Meet Dr. Jeff Oakland '02

Jeff Oakland

Optometrist, Dakota Vision Center, Sioux Falls
— biology major

Q. How did you choose Augustana?

A. I knew growing up that Augie was so much about community and people, and that really appealed to me. Plus, I had an interest in healthcare from early on and knew the Biology department was strong.  

Life at Augie

Q. Favorite class and why?

A. It’s a tie between Cell Biology and Ann Pederson’s religion class on God and Human Suffering. I enjoyed Cell Biology and thinking/visualizing things on such a microscopic/cellular level. Dr. Pederson’s class helped me develop a deeper understanding of my faith. I took and learned elements from this class that I still apply today.

Q. Favorite professor and why?

A. Gary Earl. Dr. Earl taught me how to better believe in myself and abilities. He made it clear he believed in me and my abilities, so why couldn’t I? I think of conversations with him frequently that go back to when I was a sophomore taking Organic Chemistry. Dr. Sandra Looney and Dr. Leland Johnson both were instrumental to me as well.

Q. Best Augie Memory?

A. I have far too many to count! The first that comes to mind is when we climbed onto the roof of the commons and placed a sitting lawn gnome on the southwest corner of the roof.

After Augie

Q. Tell us about your journey after graduation.

A. I began optometry school at the Illinois College of Optometry in August of 2002. I then completed a 1 year residency in Pediatrics and Binocular Vision in 2008 after earning my Doctor of Optometry degree.

Q. Tell us about your career-what’s an average day like?

A. I don’t have many average days, which I love. Three days a week I see patients at our primary vision care clinic, Dakota Vision Center. Patients range from infants to the elderly. I manage both ocular disease and common refractive conditions, along with assessing patient’s visual systems to determine if visual skills, beyond eyesight, are delayed. If so, I will begin the conversation about vision therapy. Two days a week I see patients at the Center for Visual Learning, our vision therapy practice that I started after joining Dakota Vision Center. I may do a visual efficiency exam on a new patient, therapy with a patient, have a consult with parents to discuss starting therapy for their son/daughter, or perform progress evaluations on patient’s currently in therapy.

Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role?

A. The greatest challenge is balancing being both a healthcare provider and a business owner of two different optometric practices. I enjoy the challenge and wouldn’t have it any other way. By far the best reward in my work is seeing the success stories of patients and their families after going through vision therapy. The visual system plays such an enormous role in the learning process, and it’s always reflected in the success stories we see.

Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far?

A. Starting our vision therapy practice from the ground up, and the success we’ve had.

Q. What’s next for you professionally?

A. To continue educating the community on vision therapy-what it is, who may benefit, and the research behind it. I’m currently working on earning my fellow from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development as well.

Q. If you could offer a prospective or existing Augie student some advice, what would you say?

A. For the prospective student: If you think you could or would strive in a college that excels in relationship driven learning, come to Augie. For the existing Augie student: Work hard and spend conscious time thinking about what makes you go. Once you find what drives you, go explore the work environment that best fits what you’re passionate about. Work is work, but it’s a heck of a lot more enjoyable when you feel like you are making a difference for someone else.

At Home

Q. Tell us about your family.

A. My wife Heather and I have been married for 5 years. We both enjoy staying active, watching college sports, and traveling. Mostly, we enjoy being with family. Heather and I joined forces on the work front as well in 2014, when we hired her to be our practice administrator at the Center for Visual Learning. Our son Reid is three and our daughter Isla is 4 months old. The four of us love being together; they are my favorite people to be around.

Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?

A. My biggest personal satisfaction comes from looking at my family that began when I married Heather. Heather, Reid, and Isla are my number ones. I’m so proud to be Heather’s husband and my kid’s dad. Personal accomplishments and work success are great, but they pale in comparison to the feeling I have as a husband and dad.

Q.A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five core values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life?

A. The core values generate really bright and thoughtful students. I’m reminded of this often when I have Augie students come spend time with me in the office, as well as when I see Augie students that are patients. I’ve stayed connected to Augie since coming back to Sioux Falls to practice; I like having those types of values front and center in my mind, and being around Augie reminds me of them. My faith and investing in my community through service are things I think about daily. Excellence at Augie, to me, represents pushing yourself beyond where you think you might be able to go. Lastly, the Liberal Arts value is synonymous to me with being a well-rounded individual. I see that in my family, close friends, and others that have gone to Augie.