Release Date: 
Tuesday, April 2, 2024

3 HFC graduates take on leadership roles in the rewarding field of ophthalmology

HFC ophthalmology alumni, left to right, Kristen L. Cavazos, Rachel Jones, and Eric Smith
From L-R: Kristen L. Cavazos, Rachel Jones, and Eric Smith

HFC’s Ophthalmic Technician Program Director Dr. Kathy Campbell recently expressed how proud she is of three of her former students before the HFC Board of Trustees.

Campbell has been directing the OPT program since 2014. The two-year program offers an associate of science degree with a 100% employment rate among its graduates. It is the only accredited OPT program in Michigan.

HFC OPT graduates are in high demand and advance quickly into leadership positions such as office managers and head technicians. Three graduates are recent proof of the program's quality.

“All the students after graduation start out being an ophthalmic technician, who perform tests on patients prior to the ophthalmologist seeing them,” said Campbell. “I am proud of these graduates. The ophthalmology field has prestigious companies that employ only the best. In the past two years, HFC has three OPT alumni who have climbed the corporate ladder.”

Kristen L. Cavazos – Clinical experience leads to new opportunity

An alumna of Allen Park High School, Kristen L. Cavazos earned her associate degree in applied science-ophthalmic technician from HFC. The Wyandotte resident later earned her bachelor’s degree in health studies with a minor in healthcare management from Siena Heights University. She is looking into graduate programs in the healthcare field.

“HFC was the most affordable option and it allowed me work full-time while being a full-time student, which was really important,” she said. “I liked that there was opportunity and support from the HFC faculty. I can’t recall a time when a faculty member did not help me. I also liked the diverse student atmosphere at the College,” said Cavazos, who was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society while attending HFC.

Cavazos is a Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT), having passed the two-part certification exam through the International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology. To take the COT exam, Cavazos had to complete 960 clinical hours. She earned her COT accreditation in 2020.

After graduating from HFC in 2019, Cavazos worked at Henry Ford Health in Southfield (where she completed her third clinical rotation) for four years. In 2023, she began her current position as a Clinical Applications Specialist for ZEISS in Dublin, CA. She covers the Great Lakes Region for ZEISS, including Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

“I work both remotely and travel onsite to clinics as needed. I was looking for an advancement opportunity where my experience in a patient-facing setting could be utilized in a different way,” explained Cavazos. “My duties vary day by day, but – ultimately – I train customers on all ZEISS diagnostic equipment. Once a clinic purchases a new ZEISS instrument, I am responsible for training the staff on the instrument.”

Cavazos was inspired to go into this field after attending one of Campbell’s presentations about the program.

“Dr. Campbell played an integral role guiding and encouraging me throughout the educational and clinical process,” said Cavazos. “Dr. Campbell is the best advocate for certified ophthalmic technicians. She is extremely passionate about what she does and it’s a direct reflection of her students’ success. I respect her greatly and I’m thankful to have such a great mentor.”

Rachel Jones – The "why" matters

As a child, Rachel Jones actually liked going to the eye doctor.

She didn't intend to choose a career in ophthalmology, but she's glad she made the decision.

Since the beginning of 2024, Jones has been a Clinical Applications Specialist for Heidelberg Engineering, Inc. in Franklin, MA. She previously worked for Henry Ford Health.

“I travel to clinics in my region to install equipment and train staff on how to get the best images of their patients for accurate diagnosis,” said Jones.

She and her husband Brandon and their son live in Wyandotte. She is the second of three children and the first in her family to obtain a college degree. After graduating from Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, she continued her education at HFC, where she earned her associate degree in applied science-ophthalmic technician. She then earned her bachelor’s degree in applied science with a minor in healthcare management from SHU. She is also a technician through the International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.

“Being eligible to sit for the COT exam was such a big jumpstart to my forward momentum,” said Jones. “I don't think I would have had the confidence to do this job without the background knowledge HFC taught me. When you're classically trained, you really learn a lot about the ‘why’ of what you're doing and that's so important to be good at your job. HFC provided me a great education and prepared me to finish my bachelor’s degree.”

Campbell recruited Jones to teach in the OPT program at HFC. She has taught at the College since 2021.

“I have a passion for teaching. I love seeing the people I teach get excited about what they’re doing,” she said. “I truly can't say enough good things about Dr. Campbell. She's such a positive, motivating force. She truly wants what's best for her students and will always root for them. I graduated from the program in 2015 and she's still always willing to be my guide. You can tell her true passion is teaching. She is so knowledgeable about the field.”

Her career path has provided Jones with so many options.

“I have never had a hard time finding a job,” she said. “And since the demand is so high, you can demand a lot more from the job.”

Eric Smith – No ceiling, and endless potential

For more than 10 years, Eric Smith was an ophthalmic technician for Wilkinson Eye Center in Pontiac, where many HFC OPT students shadowed him. This inspired him to teach in the OPT program.

“Teaching at HFC was a very inspirational and helpful experience. I learned as much from the students as they did from me,” recalled Smith, who lives in West Bloomfield with his wife, April-Joi Colbert-Smith, who studied business at HFC.

For the last two years, Smith has been a Clinical Applications Specialist for Alcon, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX. Founded in 1945 as a small pharmacy, Alcon is a medical device company specializing in eye care products. Smith trains staff and surgeons across the nation how to apply and use Alcon medical equipment.

“This job offered me the ability to grow beyond the role of a technician. I saw there was no ceiling and endless potential to grow after becoming a COT,” explained Smith. “I really enjoy the freedom this job entails, meeting new people, helping surgeons learn how to use this equipment, and preparing them for the future of ophthalmology.”

A graduate of Redford High School in Detroit, Smith earned his certification as an electrician from HFC (then Henry Ford Community College). He worked for what is now Dearborn Works, where he planned to remain for the rest of his career until an on-the-job injury changed that. Dearborn Works bought him out and offered to pay for his education.

After taking a placement test at HFC, Smith returned to his alma mater and earned his earned her associate degree in applied science-ophthalmic technician. He is also a technician through International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.

HFC provided Smith with a great education.

“Without HFC, I would not have had the foundation nor essentials to begin to understand ophthalmology,” said Smith. “Dr. Campbell is such a great person to have in your corner. I appreciate her, especially asking me to teach at the College. We really helped each other.”

Second-largest accredited program in the country

Campbell takes great pride in her students’ accomplishments.

“The accomplishments of these three former students who began their studies at HFC only exemplify how great the College is. I am immensely proud to be a part of the College and represent these former students,” said Campbell.

She also takes great pride in the success and reputation of the OPT program. Not only is it the only accredited OPT program in Michigan, it is also the second largest accredited program in the United States. The OPT program has externship agreements with Henry Ford Health, Corewell Health and the Detroit Medical Center. It has 16 private practice agreements. There is strong demand for technicians because so many retired or resigned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being in this field has given me an awesome career. I was a COT for 30 years prior to coming to HFC to become the director of the OPT program,” she said. “I’m honored to play a part in the success of the program and in the success of my students’ careers.”

For questions for more information about the OPT program, contact Campbell at

Related Content: HFC Ophthalmic Technician (OPT) informational video