Student Life

Student Spotlight: Mario Cruz, Class of 2017

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Mario Cruz at his White Coat Ceremony receiving congratulations from MBKU’s president, Dr. Kevin Alexander, Fall 2013

Mario Cruz didn’t always know he wanted to be an optometrist.  Like many applicants, Mario had a passion for science and helping others, but wasn’t sure exactly which occupation in healthcare was right for him.  Born in Mexico, his parents brought him to America, specifically Northern Nevada, in order to provide a life of opportunities and Mario seems to have taken advantage of every one along his journey toward optometry.

He began as undergraduate as a pre-med major, and so Mario’s schedule was far from empty.  Yet, he wanted to do more to be seen as a motivated, competitive candidate to a professional school admissions panel.  Please take note: don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of activities Mario was involved in.  Most people just can’t handle being THAT busy, but he had the right idea.

“I was very involved on campus. I joined a multitude of clubs and organizations that I found interest in, some were for enrichment purposes while others were simply for fun.  I was a member of the Greek community & student government, worked part-time, and did research as a Student Lab Assistant. I co-founded both the Nevada chapter of the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success and the Nevada Pre-Optometric Student Association.”

After admittedly getting “a little carried away” with the extracurriculars, it came time to decide what health field to pursue and apply to.  “I did a lot of research, shadowed healthcare professions across the board and asked many questions; however I struggled seeing myself in any of the other health care professions.  Somehow, optometry never crossed my mind until the end.” While taking classes, Mario realized that he was immediately intrigued by neurobiology, specifically the central visual system and retinal function.  That’s when he decided to visit his optometrist and found that he had too had also been a pre-med major, making the switch to optometry!  He began shadowing this optometrist and his passion for optometry was sealed.

“Optometry fits perfectly with my personality as it allows me to connect with new people on a daily basis and form real relationships with others, while the business side will keep me plenty busy day in and day out.”

"My first of many medical mission trips to Central and South America"

“My first of many medical mission trips to Central and South America”

Mario understood the importance of being mindful during the OD admissions process, and “to make sure that not only you are fit for the profession, but that the profession is fit for you as well. This is no small commitment!” He learned to be more skeptical and thus did his research to determine that optometry was indeed his life’s passion. ”Interviewers want to see that you have done your homework, looked at the profession from every angle, and concluded that there is no other profession out there for you. A careful and attentive approach is critical to the process when searching for your future profession and making that approach known to others can only benefit you.”

And why did Mario choose to attend SCCO? “I wanted the absolute best education possible, one from a school with a long-standing record for producing outstanding clinicians and business people. I also made sure to consider the typical life of an optometry student at the various schools that I applied to, and the amount of clinical exposure that the school would have to patients of all sorts.”

Looking back, Mario found he would have done some things differently. The following are his recommendations to any pre-optometry student:

  • Consult with your own optometrist about your concerns in entering a career in optometry, and health care in general.  Get a real life perspective!
  • Contact a current optometry student (professionally, of course) and ask them any questions you may have about becoming a student doctor.
  • Visit for insider knowledge and FAQ’s
  • Research the changes in healthcare to come. Be aware of your future and the direction of your profession. Start here:
  • Join a pre-Optometry club on campus and attend speaker events. These are tremendously helpful since the speaker will arrive prepared to answer questions of all sorts. Pick their brains as much as possible, that’s what they’re there for.
  • If there isn’t a pre-optometry club on campus, start one. Call other standing clubs from others school for help and get it going. This will look great on any application!

Even now as a SCCO student, Mario continues to keep himself busy and currently serves as President for his class. “As class president, I have the opportunity to connect with every classmate on a personal and professional level as well as communicate with the campus faculty and administration. I find this tremendously valuable, and it gives me the opportunity to connect with influential people in the world of optometry.”

We are very proud to have you Mario.  Both as a student leader at SCCO and a member of this wonderful profession!

Article written by Maggie Francisco, SCCO Class of 2016


Mario grew up in Reno, Nevada…

Mario Cruz 3

Enjoying water sports on nearby Lake Tahoe…


Lake Tahoe, Reno, Nevada…

Lake Tahoe3

Enjoying water sports on nearby Lake Tahoe…

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