Our technicians are first trained in-house by our own experienced optometrist, Dr. Maria VanNurden, while they simultaneously work toward certification through the Joint Commission of Allied Personnel in Ophthalmology. Dr. VanNurden has a Master’s degree in Clinical optometry, which she utilized to train other optometrists—and now our technicians are greatly benefiting from this training opportunity. Along with the in-house training, our technicians are involved in hours of continuing education, training, seminars and testing through JCAHPO. Once they have completed their required training and time on the job, they may test for their Certifications, COA and COT.
All of our technicians, whether they have not yet tested for certification or they are a COA or COT, also receive specific in-house training and testing to enable them to meet the requirements of a medical assistant-registered (MA-R) and are so licensed by the Washington State Department of Health. Additionally, all technicians are required to attend weekly training sessions given, on a rotating basis, by each of our doctors.
Andrea Shick, COT
Andrea Shick, COT started with us in 1987 while still in high school, and continued working while obtaining her degree at Western Washington University. Andrea obtained her certification as an ophthalmic technician through the Joint Commission of Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) in 1999. Currently, Andrea is our supply and equipment specialist, as well as a highly-qualified adult strabismus tech, having received extended training to perform multiple diagnostic tests and procedures. In addition, she has additional training in specialty IOL’s (multifocal and Toric) and performing calculations post-refractive surgery or for atypical eyes. Andrea enjoys reading, theater and film, golf and traveling with her husband and daughter.
Les Freilinger, COT
Les Freilinger, COT has been an ophthalmic technician since 1986. Les has a surgical background in assisting both cataract and refractive surgery and has additional training in ophthalmic digital photography. He has wide experience with surgical instrument processing and circulating, and lends his skills to Cascade Valley Hospital on an on-call basis. He has received specialized training on the OCT, one of our high-tech measurement tools, and the WaveScan, which is an integral part of Customvue refractive surgery.
Ria Claassen, COT, OSA
Ria has been a technician with Whidbey Eye Care, and now a part of Cascadia Eye, since 1983. Every patient who has seen our (now retired) Dr. Cichowski over the years knows Ria well! In addition to being a certified ophthalmic technician, she is also is an OSA (ophthalmic surgical assistant) who has assisted Dr. Cichowski in surgeries for 34 years. Working in the same practice for so many years has given Ria the opportunity to develop a special relationship with many patients, a situation she thrives on. Her family lives in the Netherlands, where she was born and raised, but she has lived on Whidbey Island since 1977; she currently lives in Freeland with her husband and two cats. In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening, and the opera.
Melissa Orange, COT
Melissa Orange, COT has worked for Cascadia Eye as a technician since September 2005. She received her training on the job, and in 2007 she passed her certifying exam with the Joint Commission of Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO), then became an Ophthalmic Technician in 2013. As Dr. Pereira’s lead technician, Melissa welcomes the opportunity to continually learn new skills and expand her areas of expertise in the field of Ophthalmology. She also appreciates the time she gets to spend working directly with the patients, and enjoys getting to know them on a more individual basis while caring for their needs.
Kasey Baker, COT
Kasey Baker, COT began working at Cascadia Eye in November 2010. A lifelong local, she has a Bachelor’s degree from WWU, grew up in Bow, and married her high school sweetheart from BEHS. Kasey obtained her certification as an ophthalmic technician through JCAHPO in February 2014. Her primary role is as Dr. Pereira’s scribe, teaching for other doctors on his off days. Her favorite part of her job is seeing the improvement over time in the quality of life of surgery patients. In Kasey’s free time, she enjoys CrossFit, fishing, and traveling.
Kristen Janda, COA
Kristen Janda, COA has been at Cascadia Eye since January 2010, starting out as a receptionist and later cross-training into the technician world. She received her certification as an ophthalmic assistant in 2012. Her versatility is appreciated, as is her kindness and enthusiasm for her job, which she finds challenging and extremely rewarding. She lives in Skagit Valley with her three boys.
Claire Knutson, COA
Claire Knutson first started here in 2004, and then joined us again in 2012 after taking a break to raise her young children. She has experience in multiple areas of eye care, including working as a surgery scheduler, an optician, and a technician specializing in contact lenses, and received her COA in 2017. Claire really enjoys the diversity of her job, and especially enjoys hands-on work. She makes it her personal goal to devote whatever time is necessary to make sure her patients have all their questions answered and needs met. Outside of work, she loves art and outdoor activities, particularly camping with her family.
Nikki Driver, COT
Nikki Driver joined us in early 2014. Before that, she began her career in ophthalmology in 2011 as a receptionist with a desire to move forward as a technician. She completed her tech training here at Cascadia Eye, and became certified as an ophthalmic assistant in September 2015. She went on to earn her COT certification in mid-2018. She finds eyes fascinating and plans to be a tech for many years to come; she especially loves connecting with every patient and learning his or her story, while still making sure each exam is accomplished with care and efficiency. Born and raised in Skagit Valley, Nikki loves spending time outdoors and on the water. She plays co-ed softball with her husband and their friends, and has two handsome boys, Bayker and Everest.
Charlotte Barilleaux, COA
Charlotte became one of our techs in Spring 2015, but has been an certified ophthalmic technician since 1990! She started working in an ophthalmology clinic in 1986 – almost as long as Cascadia Eye has existed. She particularly loves working with seniors, especially nursing home residents, and says it’s a joy to give them a hug or a laugh when needed. Born and raised in Texas, Charlotte and her husband lived there for 32 years before moving to Washington in 2015. They now enjoy exploring the outdoor life of the PNW. She misses Texas food – but not the heat!
Kelsey Freeman started working as a tech in March 2016, and finds eyes to be complex and fascinating. She currently serves as Dr. Siapco’s scribe. Her favorite part of technician work is refractions, where a tech can use the phoropter to get a patient seeing 20/20 again with the right lens prescription. She says it’s just like magic. Kelsey’s background is eclectic – she previously worked as a caregiver and a barista, and studied Theology and English at Walla Walla University. She went to high school in Mount Vernon, and currently lives in the Skagit Valley with her husband and a fluffy border-collie mix they love to take hiking on the weekends. She also likes reading (Jane Austen is one of her favorite authors), playing board games, and enjoying good food.
Jacqueline Nottis joined us as an ophthalmic technician in July 2016. Her first career was in developmental psychology – specifically child development – and she had her first research published on the subject at age 22! She applied her knowledge to teach preschool for several years, before getting the itch to learn something brand new. When she discovered technician training, she knew it was just what she wanted to start doing. With relatives who were long-term patients of Cascadia Eye, she was excited to become part of our team, and she especially loves helping patients feel comfortable and relaxed during their exam. Jacqueline was born and raised in Mount Vernon, coming from a large local family with strong roots in the valley. She has huge weekly family get-togethers, loves doing home improvement projects and furniture refinishing with her husband, and riding bikes on the beautiful Port of Skagit trails.
Katrina Murphy became an ophthalmic tech in March 2017. She originally received a BA in English (with honours) from Trinity Western University in British Columbia, but finds her job as a technician very rewarding — especially the feeling of playing a small role in improving someone’s vision and quality of life. She also enjoys hearing all sorts of stories about her patients and their eyes, which makes her an ideal ophthalmic scribe for Dr. Nannette Crowell, who has so many long-term patients that feel like family. Katrina moved to Mount Vernon to be near family in the area…and also because she loves mountains!
Clare German, COA
Clare German became a technician with us in October 2017 and is excited knowing she can play a part in helping people improve their vision. She also assists with pre-op care and measurements for LASIK and refractive surgery patients. She earned her COA certification in early 2019. Previously she received a BS from UC San Diego, having lived in San Fancisco, CA. Currently she lives on Whidbey Island with her husband and their lab, Lana. She loves exploring her new home and says she has fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest. Her favorite activities are hiking with her dog, reading any book she can get her hands on, watching baseball, and playing board games.
Rachelle Barnardi started with us as a technician in November 2017. Although she came to us with no previous medical experience, she performed the difficult task of learning and technician training admirably, and her favorite part of her job is helping patients. Originally from Skagit county, Rachelle took a detour and spent the past nineteen years in Montana, raising a family. Now she is back in Skagit, and we are happy to have her!
Brandi Lizama joined Cascadia Eye as a technician in January 2018. She comes to us with experience in eye care–seven years in the field, and before that almost ten years of experience in Aesthetics. She enjoys working with patients and learning new things, and is especially skilled at fitting scleral lenses. Brandi originally hails from Hawaii, although more recently, since she was 24, she has lived in four different states.
Mariah Steveson first joined us in October 2017 as a patient services coordinator, having a background working in the medical field and caring for people–she worked as a nutritional assistant in a nursing facility, doing both food service and CNA duties. In fall 2018 she moved to our team of technicians, drawing on her CNA experience and more. She loves being able to build connections and trust with patients, especially caring for and assisting others in any way she can. She considers it a good day when she can make a patient smile or laugh. Mariah currently lives in Oak Harbor with her young daughter. For fun she loves reading, hip-hop dancing, driving by the beach, and spending time with her daughter.
Jennifer Young joined our team of ophthalmic technicians in January 2019. Her background in the medical field is very interesting–she actually went to school to be an Emergency Medical Technician and firefighter! She has a degree in Emergency Management and Planning from Red Rocks Community College and worked for eight years as a firefighter and EMT in Colorado. Her favorite part of being a technician is learning something new every day–she would also love to become a nurse some day. Jennifer grew up in Alaska, but has spent the last ten years in Colorado. She is happy to be back in the PNW where she can be closer to her family–and because “the weather is much cooler!” She spends a lot of time outdoors hiking, has an English Bulldog named Summer, and also enjoys traveling.
Kim Sawhill, BSN, RN
Kim Sawhill, BSN, RN came to us in January 2013 as our nurse scheduler for eye surgeries on the clinic side. With six years of previous experience in the operating room, specifically working with cataract, glaucoma, and oculoplastic surgeries, Kim is uniquely qualified to help patients with the insights they need for their upcoming procedures, and calm any fears they might have. She considers herself blessed to have a job she truly enjoys–she looks forward to her work every day. She spends her free time traveling with her family, working in her garden, and tending to her bees and her chickens, which provide great entertainment.
Contact Cascadia Eye
For more information on our eye care professionals and the procedures they provide, or to schedule a consultation here at Cascadia Eye, please contact us today.
Really just love how professional and helpful everyone is. All questions answered with a smile, as though they haven’t been asked some variation of the question many, many times.
May 03, 2018