As a former South Carolina student-athlete, Dr. Patricia Kranz is used to long days. Instead of long hours in the pool, the former Gamecocks diver enjoys long days as an optometrist at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia.
“We work four, ten hours a day here,” said Krantz, who competed for the Gamecocks from 2012-2015. “We see patients from 7 a.m. until about 4:30 or 5 p.m. I don’t stop moving from the moment I arrive until I hit the door to leave. It’s really busy.
“Veterans are just a special group of people to me. I immediately fell in love with them when I did a VA rotation in Florida. I really enjoyed the well-rounded care that was possible at the VA. It’s a hospital-based program where I have access to surgeons, primary care and an emergency room if I need it. I can just really treat patients the best way possible and provide them with everything they need.”
Krantz majored in exercise science with a minor in humanities medicine at South Carolina, and later attended graduate school at the Alabama-Birmingham School of Optometry and then a residency at the Dorn VA Medical Center, where she now works full-time.
“I was very excited to continue with the VA here,” Krantz said. “I really love Virginia. I’m originally from Florida and had applied to many places there, but when I was offered a position here, it worked out perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a smoother transition into the workforce.
“Most regular hospitals don’t always have an optometrist or an ophthalmology department. They usually have trauma-based settings. The VA here in Columbia is one of the largest in the South and offers a little more for our veterans and gives them a little more opportunity to get the care they need compared to a regular hospital or eye care.”
In her position working with veterans, she sees a wide variety of patients.
“The majority of those we see are older, retired veterans who have finished their tours and are looking for routine care,” Krantz said. “There is also a fairly significant population where we treat eye trauma from their rounds. We see many veterans who may have long-term complications from blasts and other trauma.
“We are considered a primary eye care provider, so we routinely see patients when they need glasses, special contact lenses, or vision correction if they’ve had any trauma to their eyes. We also see many diseases through diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration and many traumas. We have an on-call system for patients who come through the emergency department. We also have a specialty clinic to serve more than blind veterans for patients who have advanced disease or have had significant inflammation or infection that has caused them to go blind. We have a specialist clinic for people with low vision where we have magnifying devices and other types of digital tools to help them see better with the vision they have. This is very useful.”
She also works out of the VA hospital in a clinical setting.
“I still want to work a few times a month in the private sector,” Krantz said. “I work at Eyemart on Saturdays or when I’m off and I love seeing kids and the general public too. I only work a few days a month doing this, helping people see better for the first time, which is a rewarding experience. It keeps me well rounded. I feel like I’m doing everything I’ve been trained to do.”
As a student-athlete, Krantz had numerous first place finishes in his career with the Gamecocks. She took home a bronze medal in the one-meter diving event as a sophomore at the 2013 SEC Championships and earned second-team All-SEC honors as a senior in 2015 when she took bronze in the three-meter event. She was a first-team CSCAA All-American as a senior and was also named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll all four years of her career.
“Being a student athlete and being an athlete my whole life solidified the time management skills and confidence needed to pursue a career in medicine,” Krantz said. “We were constantly balancing athletics and getting an education. Both were very important to me. I was trained well. My work ethic was better suited for graduate school and residency. I knew if I could handle being a student-athlete, I could make it through graduate school.
“It definitely prepared me for what real life brought me. I was able to balance everything. I knew that if I really wanted something, I would have to really work for it. This is something that was instilled in us every day. whether it was our coaches, our strength coaches or the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center) staff, I had such a well-rounded experience at South Carolina. It really trained me and helped guide me in the transition to real life. “
Looking back, Krantz has fond memories of her Rooster days and is also excited about where she has ended up.
“I was close with my teammates and we did everything together,” Krahn said. “Traveling to matches were some of my favorite memories and going to football games was great.
“Where I am now, the setting at the VA really maximizes all the time and training I put in. I feel like I’m really training to the full extent of my abilities.”