From the Court to the Clinic: Dr. Birkholz

From 1998-2002, Dr. Emily Birkholz attended Minnesota State University, Mankato on both a full ride academic scholarship, and full ride sports scholarship. 

Now, 18 years later, she is co-owner of Ophthalmology Associates & LASIK Center in Mankato, and focuses on cataracts and LASIK surgery. 

While attending MNSU, Dr. Birkholz juggled collegiate basketball, a double major, a wedding, and a baby. She noted that this “pushed [her] to learn how to organize her life,” and “helped [her] develop a ‘no-quitting’ attitude.” 

Speaking directly on her sporting career, Dr. Birkholz said that there were many times where it would’ve been easy to quit, with the “grueling long seasons,” and the team not winning as often as they would have liked. 

Although it could get hard to focus on an end goal when they were not succeeding, Birkholz stated that basketball “gave [her] some positive character development, and was always very fun and rewarding, despite our losses.” 

As for her career path, Dr. Birkholz said that she came into MNSU with a slightly different career in mind than where she ended up. “I grew up on a farm,” she said, “and I thought I might like to be a veterinarian, so I shadowed one. I figured out that no, I’d rather be a people doctor.” 

She explained that MNSU’s environment gave her the opportunity to be exposed to many different chemistry and biology professors and mentors, who all pushed her to explore all of her options and achieve what she wished to achieve. 

Dr. Birkholz ultimately decided on ophthalmology, going on to go to medical school at the University of Minnesota where she was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society for being top of her class. 

She then completed a one-year internship at the Gunderson Lutheran Hospital in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and proceeded to the University of Iowa for her residency, which is one of the top ophthalmology programs in the country. 

At her current place of work, Dr. Birkholz specializes in cataract surgery (calling it her “bread and butter”), along with LASIK eye surgery.

Header photo courtesy of Dr. Emily Birkholz’s website.

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