Department Mentoring Program Showcases Our People First Culture

small class of seven learners, in three rows of tables
2023 People Enriching People Mentoring Program

In the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, we strive to be a “people-first culture” that champions diversity, inclusion, and respect for others as core tenets. We are committed to building inclusive environments and supportive systems, as well as practicing our stated values to ensure well-being and success for all current and future stakeholders.

One way we do this is through our People Enriching People (PEP) mentoring program. PEP is a collaboration between the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the Office for Faculty Affairs and Development in the School of Medicine and Public Health. PEP is designed to foster and promote the career aspirations of the DOVS and UW Health Ophthalmology community.

The program is open to all staff, clinical and research faculty, and learners – including medical students, doctoral candidates, post-doctoral students, residents, and clinical fellows – along with UW Health Ophthalmology staff.

The program, now in its third year, has grown annually. Currently there are 21 participants, not including residents, and Wisconsin Reading Center and Pathology Pre-Residency Fellows who are invited to all PEP activities.

“It’s been exciting and rewarding to see participation in the program grow,” said Christina Thomas-Virnig, PhD, director of DOVS translational research and PEP facilitator.  “We are inspired by the widespread participation among DOVS faculty, staff and learners, as well as among our UW Health colleagues, including opticians, technicians, schedulers, and others.”

“We understand that medical school, residency training and graduate programs, as well as professional development and training, cannot always fully prepare all faculty, optometric providers, staff, learners, and trainees with the complete set of skills they need to meet the requirements for professional advancement and maximum career satisfaction,” said Tetyana Schneider, PhD, graduate medical education program administrator and PEP facilitator.

“Mentoring is seen as a way to supplement and support training gaps needed for career success,” added Thomas-Virnig.

Each mentor/mentee relationship formally lasts throughout the academic calendar year, but partnerships are encouraged beyond this timeline. The amount and type of mentoring is tailored to each member’s specific roles, responsibilities, and career expectations.

The year’s activities, which began with a kick-off event in September, include a series of workshops and formal and informal check-ins. It culminates with an end–of-the year celebration in the spring.


The PEP Steering Committee includes:

  • Karina Conlin​
  • Suzy DeWilde​
  • Daniel Knoch​
  • Tanya Lamontagne​
  • Christy Murphy​
  • Lisa Nelson​
  • Donna Neumann​
  • Tetyana Schneider​
  • Christina Thomas-Virnig