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As a quick reminder, my name is Pooja Alloju and I am currently a second year from Dallas, TX. You know how I found myself at SCO, so now I figured I should talk about my time here!
Last week was one heck of a week… literally. We just had our first midterm week for the spring semester. If you don’t know, SCO schedules all of our exams into a one week period, and though that sounds awful- it’s really not that bad. At first, it was daunting. I was pretty bad at managing my time so by the latter half of the week I felt like I was scrambling. Now that I’ve been through 10 exam weeks, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it!
So, after a week of stress, what do I do to wind down? Usually, it would have been a whole weekend of sleeping and binge-watching “Stranger Things” or “The Punisher” while stuffing my face with pizza, but this weekend was actually different (still had pizza, that will always be a constant.) SCO held their annual “Eyeball” event at Old Dominick’s Distillery.
Eyeball isn’t some fancy ball where you find your prince charming, well I mean I guess you could… I fortunately brought mine. Anyway, it’s a social event held by SCO. Basically, it is a night filled with dancing, great friends, music, and meatballs. Yes, I said meatballs. Ms. Melissa, who runs SCO’s on-campus eatery Blink, made us appetizers for the event. If you’ve already interviewed at SCO, Ms. Melissa makes the famous bread pudding, so you can only imagine how good these meatballs are! And if you have yet to interview, now you have something else to look forward to!
Like I’ve mentioned time and time again, SCO always does such a great job in bringing together like-minded individuals, but it’s not only that. They make us feel welcome and at home here. Events like this have made my transition to Memphis so much easier and I can definitely say, Memphis has become a home away from home.
Pro tip: red lipstick is great for concealing dark circles caused by exams
You can’t see them, but the meatballs are somewhere back there
Hi, all! I’d like to talk about something I’ve become involved in that has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done at SCO (and that’s saying a lot!). I’m working on getting my second semester of second year underway, and still the best advice I can offer to any student is to get involved. During first year, I was given the opportunity to be on the executive council for an up and coming idea. It started with a small group of students that wanted a volunteer opportunity in which SCO students could work alongside SCO alumni. Here’s the catch: We wanted all the volunteer opportunities to be non-eye related. We wanted a chance to serve all of Memphis – not just their eyes.
Starting out, we didn’t even have a name for this event. The executive council, made up of four students, met with SCO faculty to create this day of service from the ground up. We came up with the name (Eye Serve Memphis), the logo, the schedule, which volunteer organizations we wanted to partner with – everything. It was amazing to be here at SCO and have all these faculty letting us, the students, take charge of this event. Of course, they were always there with advice and help when we needed it, but largely it was up to us to organize this day. After about a year of planning, we were able to bring almost 100 students and alumni together to volunteer at various locations around Memphis that involved multiple volunteer organizations, such as Memphis Animal Services, Dorothy Day House, and Memphis Medical District Collaborative. I can’t even describe the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I felt when I watched the volunteers board the buses to head to their respective sites. All of our hard work and planning had finally come together. After the event was over, everyone met for lunch and got to talk about the wonderful experiences they had. The four students that comprised the executive council, myself included, even got to present to the SCO alumni council about how our day of service went and how we can make it even better next year.
Overall, I just want to emphasize how open SCO is to new things and how willing they are to let their students take the lead. I’m amazed at how we were able to create an entire event from the ground up that was heavily student-led. SCO is a very empowering school where you can make your own opportunities.
Now, I’m just looking forward to Eye Serve Memphis 2019!
These past few months brought many changes and lots of new opportunities. At the end of summer semester, my wife, son, and I packed up our house and said goodbye to Memphis. It was difficult to leave so many friends behind in the city that we had come to call home for the past three years. As we drove across the Mississippi for the last time my wife, with tears in her eyes, remarked on how ironic it was that she had also cried when we first got to our new home in Memphis but for much different reasons (namely the massive dead spiders found in our living room when we opened the door for the first time, which thankfully was a one time deal). She laughed as she thought about how nervous we both were living in such a new area, but how much we had come to love it. I don't think we could have imagined how hard it was going to be to leave, but we were also excited about our upcoming experiences during my last two rotations before graduation. Since August, I've been an intern with the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center. The first week here was a whirlwind of learning a new charting system, seeing new pathology, and being in a different clinical culture altogether than I was used to. For a day or two I kept thinking how difficult it was and how I may never get the hang of it. After a few days though, I began to feel more comfortable with my surroundings and have since felt like my optometric education has sky-rocketed! The doctors here are incredibly caring and insightful and I've already learned so much from them. Most of the pathology that I see in clinic I have learned about from prior classes and have even seen once or twice previously in clinic, but my experience at the VA has drastically increased my confidence in diagnosing and managing ocular conditions.
Another huge milestone has also come and gone. During the first week of December, I took Part 2 of national boards and my last exam of optometry school! (pending score; fingers crossed!) It’s hard to believe that I’ve made it to this point in my schooling. It almost seemed like I would be taking exams for the rest of my life, but here we are with only one semester and graduation ahead of me! I’m also working on finalizing my plans for after school which makes the realization of how close I am even more palpable. I have a lot of choices, decisions and responsibilities ahead of me, but I’m more confident in beginning my career than I thought I would be at this point. Much of that is thanks to the resources that SCO has provided its students. The Hayes Center is a great resource that provides instruction through business/practice management courses, as well as making connections with other doctors through their very own placement page. Thanks to them, I also have a thorough resumé, a sharp LinkedIn page, and several connections with excellent doctors and practices across the country.
I’m really looking forward to this end stage of my optometry education. I’ve had very difficult moments but my choice to pursue optometry has brought me so much satisfaction in what I do for my patients every day. I had often heard that optometry has one of the highest rated job satisfaction, and it has become clear to me that it stems from the gratitude of everyday patients whose lives are bettered through our care.
Until next time! Happy Holidays from my family to y’all!
As I am writing this blog post, I am sitting in a first-floor study room at SCO looking over my notes for my final exams. I’m thinking of all the topics we have covered so far and I cannot believe how fast the time has flown by in my first semester of optometry school! I feel prepared but I also want to make sure that I understand the concepts and how each concept can be a clinical case. My professors have focused on details of many topics, such as general and ocular physiology but each professor has included clinical applications as well. From what I learned during my interviews at a few different schools last year, you can’t escape the large amount of information that we must learn in school, but each school is different in their approach. One reason why I chose SCO is because of the clinical focus that our program offers from the very first day of class.
In our short time as first-year optometry students (how has it been only 3 months?), we have already learned so much about eyecare from a didactic and clinical point of view. Our first-year Theory and Methods lab has allowed us to gain hands-on experience with clinical tools that diagnose eye conditions like phorias and tropias and has given us the ability to correct for refractive error. I’m not perfect yet, but I can now perform manifest refraction and keratometry! We have already been given our lens kits and diagnostic kits (used mostly for retinoscopy, for now). Receiving your lens and diagnostic kits feel better than Christmas morning! The coursework can become voluminous at times, so being in the lab can be a great reminder to reset my perspective. I always feel energized leaving lab because I always feel slightly closer to becoming an optometric physician. Our lab professors understand what we need to develop our clinical skills and I trust that I am in very good hands. They have been so patient with us in lab and in class, giving us the encouragement that we need, to keep us all on track.
The professors are honestly some of the best professors that I have ever had. I genuinely love what I am learning and I get excited to hear what my professors have to say every time I go into class. The instructors are no longer experts in very different careers like in undergrad because they are, for the great majority, practicing optometrists. They are not only inspiring orators and mentors, but also experienced optometrists who frequently captivate us with their clinical cases. They enjoy making time for us to ask questions and visit their office. I can’t say enough good things about SCO and the faculty and staff that we have at the school!
Even though I feel supported here, I am challenged in ways that I could not have prepared myself before optometry school. The coursework is geared towards developing us as diagnostic clinicians but we still have a great deal of knowledge to obtain for our exams and for NBEO or “boards” eventually. I agree with most folks that people in our program do better if they know how to manage their time well and know how to set and achieve realistic goals. I feel like many school programs lend well to those kinds of students in general. However, at SCO, I have had to change the way that I understand in ways that are clinically relevant. I am learning so much information about general anatomy and neuroanatomy, but most of our classes are geared toward the physiology and optics of the eye. I appreciate that we are being immersed in eye-related information in such a quick pace because that is the most exciting part of what we are learning!
I could go on about how much I love optometry and SCO, but I have to skedaddle for now to study for our first finals. Please feel at ease about reaching out to SCO admissions or myself for any questions you may have or just to talk to someone who is super supportive about your optometric education.
It feels like so much has happened since I last wrote on the blog. I’d love to fill you in on my third year at SCO. It’s been a very exciting year and so many new things have begun. The most exciting of those new things is that I began seeing patients in The Eye Center. Of course, I had spent some time shadowing in The Eye Center during second year but this has been the real deal. As third-year students at SCO, we spend three days a week in the clinic. One of those days is spent in Adult Primary Care and the other two days we rotate through different areas of the clinic such as Optical, Technology, Vision Therapy, etc. I have learned SO much in such a short amount of time and that’s what I love most. Naturally, I was a little intimidated and nervous to begin seeing patients alone, but I have gotten much more comfortable as time has progressed. And of course, much faster!! The staff doctors at SCO are super helpful, and that’s what I’m most thankful for. I never feel embarrassed to ask them questions and to bounce ideas off of them. That has been so fundamental as I start to brainstorm through differential diagnoses that I will need to consider in my future clinical years.
In addition to beginning to see patients in clinic, we have also selected and been assigned our externship sites for our fourth year. At SCO, we rotate through three different externship sites. One of those externship sites is at The Eye Center and the other two are at an institutional site and a private practice site. The process of choosing externship sites can be quite involved but our externship office does an amazing job making it run as smoothly as possible. For my externship sites, I will be spending the summer of my fourth year at The Eye Center and then I will be headed to the Daytona Beach VA for my fall semester and then Coastal Vision for my private practice site in Fernandina Beach, FL. I’m really excited to be back in Florida for my last two externship sites but am also feeling sad knowing that this will officially be my last year in Memphis :( It’s crazy to think how quickly time has gone…
Lastly, at this time, my classmates and I have begun preparing for Part I of National Boards. We take Part I in March of our third year. So although our class schedule has been much lighter than it was first and second year, studying for boards will be occupying our time. It’s not the most exciting thing to talk about but I’m sure once it’s over, we will feel very, very relieved!
Thanks for reading!!!