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Second Year Labs

Hi, readers! Last time I wrote I talked a lot about classes and our new exam week schedule. However, one thing I have noticed over and over again when I give prospective students/admissions interview tours of the campus is that people tend to have more questions about labs and pre-clinical activities than they do about the actual courses. Labs are a huge part of our schedule and they’re extremely important since they give us the hands-on experience and exposure to things we’ll be doing every day once we’re seeing patients in the clinic. The labs we have in optometry school are very different than what most labs are like in college. Rather than being focused on pre-lab questions, lab reports, and worksheets, our labs put a major emphasis on clinical applications of the things we’re learning about in our courses. Since this tends to be an area prospective students have a lot of questions about, I figured I would give a short summary of some of our second year spring semester labs to give y’all an idea of what they’re like.

​The lab that we’ve had every semester and that is the most important lab in terms of clinical skills is our Optometric Theory & Methods lab. As first year students, we mastered skills in this lab such as retinoscopy, chair skills, and actually refracting a patient. By the end of our first year we could perform the first half of an eye exam and were comfortable with determining a glasses prescription for a patient. Second year skills in this lab focus on the dilated retinal exam. We began with fundoscopy in July and spent the past seven months working on different ways to examine the retina: fundoscopy and Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscopy. This lab requires a LOT of practicing outside of lab hours to master these difficult skills. However, it’s a lot of fun to learn these skills and finally say that we can perform the majority of an eye exam! Between having our eyes dilated multiple times a week, practicing for practical exams, and choosing and purchasing all of our equipment, this lab has been a huge part of our time as students here. When we start seeing patients at The Eye Center in three short months, I know we’ll feel prepared and ready because of all of our time spent in this lab!

To supplement the skills we’re learning in our Optometric Theory & Methods lab, we have two additional pre-clinical labs this semester: our Anterior Segment and Posterior Segment labs. In these labs (which also take place in our pre-clinical lab rooms with fully functional exam lanes) we learn additional skills to evaluate the health of the front of the eye (cornea, lens, eyelids, etc) and the back of the eye (the retina). Our Anterior Segment lab is extra exciting this semester because we finally get to learn to perform all of our injection procedures. It sounds a little scary at first, but I know I want all the practice I can get before I perform them on actual patients at the clinic!

Another important set of labs that we’ve had is our Ophthalmic Optics and Contact Lenses labs. These labs focus on glasses and contact lenses and how to take measurements on them, fit them on patients, and even how to make them. I didn’t have much experience with glasses or contact lenses before I started optometry school, so I’ve learned a lot of important things in these labs. Our practicals in these labs usually consist of moving from station to station and taking different measurements on pairs of glasses or contact lenses. Next week we begin fitting rigid contact lenses on each other’s eyes which will be something new for a lot of us!

Our last series of labs that we are finishing up this semester is our Pediatrics/Vision Therapy labs. We took Pediatrics last semester and now we’re in Vision Therapy, but the two labs are set up in basically the same way. Each week we learn a new set of clinical skills in lab. Usually the skills we learn align pretty much perfectly with what we’re learning in class. We then perform all of the new skills on a partner in lab and take a quiz over them, then at the end of the semester we have a big final practical exam where we have to perform and talk about a few of the skills on our exam proctor! We don’t know which ones we’ll have to perform until we get there to take our exam, so it’s a good way to make sure we know and practice all of them.

All of these labs have a ton of clinical applications. We may just be doing these procedures on each other right now, but it won’t be long at all before we’ll be performing them on real patients. All of the practicing to perfect these new skills will pay off when we can see them in action in the clinic! Between the skills we learn in our labs and the knowledge we’re learning in our classes, we will be ready to go in The Eye Center this May. :-)
Posted by Amy Dunbar at 2/14/15 | 0 comments

Carry On, Wayward Son

Kansas!* For the first time in my remembered life, I am living somewhere that is not Tennessee. More specifically, not Jackson, Chattanooga, or Memphis. Thus, this last externship of optometry school has been quite an adventure.

With the recent (and welcomed) downtick in gas prices, I made it to Wichita on $25 of gas. That would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. The weather on my way here was moderately treacherous, but the real “Welcome to Kansas” came on the second day when it snowed 5.5 inches in as much hours. Still, whereas Tennessee would more or less shut down at such an ice storm, life goes on for Kansans! There was no bread/milk/eggs panic.

I am enjoying my private practice site, Child & Family Eyecare. Working with my preceptor, Dr. Pat Pirotte, and the resident, Devin Duval (OD ’14, a former SCO Student Life blogger, you may recall!), I have been learning much about the vision therapy life. It is truly amazing how effective vision therapy can be, especially for children with visual issues that hinder them from reading. I’ve said it before in these very spaces, but if a child has trouble reading, he or she will have trouble learning. And if a child has trouble learning, that child’s potential is ultimately limited.

In addition to primary care and vision therapy, on Wednesday mornings Devin and I venture to the local rehab hospitals to see patients post stroke/trauma/head injury to screen them for visual issues. If need be, we can recommend certain activities to their regular occupational or physical therapists, and we can also refer them to our own clinic if in-office vision therapy is warranted. This has been a good experience so far.

From Dr. Pirotte, I am seeing the ins and outs of running a successful practice. As someone who hopes to own a practice someday, these experiences are invaluable, since I have only had my practice management classes to draw from so far. Also, this semester we have also been working on bolstering inter-professional relationships by speaking with speech/language pathologitst, physical therapists, school nurses, etc. about how we can all work together for the benefit of our patients. I really think this is how healthcare should be – a team of professionals working together for the benefit of patients.

As this is my final semester, much plotting for the future remains. Daily I think about that ever-growing light at the end of the tunnel, and my experiences here in Wichita will certainly help me be better prepared for when I emerge.

Lastly, I have gotten to explore Wichita a little bit. Here are some pictures from Keeper of the Plains, a giant sculpture dedicated to the Plains Indians who once called this area home. It is in a beautiful park along the Arkansas River, and very much lends itself to photography.

*Bonus points for you if you understand why this blog post is titled so!

Posted by Amy Dunbar at 2/2/15 | 0 comments

Part I Boards: Lots of Studying, Little Bit of Fun

Hello, cyberworld!!! It’s been a while since I’ve written my last blog, and a lot of things have changed since then! If you haven’t read my blog before, I am a third year student here at SCO. If you want to know what spring semester of third year is all about, I can sum it up in one word: BOARDS!

Yes, we take the first part of our national boards in the middle of March! So what that means is my classmates and I pretty much spend every waking moment outside of clinic studying for one of the biggest tests of our careers. We are still in clinic about three days a week, and we have a few classes, but everyone’s main focus this time of year is boards! Luckily for us, we have the best teachers who give up their free time to come give us review classes to help us prepare. I think that is just amazing! Until boards, we don’t have an official class scheduled until 9:00 every morning, so our class officers work with the faculty that have taught our classes over the past three years to schedule review sessions from 8:00-9:00 every morning. Like I said, these teachers come on their own time to do a quick review to hit all the high points of the classes they taught.

Not only are our teachers so supportive, but everyone around the school is doing whatever they can to help us through this stressful time. I feel like we have a group of about 400 cheerleaders on campus at all times keeping our spirits and energy up! I won’t go into specifics about how the test is set up, but if you want to know more about the test and what all it covers, you can look on the NBEO website. My studying is going pretty well so far, but I still have a long way to go in the next two months!

But if you have read my blog before, you probably already know that I believe in working hard, and also playing hard. I work very hard and take school very seriously, but I also believe enjoying and letting loose with all my classmates sometimes as well. That brings me to my next point: The Eye Ball! The Eye Ball is a party that the school puts on for the students every year in January. The Student Government Association helps plan this event, and it is always SO MUCH FUN! Usually it is at a fancy building downtown with a bar, DJ, and a huge dance floor! It is always such a fun party, and a great opportunity to get dressed up, have fun, and make some great memories with all your classmates. I have enjoyed the Eye Ball every year, but it was especially great this year because it was a perfect, much needed break from studying for boards. Like usual, I have posted some pictures from the Eye Ball.

If you wonder what I’m doing for the next few months, you can probably find me in the library studying as hard as I can! I believe SCO has given me the best education to be prepared for this huge test, but now it’s time for me to put in the hard work! I’ll see you on the other side of boards!!!!!

My boyfriend and I enjoying the Eye Ball!

Some of my best friends and I before the Eye Ball!

Posted by Amy Dunbar at 1/30/15 | 0 comments

Presidents’ Council 2015

 Hello Blogosphere!

I hope the weather is a bit warmer for you than in my area—we keep getting one bout of winter weather after the other.

I recently returned from St. Louis where I accepted an invitation to speak on behalf of the AOSA at Presidents’ Council. What an experience! Presidents’ Council is a three-day mini conference where optometry’s state association presidents and executive directors convene to discuss the challenges facing state boards, optometry, and state organizations within each U.S. state. There were representatives from the AOA Board of Trustees and AFOS (representing uniformed/military optometrists) there as well. The weekend is full of motivational speakers, one-one-one chats with AOA Trustees, and presentations made by optometry’s affiliate organizations. Talk about networking!

Of particular importance at this meeting was how to better capture the student transition rates from AOSA to the AOA after graduation. Since the AOSA president and AOSA executive council were attending their own Board of Trustees meeting that same weekend, I was asked by the AOSA Board to speak on students’ behalf. What an honor to represent such a standout group of optometric future leaders—of course I couldn’t say no! My role was to share AOSA’s commitment to help engage student membership in the AOA after graduation, especially as students find employment in different states. I was the last speaker on the last day of the conference to present—no pressure! I knew there was a lot riding on my shoulders to represent ‘the future doctors and leaders of optometry, and I hoped to convey AOSA’s message of passion for optometry, advocacy, and initiative.

My externship at Walter Reed continues to be going very well. I’m feeling more independent each day in my patient care as graduation looms a few months away. To top it all off, I found out this week that I officially passed all three parts of optometry’s national boards exams! I guess that means I can take a little break from studying for a while—well, at least until my state licensure exams in July!

Girls’ Night for Walter Reed Externs

Congrats to the Class of 2015 for passing NBEO Parts 1, 2, and 3! Stay warm!

Carpe Diem,
Posted by Amy Dunbar at 1/26/15 | 0 comments

Happy New Year!

 Happy New Year, Blogosphere!

There’s nothing like the New Year to get you motivated for a fresh start and excited for the future—and I can tell this year is going to be one for the books! In four months, my long awaited, hard-earned, era of optometry school will have concluded. You read that right readers, this is it—2015—optometry school graduation is upon us! Now it’s time for lots and lots of preparation for the next leg in my journey.

Each day brings more and more good news from my classmates securing their first job placements. As for me, I’m applying to residencies and fellowships for the upcoming year. These programs offer selected students an opportunity to get advanced clinical training in a specific area of optometry like pediatrics, ocular disease, or specialty contact lenses. There are over 11 specialties for graduates to choose from. I finished the application process earlier this month and have secured interviews at all of the sites I applied to! That makes for a lot of travel over the next two months, since residency matching takes place the first week of March. Fortunately, I’m completing my last externship in a suburb of Washington, D.C., which puts me in close proximity to three international airports.

Speaking of my externship, I’m currently on my last rotation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The medical hospital is the main departure point and reentry center for active service men, women, and their families. It also services our retired military men and women, current foreign diplomats, our national political and military leaders, etc. A White House official needing multifocal contact lenses? Well, that’s all in a day’s work! Serving in a hospital setting offers new insight into a different healthcare setting, especially with the electronic records all interconnected to the other hospital service areas. What I’ve discovered is I can easily know exactly the diagnoses and treatments the patients have been receiving beyond the optometry clinic. The process of patient care record keeping is much more streamlined and efficient. I’ll have more details about my rotation and the many opportunities I get to take part in (think medically-necessary contact lens fits and lectures at the National Eye Institute at the National Institute of Health) in my next blog. Since I am not in the military, this rotation is fulfilling a greater purpose for me—one in which I am able to give back to the men, women, and their families who have sacrificed so much to protect our nation.

Stay tuned to my upcoming blog post, and enjoy the holiday photos from December!

I think I found my mini me in my little cousin!

Sibling Christmas Photo-op!

Carpe Diem,

Posted by Amy Dunbar at 1/20/15 | 0 comments