Each year in the annual report we highlight students who have taken on a leadership role at NECO early in their careers. This year’s student profiles focus on Lauren Thamel and Andrew Zagelbaum. Both students come from families whose backgrounds are steeped in the tradition of eye care.
Andrew Zagelbaum, Class of 2022
Andrew, OD1 Class President, always knew he wanted to be a healthcare professional. His journey into optometry began at age 14, when he volunteered at North Shore Hospital on Long Island. By 15, he was working as a technician in his father’s comprehensive ophthalmology practice, a setting where Andrew derived a lot of practical experience.
In addition to providing comprehensive eye care, Andrew and his father had the good fortune of working with two sports teams, the New York Jets Professional Football Team and the New York Islanders Professional Hockey Team.
As a result, he developed a passion for both optometry and hockey. Adding to his experience, Andrew interned at Hofstra Medical School during the summer before entering undergraduate school, well on his way on a path towards optometry.
At NECO, Andrew immediately immersed himself in OD1 class activities, and eventually was elected president of the first year class. Andrew notes, “I am confident that NECO will prepare me for my future career as an optometrist. Since the day I started back in September, I feel as though I have learned an invaluable amount of information, which will only continue to grow throughout the rest of my time at the school.”
As a diversion from his hard work at NECO, Andrew has recently taken up the guitar and would love to find time to get back into his hockey skates and get on the ice.
Lauren Thamel, Class of 2021
Lauren Thamel took a similar pathway to NECO. Following four years at Temple University, where she studied biology and health care management, Lauren entered NECO’s class of 2021. Lauren has always been involved in leadership activities, and immediately became involved in NECO’s organizations. She is currently VP of the Student Council, co-president of the Mass Society of Optometry Students, and an active member of the Private Practice Club.
Lauren's interest in optometry began at a very early age. Both of Lauren’s parents, Drs. Valarie Ricciardi, OD ‘88, and Brian Thamel, OD ‘88, are in private practice together in Worcester, Massachusetts and their work was a frequent topic of discussion at the dinner table. Her grandfather, Theodore Thamel, OD '61, began the private family optometry practice with a special interest in vision therapy.
“Optometry was my grandfather's passion. Hearing him talk about times that he changed a kid's life by improving their vision was inspiring.” She notes that he was instrumental in influencing her to consider the profession of optometry as a career option. Lauren very much hopes to join her parents in the practice after graduation.
Outside of her optometry studies, Lauren is a certified SCUBA diver. She enjoys travel and lived in Rome during her undergraduate years. She intends to join a group traveling to Puerto Rico in the Spring for a humanitarian eye care mission.