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927th AMDS optometrist earns Diplomate status

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Leah Ritchey
  • 927th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

What does it mean to be ‘terminally educated”? For U.S. Air Force Maj. Leslie Wilderson, 927th Aerospace Medicine Squadron optometrist, it meant that finding ways to further her education and professional development were scarce.

“Being a doctor, it’s hard to find opportunities to further education. After becoming a Fellow I felt I was ready for the next step,” said Wilderson. “I like to write and research and felt that pursuing my Diplomate was the best next step to level-up my professional expertise.”

In 2021, Wilderson applied and was accepted into the American Academy of Optometry Diplomate program in the Comprehensive Eye Care section. 

“This program is so unbelievably hard. I was researching and writing in all of my downtime between patients and at home,” Wilderson said. “I would run a 5K on Sundays to clear my mind and keep up my fitness. But otherwise, I was constantly working towards completing my mission.”

The CEC program encompasses four separate phases to include seven written peer-reviewed case reports as well as a separate oral defense of these cases and written and practical exams. Participants in the program have five years to complete these tasks. 

Dr. Mike Radoiu, retired U.S. Navy Capt. and American Academy of Optometry Diplomate, served on Wilderson’s board and can attest to the level of expertise and tact required to earn the title.

“She is the 19th such Diplomate selectee in over 30 years of the Section’s existence,” Radoiu said. “She successfully finished the process in two years which is a phenomenal and, to date, unprecedented achievement.”

Attaining her Diplomate status did not come without hiccups. Wilderson’s final testing for her Diplomate were scheduled for the same date as her October UTA weekend. New on station, she felt apprehension asking for a rescheduling.

“I had just started at the 927th ARW in August [2023],” Wilderson said. “When I realized that the ceremony would fall during the October UTA I knew I had to ask Lt. Col. Forster if I could reschedule, and I hoped he would agree even though I was so new.”

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ronald Forster, 927th AMDS commander, is a huge supporter of developing his Airmen at all levels.

“I always try to convey the importance of continuing education and career development in the medical field, and other areas of our lives,” said Forster. “Operations run smoother, problems are solved quicker, relationships are better, and fitness tests are easier if we adopt this one simple principle – excellence in all we do!”

Wilderson was awarded her Diplomate by the AAO during their annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in October 2023. Her achievement is a testament to the Air Force Core Value of “Excellence in All We Do”.