Ophthalmologist Was Wide-Eyed Arriving at Columbia

Diane H-C_headshot
Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo ’87, PS’91 is the founder of the beauty brand twenty/twenty and a board-certified ophthalmologist in private practice in Oakland, N.J., where she has been diagnosing and treating eye conditions for 25 years. In addition to her work in her practice, Hilal-Campo stays active in the medical community via memberships in the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons; she is also a founding member of a local organization for female ophthalmologists in New Jersey. Hilal-Campo has also participated in several medical mission trips to India and countries in Africa to perform cataract surgery on those in need.

Twenty/twenty, the first eye-care forward beauty line, debuted in 2021; the makeup formulas are designed to enhance the eyes’ natural beauty without causing irritation or sensitivity.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I was wide-eyed and excited to start this new adventure. I was a young, innocent girl from New Jersey, and it was a huge new experience for me to live in NYC, let alone be a member of the first fully coed class! I was determined to make the most of this opportunity by becoming involved with as many activities as possible and being a part of campus.

I was very pleasantly surprised by how welcoming everyone was. It seemed like everyone genuinely wanted to go the extra mile to make women feel comfortable and welcome. The deans were very kind and were clearly invested in a positive coeducational experience. And, of course, the boys were all very friendly — and wanted to party with us!

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

When I arrived, I was thrilled to see that my dorm, Carman Hall, had been completely renovated. It had looked very different from when I’d toured it as a high school senior, and I didn’t realize the College had planned to overhaul it. It was a beautiful, welcoming gesture.

I’ll always remember Carman fondly. I lived on the 12th floor, and loved how the elevators opened to the stunning painted mural of one of the scenes from the unicorn tapestries that are on display at The Cloisters. That, plus the gorgeous view out of my window, were such pleasant and comforting scenes to come home to after a busy day of coursework.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

I had a great experience with my Core classes, namely Art Humanities and Music Humanities. Though I was a chemistry concentrator, I have always had a strong passion for art; and if not for the Core, I never would have taken a music class, because I knew nothing about music and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket! Though I found Music Hum challenging, I’m so glad I took it, because I learned a great deal.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

Without question, my favorite location was Low Memorial Library, specifically sitting on the Steps. You’d always find friends to sit with or sit with you. It was such a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the beautiful view of the quad between classes. I loved going there to take study breaks and enjoy the company of friends. I treasured those moments then and still do today. I always look to sitting on the Low Steps as a quintessential example of carefree youth and fun.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

Speaking of fun — I would have more of it! I mentioned earlier that I felt very strongly about getting heavily involved on campus when I first arrived, and that’s exactly what I did. I held a lot of leadership positions, including class president, president of Carman Hall and organic chemistry lab teaching assistant, and I was a member of the student council. This was all in addition to being on the pre-med track with a concentration in chemistry. I wanted to be involved with everything! If I were to do it again, though, I’d pull back on a few of those extracurricular activities. That said, I had an incredibly positive experience at the College and wouldn’t really change much — my time there helped make me the successful woman I am today. If I hadn’t gone to Columbia, I may never have realized my passion for ophthalmology.