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Hi everyone! We began our spring semester not too long ago and before things start to get busy, I wanted to take some time to write about some of the exciting parts of second year as a student at SCO. So, without further ado…
In the summer, we learn 78/90D fundoscopy, a technique that allows us to see the inside back layer of the eye. This skill requires the patient’s eyes to be dilated in order to obtain the fullest possible view of the structures we want to examine. To learn and practice this skill, we had to get our eyes dilated all the time by instilling dilating drops. It was typical to get dilated multiple times a week and even up to multiple times in a single day. If you don’t know what it’s like to have your eyes dilated, it’s the most wonderful feeling. I am totally just kidding. Typical side effects will include blurry vision and light sensitivity that can last up to several hours. Could you imagine what it’s like studying in that condition? I have since developed a newfound respect for every eye doctor who has gone through the constant dilation and training to get to where they are today.
To be honest, I didn’t think that we would have to dilate nearly as much after becoming proficient at fundoscopy, but it turns out that there are other skills that also involve eye dilation. After learning skill after skill, I’ve realized that there is so much more to optometry than what I had initially imagined. I’m sure my classmates can also agree with me on this. So although practicing with dilation comes with its less-than-favorable effects, it has allowed me to learn the coolest techniques to appreciate the fascinating yet complex parts of the organ known as the eye.
This is my favorite part of each week! We observe the ins and outs of everything happening in our school’s clinic, which is called The Eye Center. Mainly, we shadow the fourth-year interns inside the exam rooms, but we also shadow in the optical and at the business office to view the administration side. There are several departments to rotate through: cornea and contact lenses, pediatric primary care, ocular disease, and adult primary care. Much of what we observe in the exam room coincides with what we learn in class, so it is very cool to see different clinical situations in person and not just on a PowerPoint slide. Obviously we haven’t learned everything yet, which is why shadowing is a great chance to ask questions to the fourth-year students about anything we’re curious about. I personally try to pay attention to certain aspects like their exam flow, the way they communicate with the patient, how they chart information, the conclusions they reach, and how they present the entire case to the attending doctor. There is so much knowledge that can be extracted from each shadowing experience! Now that I’ve shadowed a good number of times, I’m happy to be a lot more familiar with our school’s clinic and how it operates.
Met and shadowed a really nice fourth-year student from the same area as me :)
Participating in vision screenings as a student doctor is a milestone achievement in my opinion because it’s the first time we get to perform the clinical skills we’ve learned on non-classmates or people we’re familiar with. Every couple of weeks or so, we are assigned in small groups to a school to conduct these screenings on children of various ages ranging from those in kindergarten to middle school. There is also a staff doctor and an upperclassman to oversee the entire process, answer questions we may have, or verify anything we aren’t completely sure about. For us as students, the school screenings are a great opportunity to improve our efficiency in clinical skills and interaction with actual patients rather than our own classmates, who end up being “perfect patients” since they already know what to expect for each test. For the children, the screenings serve as a means to assess whether their visual system is “within normal” or whether they need to be further evaluated at an eye exam. Since poor visual conditions can affect a child’s academic performance and even social development, it is our job at these screenings to detect possible anomalies and send them to the appropriate help they need. Being in this type of setting has trained us to think and act more like a doctor - interpret test data holistically, predict results of a test from looking at another test’s results, and reconsider any data that doesn’t fit right. It’s a fulfilling experience that teaches you in a way that a classroom setting doesn’t.
My name is Rafael Martinez and I am a first-year optometry student (class of 2026) here at SCO. We have just finished my first semester of optometry school and are getting ready for the spring term. I say we because I include my wife and two kids, they are going through all of this craziness that is optometry school with me. Despite the assumptions, optometry school is definitely possible to manage while maintaining the responsibilities of a family.
I am from Sanger, CA but have lived in west Idaho for the past five years while attending undergrad at Boise State University. I got married to my beautiful wife, Ashley, in 2016 and we are parents to Blair, 5, and Ammon, 3. My decision to pursue optometry did not happen until after I met my wife, so for me, that meant I had to go back to school after not having been since 2011. In total, I applied to nine optometry schools and interviewed with each of them. They were all great and the decision was difficult but ultimately SCO and Memphis had won us over.
When the time came for me to apply for optometry schools there were a few things that I considered: board scores, cost of tuition, and location. Before applying I did not know that board scores were something that you could look up; the optometrist that I worked for actually recommended that I apply to schools with higher board pass rates because that is proof that the curriculum taught works and is producing optometrists. Based on that alone, SCO was at the top of my list; the board scores have been consistently high and I knew I would be receiving a great education. The cost of tuition rivals that of other programs and they have many scholarships that are available to any student. The best part is you do not even have to apply for a scholarship, as your application to attend is the application for a scholarship, and the school decides who may receive it. Location- this was important to me as it determined not only where I was going to be for the next four years, but my family also. There are many factors that we included in our search, like cost of living, safety, public schools, and culture—and Memphis checked the box for each of those.
Before coming to optometry school, I had this assumption that I would not be able to have quality time with my family because I would be too busy with school. The truth is that while there are times that I must sacrifice some family time for school time, there are plenty of moments that I have been able to spend with my family and enjoy living in Memphis. I definitely adopted the work hard, play hard motto that was set in motion via the infamous song by Wiz Khalifa. Memphis has a lot to offer to young families. Some of our favorites are going to the Memphis Zoo, the children’s museum, doing any of the many activities that are found in Shelby Farms, catching a Redbirds game, or taking a carriage ride on Beale Street.
Well, I hope that this has given you some insight on my life here at SCO. My family and I have genuinely enjoyed living in Memphis.
Hi everyone! My name is Alexandra Allen, and I cannot believe I’m starting my first year of optometry school. This past May, I graduated from Duke University - Go Blue Devils! It seems like just yesterday I was moving into college as a freshman, and now I’m moving to Memphis as a graduate student. I am so grateful for my college experience, not just because of what I learned inside and outside of the classroom, but also for the people I met during my time there. I majored in Biology, with minors in Finance and Chemistry, and was a member of the Dancing Devils. As Duke’s official dance team, we performed at all of the home football games, as well as the home men’s and women’s basketball games. We even placed 9th this spring at the NDA College Dance Nationals. I will never forget the feeling of dancing in Cameron Indoor Stadium alongside some of my best friends for the extremely loud “Cameron Crazies.” Being able to pursue my passion for dance at a high level alongside my academic pursuits was very important to me when making my college decision, and I am so proud of how the team improved during my time there. While leaving Duke is certainly bittersweet, I am beyond excited (and a little nervous) to be starting this new chapter at SCO as a member of the Class of 2026.
I was born and raised in Connecticut, and everyone’s response to this is, “Why Memphis?” My answer is invariably, “Because SCO is here!” While my desire for warmer winters is part of what drew me to the South for my college experience, I had never intended on staying here for post-grad life. My uncle is an optometrist who owns a private practice in Manhattan, and I have numerous other family friends who are optometrists in the New York area. As a freshman in college, I began to seriously pursue optometry as a career path, and believed I would end up studying in New York just like them. My family still lives an hour outside of the city, and many of my college and hometown friends have recently begun working there. Manhattan seemed like the obvious choice for me, and while I had heard of SCO’s reputation for academic and clinical excellence, I had no idea how much I would fall in love with SCO and the people that make it so special.
SCO was my first optometry school interview - and it set the bar incredibly high for the rest that followed. I had never been to Memphis before, but as I prepared for my interview day, I learned what a vibrant city it truly is. I love how you can walk along the Mississippi River on Mud Island and feel like you’re in a small town, but then drive five minutes to the iconic Beale Street and be a part of the happening downtown area. What drew me to Memphis first and foremost, however, was SCO and the people I met during my interview day. I don’t think I ever really appreciated the term “southern hospitality” until I came to SCO. From the security team that was ready to welcome us upon arrival, to the older students who went out of their way to wish us luck and quell any nerves we had about the big day, everyone was so kind and warm. What really stuck with me after leaving Memphis last August was not just the world-class facilities, excellent faculty, private practice support program, and rigorous/full-scope curriculum, but the sense of community. Everyone I met at SCO was incredibly bright and hardworking, but they were also well-rounded people, with diverse interests, backgrounds, and passions. I knew that I would have an incredible support system here. When making my pro-con list before my final decision, the advantages of an education at SCO were so great, and far exceeded those of any other option. And so during my senior fall semester, I decided that Southern College of Optometry would be my new home!
If anyone reading this is about to move to Memphis, you must see the shopping game plan my mother made in preparation for our trip to Tennessee. We drove all the way from Connecticut, over two days and through seven states, with the car filled to the brim and a mile-long shopping list in hand. Since Memphis is such a large city, she mapped out our four shopping zones. In Zone 1 we have At Home, Ashley Furniture, and Great American Furniture. Zone 2 consists of Ikea, Costco, Kirkland’s, and HomeGoods…you get the point! My roommate and I spent the week after our arrival furnishing and organizing our new apartment by trekking back and forth between Mud Island and the four “zones.” While moving had its challenges (I think I assembled at least ten items of furniture in total), I love our finished apartment and was so glad to be fully settled in my new home on Mud Island before orientation began. However, why there are two Target’s only two miles apart here, I will never understand. When ordering your items for pickup, save yourself a small mental breakdown and TRIPLE check which address you’re going to. (Hot tip: Memphis Central is the superior Target).
Orientation was a great experience and thoughtfully organized. It allowed me to meet more people in my class, become familiar with the campus, and learn about the many exciting things Memphis has to offer. The school had various speakers teach us about the history of the profession, SCO, and Memphis, and also scheduled fun activities so that we could meet as many of our classmates as possible. Also, SCO has a “big sib” program where you are matched to a second year student who you can go to for advice or any questions you may have. My “big” has been so helpful leading up to the start of the school-year, answering all of my questions and eliminating any worry I had. The week concluded with the White Coat Ceremony, which was so meaningful. It signified the transition to graduate school and our journey of becoming doctors of optometry as we signed the SCO Honor Code, but it also gave us a chance to step back and recognize all of the hard work that was required to get to this point. My parents flew in for the event and I was able to give them a tour of the campus and The Eye Center. Needless to say, they were just as impressed as I was a year ago when I first stepped foot on SCO’s campus.
Fall semester is in full swing and I think the most surreal moment for me so far has been our Theory and Methods lab. We began our first day of optometry school using our retinoscopes, one of the hardest skills we will learn during our time here. This is designed so that we have the most amount of time to practice and improve upon this skill. Theory lab requires us to wear clinic attire and our new white coats as we work in the practice clinic lanes. I will never forget that moment of sitting in my white coat on my first day, writing down a “prescription” for my simulated eye, in a space that won’t look too different from my future office as an optometrist. Only one month into optometry school, it still amazes me how much I have already learned. Despite the magnitude of information we have to absorb, every day I am reminded of why I am pursuing optometry and why it is the perfect profession for me.
I can truly say I enjoy all of my classmates and have made some amazing friends. We work very hard, but also have such a good time together. Last weekend, Omega Delta, the social fraternity at SCO, organized a school-wide float trip in Missouri. I had never heard of a float trip or been to Missouri before this event, but it was so fun to go camping (also my first time!), take a well-deserved study break, and meet some of the older SCO students. My first month here, I have loved exploring different Memphis bars and restaurants, visiting Graceland, walking along the river on Mud Island, and spending time with my classmates. I can’t believe my first round of midterms are right around the corner, as well as my first lab practical. Wish me luck!
My name is Charlotte Logan, and I’m a student in the Class of 2026 at SCO. I’m from Sherwood Park, Canada, and I graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences Major and Business Minor, just this past spring! Now that it’s been almost a full year since I submitted my application to SCO, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my experience throughout the optometry school application process.
In my 2nd year of undergrad, I had been working at a local optometry clinic for a few months and decided on optometry as the profession which I wanted to pursue. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve also discovered your passion for vision care and eye health! I studied for and wrote my OAT the summer before 3rd year and that fall, I submitted my OptomCAS application. While the system is mostly streamlined, each school will require additional essay responses to their own unique questions. I completed these applications while I was still in classes, and while I wish I would have started them over the summer, it was feasible to complete during the school year! The most important aspect about your application responses is to be honest and showcase your best, distinctive qualities and experiences. Don’t be afraid to dive deep into how you got to this point and why you love optometry and will excel at it – both academically and personally (this applies to your interview, too!).
I was fortunate to have SCO accommodate my travel needs (pandemic restriction-related) and allowed me to interview virtually. While I was saddened that I could not tour the school, SCO’s website has a plethora of information and photos so I could get an idea of what the physical school and its community is like. The admissions team was also very communicative about what to expect for my virtual interview as well as the options to learn more about the campus (virtual tours, housing options, financial aid, etc.). To prepare for my interview, I reviewed my application responses and SCO’s website to remind myself of all the reasons why I wanted to pursue optometry, specifically at SCO. I also read The Medical School Interview by Jeremiah Fleenor – it’s a short read and gives you some good perspectives going into your interview. My interview was quite relaxed with straight-forward questions (nothing out of left field, I promise!); it truly felt like I was speaking with a fellow colleague. Be sure to ask any questions you have, whether it be about academics, student life, housing options, or Memphis in general! Most importantly, know that if you are passionate and excited about becoming an optometrist, that will always show through to the interviewers!
Immediately after I interviewed, my decision was made! I had such a positive interview experience with the staff and faculty who interviewed me, and my gut reaction was that SCO felt right. At the end of the day, you will be a Doctor of Optometry no matter which optometry school you graduate from, so you just need to decide which school’s community, resources, and values best suit your needs. You also need to consider the city where you’ll be living for the next few years – it’s not all about studying and you’ll have more free time than you may think! It’s important to enjoy where you’re living and learning so you can grow as an individual and a healthcare professional. Memphis is a great city with lots of friendly folks and unique arts and culture to experience!
In the weeks following my acceptance to SCO, I was added to a SCO Class of 2026 Facebook Page, invited to information nights, connected with current students, and informed of the next steps to prepare for optometry school and finalize my enrollment. The Housing Fair and Virtual Happy Hour events are also offered as a great way to meet fellow incoming classmates and connect with upperclassmen. To finalize the enrollment process, you’ll have orientation and most excitingly, your White Coat Ceremony! Receiving your White Coat and signing the Honor Code solidifies your commitment to the profession and acts as a reminder of why you’re going through all the hard work and life changes that come along with optometry school!
“One or two? Two or three? Three or four?”
Four looks the best to me as I am finishing up my fourth year of optometry school!
Allow me to share three discoveries I made during my SCO experience.
1. Get involved and connect with others
SCO is filled with wonderful people. Learn about their cultures. Be a student of people, not just optometry. Connect with both staff members and fellow students. Knowing people at a personal level, caring about them and their families, and becoming an integral part of the SCO family makes school far more meaningful. Building connections with others is a vitally important balm in our distressed world.
2. You’re doing better than you think you are
Optometry school is four difficult years. Weekends get sucked up with study and lab practice. Being away from family feels isolating. The best advice I can give is advice I received long ago: “Live one day at a time.” Don’t worry about tomorrow. Live in the present. That’s all we have control over. This mindset makes school more manageable. You can get through finals week, board exams, tomorrow’s practical, and ultimately these four challenging years. Everyone feels the same pressures. You’re doing great!
3. We change lives
We can materially impact people’s quality of life. My last externship site focuses on vision therapy. I have witnessed multiple patients appreciate fine stereo vision for the first time. I’ve seen concussion patients’ headache frequency diminish to nearly zero. This field of optometry is bringing a world of opportunity to the lifestyles of people who have previously had few options. Ask insightful questions. Care about patients. Regardless of the area of optometry in which we work, we can all meaningfully change others’ lives.
I appreciate all the people throughout my four years at SCO who have taught, befriended, and guided me. Thank you! I’m excited to apply the skills I have gained in doing my small part to improve others’ lives through better vision.
Last day of 4th year SCO clinic. Pictured left to right: Dr. Borgman, Braden Sorensen, Christopher Pope (me), Griffin Smith
All my best,
Christopher Pope, '22