Ashley (Ryckman) O’Dwyer, OD was selected as the 2023 recipient of the Paul Ripley Award for Young Alumni. The award was established in 1994 and is presented to graduates who have enjoyed exceptional personal and professional success early in their careers. She is married to fellow Laker Alumnus, Shawn O’Dwyer, and they have two children, Murphy (3) and Lily (1).
O’Dwyer graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2013, with her Honors Degree of Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry Pre-Professional. While a student at LSSU, she was in the Honors Program, and was also a member of the Pre-Professional Society and Chemistry Club. She worked as a Chemistry tutor and an Associate Instructor for Humanities.
“I loved the individual attention from the small class size,” O’Dwyer commented. “I loved the small school and knowing each person in your class for the four years. I am still close with a lot of people I met there. Two classmates and friends actually work with me at Bay Mills Health Center as dentists. We all went to Lake State the same time, went to professional school and came back into the area to work in the same clinic. If you would have told me then that we would all have different careers but work in the same building, I never would have believed you. Lake State cultivates an experience where classmates become friends that feel like family.”
During the summer following her junior year, O’Dwyer received a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF: REU) at the University of Wisconsin, and did microbiology research. After earning her BS at LSSU, she attended Indiana University School of Optometry in Bloomington, IN to obtain her Doctor of Optometry degree. While there, she continued to do research as part of the Dean Scholar Program in ocular surface research, and as a clinical research assistant doing entrance testing for subjects in the ocular surface clinical research lab. She also had several externships including Atwater Eye Care Center, Talley Eye Care Center, Indianapolis Eye Care Center, and with the Veterans Affairs Clinic.
“Life is such an amazing journey and adventure,” said O’Dwyer. “It’s hard to look forward and see where you are going – you have an idea and a dream that keeps becoming clearer as you move forward. Sometimes the view can be extremely cloudy. But then you realize when you look behind you, it all made perfect sense all along, and couldn’t have happened any other way. My advice is keep moving forward, even with messy, unclear action. It’ll all be clear someday. ”
O’Dwyer is licensed to practice optometry in Alaska and Michigan. She is Chief Optometric Officer with the Bay Mills Indian Community, and also the co-owner of a traveling eye clinic – the Eye Guys LLC – in Wasilla, AK, which she co-founded in March 2021.
O’Dwyer grew up on the water in Houghton Lake and enjoys fishing and boating. She also enjoys yoga and is a guest instructor at Northern Life Yoga in Sault Ste. Marie. O’Dwyer met her husband, Shawn, while at LSSU, where he studied in the Fire Science program. Her dad, Doug Ryckman is an LSSU alum and played on the LSSU men’s basketball team 1974-78. Her sister, Cassandra is a Laker as well, and met her husband at LSSU. Lake State definitely holds a very special place in all their hearts.