmic to teach technicians at HFC. Being a community college, the expense was too high for my program to purchase,” she recalled. “I am happy to say that ZEISS donated a brand new IOLMaster 500 to HFC, along with the table and printer. They also sent a technician to set everything up for use. I keep them close to my heart for helping our program.”
She also asked Welch Allyn, Inc. – a medical device manufacturer – to donate a Retina Vue portable camera to the COT program.
“My dissertation was focused on the Retina Vue portable camera. I made many phone calls to Welch Allyn, telling them I was working on my dissertation in an effort to retrieve information about the camera. They would not release any information, and I am not sure they believed I was writing my dissertation,” she recalled.
When Campbell finished her dissertation, she sent a copy of it to Welch Allyn.
“I asked if they would donate a camera,” she said. “They saw the work that I was doing, and they sent me a Retina Vue Camera for our program. The value of the camera is $10,000 and allows the students to practice taking ophthalmic photos in the classroom. I was very pleased!”
Turning students' lives around
A typical day for Campbell includes teaching and planning. She gives out her cell phone number to her students if they have any attendance issues or problems arising in the externship clinics that need to be addressed. This has led to many text chats with students late at night, she pointed out with a laugh.
“For me, the best part of my job is when I can help turn a student’s life around by teaching them to become an awesome technician and know they will succeed and enjoy their new career!” said Campbell. “Sometimes it takes a while to get the students to believe in themselves. I will not let them give up, nor will I give up.”
She continued: “Coming to HFC has been a major lifestyle change for me. I finished my doctorate in 2019 and feel it has helped me realize what it is like to be a newly-graduated student. I absolutely love being at this College. It is a happy College, and working with my colleagues everyday is so rewarding. I still miss the patients and being in the OR, but being at the College is just as rewarding. I can often see myself in my students and it is gratifying to see them develop.”