Like any endeavor worth pursuing in life, it takes careful preparation to become an optometrist.
Students are at the heart of our mission.
Get involved in our thriving alumni community.
SCO is one of the nation's leading optometry schools.
Take time to recognize these significant achievements.
Enter a search request and press enter. Press Esc or the X to close.
SCO Student Andrew B. Murphy, ’24, writes about his decision to attend optometry school:
There is a question I believe we all ought to ask ourselves from time to time: How did I end up here? Deciding to attend optometry school is no easy task, and determining exactly where is harder still. There were months (or in my case, years) of hand-wringing, circular thinking, and seeking out data that ultimately only confirmed what I already knew about job prospects, board passage/graduation rates, and where the future of optometry was heading. What was it that finally pushed me over the tipping point? Of course, a six-figure income sounds good. Yeah, I like job security. A scientific career that will let me be my own boss, and own my own business? Sign me up. These are all features of a career in optometry, and very compelling reasons to pursue any profession: However, I believe that the key to a satisfying life is pursuing work that aligns with your passions, and perhaps more importantly, your personal values. Throughout this post, I hope you can gain an appreciation of the things I am most passionate about, and how a career in optometry neatly falls into place with what I value most. Without further adieu, let’s skim the surface of “Andrew’s Top Three Reasons to Attend Optometry School.”
Any physician is, or should be, in my humble opinion, a scientist at heart. Auto mechanics, detectives, and university researchers alike rely upon conducting tests, collecting data, and generating a conclusion to get their work done. If a conclusion leads to an undesirable outcome—like an engine that keeps stalling, a suspect with a rock-solid alibi, or the latest debunked hypothesis—the investigating party must start all over again. In the growing field of optometry, a patient will come in presenting with symptoms. As is the case with, say, a family pediatrician, many outputs (symptoms) will appear stunningly similar across many different inputs (underlying conditions). How can a discerning investigator determine if it’s a common cold, a flu, or the novel coronavirus? A minor bout of temporary dry eyes caused by sleeping with a fan on, or a brain tumor? Is it just a faulty connector, or is it time to overhaul your transmission? The answer, of course, is through thorough training, development of critical thinking skills, and a reliance upon the cornerstones of science.
Through my undergraduate training in biochemistry, as well as my personal reading to help me make sense of the cosmos, I have fallen deeply in love with the scientific method, its findings and self-correcting tendencies, and the broad shoulders of giants that we currently stand on. My greatest desire in life is to understand the world we live in, and to help others do the same. Whether you aspire to rocket science or a career in politics, you might just need your eyeballs; with the power of modern optometric science, many of the sight-related problems of our ancestors virtually disappear. When we view the world through the lens of science, everything eventually falls into focus.
As a workforce neophyte after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2016, I discovered to my bewilderment a nearly complete absence of good leadership at all levels of my company. I naively assumed that “the real world” had little room for error, and that those incapable of leading would not rise in rank. To summarize my findings succinctly, I was wrong. Although I knew the subject matter of my work intimately, there was a major learning curve; interacting with people in the office is fundamentally different than working with classmates, advisors, or professors. Understanding the science alone didn’t qualify me for advancement, it didn’t make my opinion valuable to management, and nobody cared if I was learning and growing. It was largely trial by fire, and I burned badly.
A few other intellectually-starving colleagues recommended a program at another Lincoln institution, Nebraska Wesleyan University. Ever the opportunist, I sought an MBA which was paid for by an excellent tuition reimbursement program at the company. I enrolled that fall. While there is no way to speak to the importance of understanding accounting, finance, and economics in business, the true power of the MBA program was what it taught me about leadership.
My friend and colleague Amanda Peters and me receiving our MBA diplomas (May 2019)
Everybody knows a good leader when they see one, but few take the time to think about what it truly means to excel in leadership. Many people believe that the ability to lead is something that you either have or don’t, and that your emotional intelligence is a static feature of who you are. By shattering this illusion, I was able to realize the paramount distinction between being a “leader” versus a “manager.” A manager will tell you what to do because they can. They try to bend you to fit the work. They may focus on maximizing sales or minimizing losses, and little else, least of all how their team feels about the work they do. A leader will help you realize your value. They will shape the work to you, making your contribution feel less like work, and more like self-actualization, a natural extension of what you already hold dear.
As I sat through evening business classes, marveling at stories of great leadership through the most challenging of circumstances, a stark divide became apparent between what I experienced at my day job, and what I was growing to expect from leaders I want to follow. I began to realize that I could lead better than those I was forced to serve under, but may never have my chance to lead in a corporate environment, plagued with bureaucracy and ever-expanding levels of middle and upper management. Optometry opens the door to business ownership, community involvement, and political leadership; optometrists and industry advocates lobby for our ability to serve patients to the best of our ability, not to maximize uninvolved shareholders’ piece of the pie. There are many amazing leaders to be found in all companies on earth, of course, but I long for the freedom to practice to the height of my abilities, in an environment I design, with like-minded staff that will focus on the best possible care for the patients we serve. If I had to distill what I admire most about the great leaders and difference makers in my life into a single word, one that I hope to take with me into the world of optometry in my interactions with colleagues, staff, and patients alike, I would choose “empathy.”
Throughout the MBA program at Wesleyan, there was a heavy emphasis on mentorship. This was a concept that was utterly foreign to me until my first nerve-wracking instance of reaching out to a professor I admired, to whom I hadn’t spoken to in almost two years, asking him to be my mentor. He gracefully accepted. Like all things, there was a learning curve; I showed up unprepared much of the time that first year. My mentor was patient with me, and endlessly encouraging. I realized that many of my doubts about the future were imposed only by my own mind, something it is virtually impossible to escape from in modernity, where everything is Instagram filtered and curated. Everyone wrestles with doubts, and the only way to defeat your own demons is to take an outside perspective. Hopefully, that perspective is one that seeks to lift you out of, not reinforce, your doubts. This first, crucial mentoring experience opened me up to the possibility of learning from everyone I meet, and asking those that are especially inspiring to me to be lifelong mentors and friends. It taught me that everyone has flaws, and a backstory. In short, it taught me empathy. I realized that I already had a bounty of mentors in my past, from my high school swim coach, to classmates in the MBA program, and perhaps most importantly to where I am now, my former associates at Clear Vision Eye Care.
Celebrating the Annual Frame Show with Past and Present CVEC Staff (2019)
This wonderful establishment in Lincoln, NE (shout out and Five Star recommendation) introduced me to the world of optometry in the summer of 2014. More importantly, Dr. Drew Bateman and his wildly talented wife Katie showed me that work didn’t have to feel like work. Throughout my time as an associate in their office, they taught me how to see the best in the most abrasive of people. They forgave my mistakes without hesitation, acknowledging my humanity instead of making me feel guilt (as so many later bosses would do). They hired caring people, who would genuinely inquire at my life’s affairs, who raised me up on my down days. I was amazed at the number of patients who seemed to be in the office once a week, if only to chit chat, or try on frames for the 14th time; I now realize it was because precious few businesses left in the world treat their patrons with such esteem. I wish I could have realized at the time how much my experience there would ultimately mean in the course of my life, but through retrospect, I realized that the only path forward was one of empathy. Being a human is a daunting task. There is no room to make that harder for others, and Clear Vision Eye Care showed me a way to follow your passions, earn a living, and most importantly, build the people in your life up, resulting in a ripple effect throughout the community in which you live. In hindsight, returning to optometry, the first environment that showed me my potential despite being deeply flawed, is the most natural course I could have taken.
CVEC Owner Dr. Andrew Bateman and optical specialist Jean Jergensen, two incredible mentors and friends (2019)
Maybe after all, I do know why I choose this profession, why I choose to continue my education for a third time. I choose optometry because it allows me to embrace the nitty gritty of the science I revere, including physics, biology, anatomy, and more. I choose optometry because I can no longer abide lackluster leadership; I will be the leader I hope to see more of in the world, in the businesses I frequent, and the institutions raising the leaders of tomorrow. Finally, I choose optometry because whether you spend 20 minutes in my exam chair once a year, or 40 hours a week behind a desk in my office, I don’t just want to help you see, but to help you feel seen, too.
My name is Paige Willett and I am a first-year student at SCO this year! I am from Little Rock, Arkansas and went to undergrad at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. I just graduated in May and commemorated the occasion by walking all the way to my mailbox to get my diploma. Memphis was only an hour drive from Jonesboro, so I have made many trips over here for some good BBQ and shopping. I’m very excited to live in Memphis for the next four years. It is the biggest city I have ever lived in, but I already have a southern accent going for me so I am sure I will fit right in!
My journey to choosing the career path of optometry has been somewhat atypical. My mother is actually an optometrist and a graduate of SCO. My mom is my favorite person in the world and my best friend. When I was growing up I would often get the question of, “Are you going to be like your mom and be an eye doctor too?” and my response would always be something like “No, I don’t think so.” I never had any interest in pursuing optometry, and to be completely honest I thought my mom’s job was a little boring at times.
Going into my freshman year of college, I decided to work at my mom’s office for the summer to make some extra money. After my first day there, I completely fell in love with optometry. I realized how wrong my previous thoughts about optometry were and began thinking about what a career in optometry would be like. I realized that each patient presents a different challenge in their course of treatment and the job is the furthest thing from monotonous. I had always explored the medical field as a career pursuit and the more I worked with patients in the optometry setting, the more assured I became of where I belonged.
While this year has not started off in the way anyone could have imagined, SCO has been wonderful in providing new ideas and ways for us to still get to know our classmates. We normally would have gotten to meet each other in March at the housing fair, but we ended up having a virtual housing fair instead. Our class also started a GroupMe group chat which we talk in almost every day. This has been a great way for us to get to know each other since we haven’t been able to meet face-to-face. Another fun thing we have been able to do is participate in Virtual Happy Hours hosted by SCO Student Ambassadors. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been able to log on to a Microsoft Teams meeting and get to meet a few of our fellow classmates and ask the ambassadors about any questions we have. It has been a fun way to get to know my classmates during these crazy times.
I am so excited to be starting my first year of optometry school so soon! I knew SCO was my top school the moment I stepped on the campus. I was very impressed by their value of service, board passage rates, and the clinical experiences they offer. Everyone was very welcoming and genuinely interested in getting to know me on my interview day, which helped me feel certain this was where I belonged. I can’t wait to begin my optometry career at SCO and I am looking forward to the next four years. Memphis and SCO, here I come!
I saw my first patient last Friday! My excitement of finally being an intern at The Eye Center has taken off! I would like to share a little with you about my second-year experience at SCO. My thoughts come from some lessons I have learned this past year which include the value of family/relationships, taking care of myself, and how life can be good amidst trials.
Second year started after a 10-week break during which I worked at SCO as a work-study student. It was enjoyable to help with graduation events and interact with the great staff on the 11th floor. As the summer semester began in July it started off quickly with classes and labs that were different from first year. We jumped into disease and more advanced clinical techniques that took more time to learn (still becoming more efficient at these). I sensed that the second year would be more difficult...I was right. Last fall semester has been the most trying semester of my life. It was filled with many classes that stretched me to begin thinking differently, hundreds of drugs to memorize, and more disease that did not come easily. In November, my wife lost her father to cancer. This loss added heartache to an already challenging time. I look back now and see the blessing it was for us to be together as a family even though I was overwhelmed with school. I share this to emphasize the importance of family and other relationships. As we all go through school, or life, we need help to press forward. For me, having meaningful connections with family and friends has allowed me to do so. I finished up that grueling fall semester because of the love and support I had from them.
After time spent with family during the holidays, spring semester rolled around. I felt ready to tackle this semester with more focus and dedication! 2020 is the year of the optometrist...and also the year that COVID-19 spread throughout the world. I remember coming home from a spring break trip to Utah and preparing for school to resume. The Sunday evening before Monday classes we received the news from President Reich that all SCO campus activities were to be suspended. Nobody knew for how long we would have class and limited labs online with no opportunity to practice certain skills for our upcoming pre-clinical checkouts. This was a surreal time. During the months of off-campus education, I learned more about the importance of eating better and more consistent exercise. Because of these unprecedented circumstances, I have been able to improve my overall health. I did not expect this. My wife and I have had more time to make new meals at home. Favorite snack: homemade fermented salsa! We enjoy going on walks in our neighborhood. We have a favorite spot that is next to a large pond where we sit and converse about life or just sit and soak in the beauty of the water and luscious green landscape.
As I walked into The Eye Center on Friday I realized that even though there had been many adjustments and postponements made I was still there furthering my optometric education. I am grateful for Dr. Walker who was very understanding and helpful as I assisted her in helping my first patient receive the care I have been learning about for the past two years! Things work out. My second year at SCO proves it! I am thrilled to continue forward with what I learned this past year!
Have a great day!
Life is good,
Hey Friends, it’s Coralis again!
I just finished my first year of optometry school! It has been so surreal and an amazing experience. I learned so much more than I could ever imagine. So far, I have learned skills such as determining a patient’s prescription, looking at the optic disc at the back of the eye and how to examine presbyopic patients. I’ve also learned some chair skills that I was able to do on some friends and family when I came home for breaks. It was so nice to be able to show them some of the things I had been learning at school.
Aside from all the studying and exams, I have met a lot of wonderful people and made some great memories. SCO offers a lot of these fun activities that a lot of my classmates and I can enjoy. The Omega Delta (OD) fraternity hosts parties about once a month. My favorite party that I went to was the “Jarty Party”, which was a denim day party! We can also get some free or discounted tickets to Grizzlies games, Memphis 901 soccer games, and Memphis Redbirds baseball games. I had the opportunity to go to a Grizzlies game and we beat the Utah Jazz! However, one of my favorite times was going to the annual Eyeball! Eyeball is like prom or homecoming and people from all classes come together and dress up!
Unfortunately, due to the world’s current situation with the Coronavirus, our traditional way of learning was cut short. We had transitioned to virtual learning in the middle of March and ultimately ended the semester online. Throughout the quarantine and isolation, we took 13 exams and 1 practical online; but the faculty and professors were helping us every step of the way. Even through this unprecedented and unexpected time, the SCO family was dedicated to helping us succeed and learn everything we needed to. Which goes back to my previous post about SCO being the perfect school for me!
On the other hand, I had the opportunity to go back home to Florida and spend some more time with my mom (yes, I did the treacherous 14 hour drive again, but this time by myself). I have been able to try out new recipes that I’ve always wanted to make. It was so good that I’m going to share my zucchini lasagna with you!
To make this amazing dish you will need: 4-6 zucchinis, 2 tbsp oil, 1 lb ground beef/turkey, 2-3 cloves of garlic, ¼ tsp of Italian seasoning, ½ diced onion, 1 container of ricotta cheese, 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 large egg, 1 jar of marinara sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.
Start out by preheating the oven to 375 degrees and cutting the zucchinis into thin slices lengthwise. Then, lay the slices out on paper towels and lightly salt them to remove the excess moisture. After about 15 minutes, pat them dry and remove the salt. While the zucchini slices are “sweating”, lightly sauté the garlic and onion in the oil. Then, add the ground beef/turkey, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. After the meat is cooked, drain the excess oil and add the marina sauce (save some to add to the dish later). Turn the heat down and let the meat sauce simmer for about 5-10 minutes. To make the cheese stuffing, mix the ricotta cheese, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, ½ cup of mozzarella cheese, and egg in a separate bowl. You can choose to add some Italian seasoning to the cheese mixture if you wish for a little more flavor. Next, assemble the lasagna. Start out by adding the remainder of the marina sauce to the bottom of the dish. Then, line the bottom of the pan with zucchini, leaving no gaps between the slices. Next, add a thin layer of mozzarella cheese, followed by the meat sauce, then the cheese mixture. Repeat again with the zucchini slices, mozzarella cheese, meat sauce and cheese mixture. Then, add the last layer zucchini slices, and the remainder of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Bake the lasagna for 30 minutes uncovered then broil for 3-4 minutes to toast the top layer of cheese. Let it cool and enjoy!
All in all, the ups and downs of this past year have taught me so much and I am so grateful to be at this school. Even with this current situation going on, I am still excited to see what the next 3 years has in store for me!
I hope you enjoy the recipe and until next time,
SCO Student Michelle Alaimo, ’23, writes about her first year at SCO:
It’s officially the end of my first year at SCO! I can’t believe it’s already over. It seems like my classmates and I were just picking up our equipment at orientation. We have made it through so much together this year, from tough exam weeks and lab practicals to switching to online learning this spring. First semester was a challenging transition for me but getting past that made second semester feel much more manageable. I think my classmates and I were all ready for our summer break to arrive! I’m so grateful for everything I learned this year and all of the amazing friends I’ve made. Here are some of my favorite memories from first year:
Private Practice Crawl: Members of the Private Practice Club went on a “practice crawl” to 3 practices in the Memphis area. We got to meet the doctors and learn about their offices.
Convocation and homecoming: Last October, we got to celebrate homecoming weekend with the entire school and many alumni who visited.
Omega Delta Halloween party: This party was so much fun and everyone’s costumes were so great! I dressed up as one of Ms. Melissa’s Babycakes. It was right after an exam week, so everyone was ready to celebrate on Beale Street.
St. Jude Marathon Weekend: SCO had the largest team signed up for the St. Jude race weekend, which was awesome! I ran the half marathon and got to cheer on some other SCO runners doing the 5K and 10K races.
Eyeball: This year’s Eyeball was at The Columns downtown and the after party was on Beale Street.
SECO: I attended the SECO conference in Atlanta in March with some of my classmates. We got to walk around and see all the vendors who were at the conference. At the SECO student reception, we got to meet students from other optometry schools.
Since the transition to online learning this past spring, I’ve really missed seeing my classmates every day. However, we have been keeping in touch and supporting each other throughout the past few months. I am looking forward to the next time our whole class can be together again and all the memories we will make in the future!