First-year College of Optometry student Shirley De La Rosa Bright, OD ’15, is one of only 24 students nationwide selected for the U.S. Air Force Health Professions Scholarship program in optometry.

Bright, who was selected from more than 100 applicants, is also the first optometry student at Western University of Health Sciences to receive a military scholarship. She recited the Commissioning Oath and was sworn in as a second lieutenant in the Air Force on Jan. 12, 2012 on WesternU’s Pomona campus.

“I like that it’s different. It’s not your typical civilian optometry job,” Bright said. “I look forward to the dual-professionalism as a career officer in the Air Force. Not only will I be an optometrist, but I’ll also be an officer in charge of the enlisted Air Force personnel assigned to me.”

Bright first looked into joining the military while applying to optometry schools. Her husband, Marlon Bright, is completing a master’s degree program in aerospace engineering and is also considering enlisting in the Air Force. Marlon and more than a dozen College of Optometry faculty and staff celebrated the milestone with Shirley.

Bright said she has a great desire to serve the underserved because of her background. Her parents came to the U.S. from developing countries to seek the “American dream” for a better future, which motivated her to provide service to her country and those who defend it, and to partake in the various humanitarian missions the U.S. Air Force leads.

“I am beyond thrilled, honored and grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to me, and I can’t wait for what the future holds,” Bright said.

Upon completion of the Doctor of Optometry program, Bright will attend Commissioned Officer Training and serve at least three years in the Air Force. Her scholarship begins in her second year and will cover her tuition, books, equipment, medical insurance and a stipend until she graduates.

College of Optometry Director of Clinical Education Robin Drescher, OD, MS, FAAO, administered the oath to Bright. Drescher served 21 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

“I would recommend the military for any health care provider,” he said. “You get a lot of experience and it’s a great way to be a health professional and help the people in uniform.”