Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry (CO) alumna Cristina Acevedo, OD ’19, was finishing her residency when staunch CO supporter Ed Hernandez, OD, reached out to her about a job opportunity.

Alumna Cristina Acevedo, OD ’19, with CO supporter Ed Hernandez, OD, at his Salud Vista office in Huntington Park, California. (Courtesy photo)

CO Dean Elizabeth Hoppe, OD, DrPH, and Director of Student Affairs Andrea Nuno recommended her to Dr. Hernandez knowing she was completing her Primary Care and Ocular Disease residency at Hu Hu Kam Memorial Hospital in Sacaton, Arizona, serving the Gila River Indian Community.

Dr. Hernandez has three optometry practices in Latino communities. He believes that there is a need for culturally sensitive providers to provide health care in these communities and tries to hire optometrists that are sensitive to providing care and can speak Spanish.

After talking to Dr. Hoppe, Hernandez reached out to Acevedo and exchanged several emails and phone calls.

“My wife Diane, who is also an OD, decided to drive to Arizona to meet with her,” he said. “After meeting with Dr. Acevedo and appreciating her willingness to serve the Latino population we offered her a position.”

He added, “What impressed me about Dr. Acevedo was her demeanor, her desire to practice in a Latino community, and her ability to speak Spanish. I was also impressed that she completed a residency in ocular disease.”

Dr. Acevedo began working at Dr. Hernandez Optometry in early August 2020.

She said it has been a personal mission to serve underrepresented communities similar to the one she grew up in of Sylmar, California.

“I am humbled at the opportunity to finally begin this work,” she said. “I am especially fortunate to join Dr. Hernandez’s practice, which works so tirelessly to ensure that all patients, regardless of income or citizenship status, have access to the highest quality care. I anticipate being challenged greatly and this growth will ultimately make me a better clinician.”

Dr. Hernandez has been a longtime supporter and donor to the College of Optometry at WesternU. He helped establish in Fall 2019 a mentoring program supporting CO Latino students. Dr. Hernandez hosted a dinner and met Latino students across all cohorts.

He also established the Optometric Professional Leadership Development Endowment through the College, committing to the co-curricular support of minority students through mentorship and leadership development.

“I have had the opportunity to mentor the Latino optometry students at WesternU and have found it very rewarding knowing that I can help individuals with similar backgrounds and desires to return to their prospective communities to provide culturally sensitive health care,” Hernandez said.

When Acevedo was a student at the College, she was involved in national and campus organizations and events. She represented CO on a national level as the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) Trustee.

“I am most proud of helping host the Western Regional Conference that united all three California optometry schools together for a student-led conference at WesternU,” she said.

She was a member of the California Optometrist Student Association, Contact Lens Club, Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, Optometry Private Practice Business Club, and the Student Volunteer Optometry Services to Humanity. She was also elected a member of the Gold Key International Honor Society.

She says she was fortunate to have built a support network through these organizations and mentorship throughout her time at WesternU such as Associate Professor Robin Drescher, OD, FAAO, and Assistant Professor, Director of Externship Clinical Education Nataly Fahim, OD, FAAO.

“I enjoyed my time at WesternU so much because I was highly involved in campus organizations and events,” She said. “The program at WesternU taught me to accept, overcome, and learn from failures and find solutions.”