Just know that this career path will not be easy. Know that you will be overlooked and face adversities. Be prepared for people to not think you are a “doctor” and people will act surprised when you say you are a doctor. Despite all the challenges you may face, know that you have people rooting for your success.

Who is Dr. Kendria L. Cartledge?

As a doctor of optometry in South Carolina, I am licensed to examine, diagnose, treat and manage injuries, diseases, and disorders of the visual system. My responsibilities to my patients include: providing prescriptions for glasses and contacts lenses, detecting and treating ocular diseases, and making referrals to other providers as necessary. I strive to provide compassionate high-quality eye care services to my patients to help improve their quality of life.



Educational Background:

Specialized Training: Externships Completed at Dorn VAMC in Columbia, SC and Holland & Holland Eye Care Center in Raleigh, NC; Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)


Special Awards

First Nazareth Baptist Church Healthcare Ministry Award 2014; Featured in the “Up and Coming” Section of the Midlands-Columbia, SC Edition of the Black Pages of America 2011


How did you choose to pursue this field?

I have always been fascinated by the medical field and enjoyed science and health classes during school. I was not 100% sure what career path I wanted to choose when I selected my health science major in undergrad. Choosing health science, allowed me to pursue any medical field I desired. After shadowing a local optometrist while in undergrad, my career decision was solidified.



Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you in this field?

When I was younger, my parents encouraged me to pursue any career choice I desired and supported me while I attained higher education. Role models that guided me after I selected this field were two black female professors at my optometry school. Their door was always open and they were willing to help in any way possible. If I needed to talk, even if it was not related to optometry, they were always available.




Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?

I always wanted to be in the medical field. Initially, I wanted to be a family physician. After my sophomore year at Clemson University, I attended a medical school summer program at UAB, which made me change my career choice. While attending the program we had to spend late hours in the emergency room. I did not like being in the emergency room into the wee hours of the morning and felt as if I needed to select another career choice that would allow me to have a better work/life balance.




What tips would you offer for anyone thinking about entering into your profession?

I would recommend that they do their research and know all the work that is required to get into this profession. Do as much shadowing of an optometrist as you can in all different modes of practice. Make sure you have a passion for helping people.




What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is the ability to help so many patients through the eye care services that I provide. Another added bonus is I get to interact with a wide variety of patients. After seeing the same patients for several years, they become like family and we develop great relationships and each visit is filled with stories of how the patient and their families are doing since we last saw each other.




What has been the most difficult or disappointing aspect of your job?

The most difficult aspect of my job is treating patients that have ocular diseases that cause them to go blind. I really dislike informing patients that they have an ocular condition that has caused them to go blind or can cause them to go blind.




What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?

Just know that this career path will not be easy. Know that you will be overlooked and face adversities. Be prepared for people to not think you are a “doctor” and people will act surprised when you say you are a doctor. Despite all the challenges you may face, know that you have people rooting for your success.



Can you provide words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?

Now is a better time than ever to enter into a STEM career. With the STEM career field becoming more popular there are numerous programs and resources to help women in this field. I would also encourage young ladies to make as many connections with individuals in their desired field as they can and go to as many networking events as possible.



How do you juggle motherhood, being a wife and your career?

I am married to Deshawn Cooper. I have a daughter, Kennedy, and a son through marriage, Keshawn. We enjoying sharing quality family time and taking vacations. After the birth of my daughter four years ago, I drastically reduced my hours and closed my optometry office inside a retail location. Working full time and being a mother has definitely been a struggle. Juggling both is made easier when you have a great“village” around you to help assist. Making sure I plan everything ahead of time has made juggling motherhood and my career a success. Also working for a company that values family and does not have weekend work hours helps tremendously.




What is your favorite quote? How do you apply this to your life?

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. I apply this quote in my life on a daily basis. I use this as my motivation to know that with Christ I can handle and overcome any situation or circumstances that I encounter.



What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?

I am the first doctor in my family. I enjoy music, cooking, watching tv, and playing video games. I also love attending sporting events and concerts, playing on my women’s kickball team, and competing in 5K events.






We hope you enjoyed learning about our latest “STEMsation”, please comment about how her experiences have inspired you, how your experiences can inspire others and nominate our next “STEMsation to spotlight their amazing accomplishments.



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