Student Life Blogs | Southern College of Optometry
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2+2 = Optometry School

Hi guys!

My name is Pooja, I'm a current first year at SCO from Dallas, TX, soon to be 26, and I'm new to writing for the SCO blog! 

I figured I'd write a little about an insecurity I had while applying to optometry school and give you a little bit of background info about myself in the process.

I graduated from Southern Methodist University (the only school to have received the death penalty in football, and where "Kevin" from the Office went to college) in 2014 with an Applied Mathematics degree.  I matriculated into SCO in 2017 and spent the years in between as part of the work force.

Now a little spoiler, optometry was not a career choice I had imagined since I was a child. And whilst in college, I thought I wanted to work corporately for a company called Mathnasium (math tutoring company, not a gym where really fit people do math) and work my way up. Lucky for me, I did find a gig working for Mathnasium. My official title was "Center Director". My responsibilities included running a center in its entirety: hiring and firing, making sure I broke even/made profit with my overhead, tutoring kids, marketing, and etc.

While I definitely learned a lot with my experience at Mathnasium, I realized working for a corporation was something I did not want to do. I wanted a career that would give me the ability to be my own boss and would have an immediate positive impact on people's health. 

I eventually found my way to optometry (more details to come in another blog post).  But one of the biggest factors I worried about was that my undergraduate studies were more heavily math based than science and that I would have two years between college and graduate school. I worried that I wouldn't be able to handle the rigor of 23 credit hours my first semester!

Well as you know, since you're reading this, I decided to take on the challenge. And though first semester was no breeze, I've done pretty well for being a non-traditional student.

This is me walking up to get my white coat. Also hoping I don't trip in front of everyone!
This is me walking up to get my white coat. Also hoping I don't trip in front of everyone!

Having those concerns definitely kept me on track, but being surrounded with like-minded and striving individuals, being successful academically wasn't overbearing. In reality we're all in this together (yes, I made a high school musical reference). I've been able to have a social life, partake in clubs at school, and even the Student Government Association! 

Heads up, SCO Class of 2021 can cook!
Heads up, SCO Class of 2021 can cook!

With a semester under my belt, I can say I found the right career and the right school for me!


at 1/30/18 | 0 comments

Progressive Addition

It’s amazing to realize I’m just about finished with my second semester of clinic as a third-year student. Thinking back on all of my patient encounters to this point, it’s incredible how diverse of a population there is here in Memphis. Even more diverse than the population has been the array of ocular conditions, diseases, and other diagnoses that I’ve been able to see. Third-year students are assigned to Adult Primary care once a week, then rotate through various responsibilities the other assigned clinic days including optical, vision therapy, teen clinic, technology, and the external clinics such as Focal Point and University Eye Care. Most of the specialized care we give at the clinic, like contact lenses and ocular disease, is assigned to 4th years, so I originally didn’t think I would have as varied of patient encounters as I have already had. However, my experiences in clinic have been surprising, educational and extremely rewarding! In my short two semesters, I have really come to love Primary Care. It keeps me on my toes because my patients can have just about any type of ocular concern and it’s up to me to find the proper diagnosis and treatment. It has really helped me hone my clinical skills and decision making and I’m feeling much more prepared for my externship rotations during 4th year.

Another aspect of my life has also recently kept me busy and has been very rewarding. My wife Andrea and I welcomed our son Porter into the world at the end of August! He’s such a joy to us and already has quite the personality!

One of the most common questions I get while giving tours to prospective students is what it’s like being married with a kid in optometry school. It’s a fair concern for many people who live with a significant other, are married, or who come to school with a family. I thought I’d share a few thoughts for today’s blog post.

Although your schedule in optometry school is very busy, there is ample time throughout each semester to spend with family. Personally, I don’t know how I would have gotten through school otherwise! Andrea has sat as a patient for me many times as I’ve practiced skills after hours, helped me memorize hundreds of drugs, helps with financial support working part-time, and makes delicious lunches that often cause jealousy among my classmates! She has been an incredible support throughout my time in school and knows that she may not see much of me during exam weeks, but we have also had a lot of time together to explore Memphis and several parts of the Mid-South. SCO is also a very family friendly school and the administration understands well the responsibilities that come with family. Porter’s due date was originally over our week-long break between semesters. But when that didn’t happen, the faculty and administration were extremely helpful in helping me get excused from clinic and classes for a few days when he came the next week.

As with any aspect of optometry school, having a family definitely requires careful use of time. However, there are many married students at SCO, many of which have children, who are able to balance school and family responsibilities well. It’s a good thing too because it would be hard going too long without seeing this kid’s smile!

at 12/5/17 | 0 comments

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, everyone!

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you all are gearing up for some days filled with pie and turkey :)

I am feeling very grateful these days! I completed my first clinical externship this summer at SCO, and I am almost done with my second rotation at a private practice in Western PA. I am so happy to be seeing patients every day, and to be getting a chance to experience a real-life practice setting. My clinic is very medically-based, and I am loving every second of it. It’s exactly the type of place where I’d like to practice someday, so that has been very inspiring. 

In addition to working full-time, I am trying to study as many hours as possible for Part 2 of NBEO. This portion of the exam will be focused more on full patient cases, as well as the treatment and management of ocular disease. It’s been super helpful to study for this at the same time I’m in clinic every day, but also stressful to try to fit everything in, and I will certainly be happy when this chapter is finished for me. On the bright side, I have completed (and passed!) the other two parts, so it feels like the end is very near!!

After I finish up with NBEO in early December, I will continue making plans for after graduation. As I’ve said before, I am in a bit of a unique situation because my fiancé is in the Army. I won’t know where we’ll be stationed more permanently until later in 2018, and we won’t be moving until the end of that year. I am hoping to do some fill-in or part-time work in the Western PA area for as long as possible before eventually moving to be with him (If anyone needs a fill-in doc after May 2018, let me know!)

It’s definitely been a challenge to plan ahead, but I am thankful that I’ve chosen a field with many unique practice modalities to allow me to make it all work.

Whew, that’s a lot, but that’s all for now. Again, I wish you all the best during this season. I know I will be taking some time to appreciate all of my blessings.

Thanks for reading! 

at 11/21/17 | 0 comments

Those who guided me towards optometry

Hey there readers!

Today I'd like to share with you about the individuals who influenced me to choose optometry as my profession of choice. It's funny because I have been wearing glasses since I was in the third grade but I never really considered optometry as a profession until I was in my last few years of my undergraduate career. Prior to attending the University of Central Florida, I knew I wanted to go into health care because I had an interest in science and to someday, take care of patients. Besides that, I didn't really know what route I wanted to take.

I took some courses that discussed the different fields of health care and decided I had to shadow and figure out what really caught my interest. Well, I shadowed a bit in a vet's office and a bit in a hospice and then I went on to pursue an internship with the forensic medical examiners in my hometown of Sarasota, FL. I really enjoyed my internship with the medical examiners and discovered my true passion for the medical field and anatomy/physiology. However, I couldn't really envision myself as a medical examiner for the rest of my life. 

Ironically, during my summer of interning with the medical examiners, I had my yearly examine with my optometrist. Naturally, she asked me questions about how I was and what I had been up to and I explained to her about my internship and my interests in health care. She suggested I shadow in the field of optometry and told me about her profession. She told me that my personality would be great for optometry and I should just check it out and see if it was something I'd be interested in. Well, it all started there. I had finished my internship with the medical examiners and began shadowing several different optometrists in the Orlando area.

I landed a job at Magruder Eye Institute, which consisted of a mix of ophthalmologists and optometrists. I gained a lot of experience at that practice and adored everyone that I worked with. I became very close to the physicians at that practice and they all encouraged me throughout my process of applying to optometry school and pursuing a career in eye/vision care.

Once I had graduated from UCF, been accepted to optometry school and decided to move back to my hometown before beginning optometry school, I met and began working for a phenomenal optometrist in Sarasota. He is an alumnus from Southern College of Optometry and has been in practice for over 30 years. He gave me great advice and lots of personal training in the field of optometry before I began my optometric career at SCO. Thankfully, I have been able to stay in touch with him and receive advice on anything I am unsure about.

I am so grateful to have had several different mentors to guide me towards my future profession in optometry. Whether you are an optometry student or are thinking about optometry as a possible profession, I think it is very important to build a relationship with someone who you can go to if you ever have any questions, need advice or encouragement. It has helped me so much throughout the years!

at 7/10/17 | 0 comments

Vision Empowers: A Trip to Tanzania

One of my favorite memories as a kid was being able to go with my dad and a few other eye doctors on a humanitarian trip to Guatemala. At the time, I had very limited optometry knowledge but was able to help them provide glasses to the locals after they had received comprehensive eye exams – many of them for the first time in their lives. It was such a memorable experience and I remember thinking that if I ever went into optometry I’d love to many similar trips in my career.

My first opportunity came a lot sooner than I thought it would and in a way I hardly expected. Last fall, the AOSA sent out an email asking for applicants for a mission trip through Luxottica’s non-profit organization OneSight. They had agreed to pay for 25 optometry students to participate in a clinic in Tanzania. I had barely even heard of Tanzania but I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

Early this spring, I woke up to an email from the AOSA President informing me that I was one of the 25 students who had been selected to go! I couldn’t believe it! I found out that we would be setting up a 5-day clinic in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in the 2nd week of May which luckily coincided with my break between semesters. There was a lot of preparation but after completing all my shots and visa application, I was on my way to Africa!

I met up with the rest of the group which consisted of 24 other students, 12 optometrists, and around 15 Luxottica staff from all over the country. I was immediately impressed with their dedication to optometry and their desire to serve. I really cannot think of a better combination of people to be with in that clinic! We set up the clinic which was located at a local university and met the local volunteers who would be translating for us. (Dar es Salaam is the largest Swahili-speaking city in Africa so we depended heavily on the interpreters all week.)

When we showed up to the clinic on the first day, there was an endless line of patients huddled under rain canopies awaiting their turn to be seen. We immediately went to work and took our turn each day at different stations including Visual Acuities, IOP, Dilation, Ocular Health, Refraction, Manufacturing, and Dispensing. 

It was one of the first times that I saw patients in a comprehensive exam setting so I was a bit nervous at first, but I quickly got into a groove. It was incredible to watch the whole process of patients getting their health and refractive concerns addressed. Even though I had limited clinic experience at that point in my education, I felt very prepared from all of my labs and classes.

One of my favorite experiences came from a 50-60 year old patient I performed a refraction on who was a moderately high hyperope with a lot of astigmatism. He had a single pair of +0.50 glasses for reading and said that all he wanted was a new pair of readers to replace the ones he currently had. When I told him we could also provide him with a pair of glasses that would improve his distance vision he was perplexed. He hadn't ever had any complaints of his distance vision and thought he'd be satisfied with just readers, but thought it might be worth a shot to see if there was any improvement. I trial-framed his Rx and took him over to the open door. "This is how you are currently seeing the world" I said. Placing the trial frame on I then said, "This is how you could be seeing it." A very visible, very toothy smile immediately came across his face and he started pointing out things in the distance and naming them. Turning to me, he simply said "I like this!"

There were both hot sunny days as well as wet torrential downpours, but the line outside grew longer by each day. If I had gone to Tanzania and had helped only a handful of people to regain their vision, I would have considered it a success. However, we saw a total of 3528 patients all week with Thursday being our busiest day at 931! It’s certainly difficult to put into a single blog post all the experiences I had in Tanzania. It was a once in a lifetime trip with memories and people I hope to always remember. More importantly, it reaffirmed to me how grateful I am to be a part of a profession that is capable of empowering people with the gift of sight.

at 7/7/17 | 0 comments