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Another reminder as to who I am, my name is Pooja Alloju and I’m now currently a THIRD year at SCO from Dallas. That’s crazy how fast time has passed! So, you guys know how I found myself here and a few things I like to do in my free time, but I wanted to write about SCO- specifically the staff here.
One of my favorite things about SCO is how this school does a great job of making everyone feel welcome and part of the SCO family, and this feeling extends past professors and even Dr. Reich (our president). I specifically wanted to highlight two staff members specifically, Ms. Melissa from our on-campus eatery, Blink, and Kevyn from Physical Plant.
I’ve mentioned Ms. Melissa before and her amazing food (meatballs and bread pudding), but one of my favorite things she makes is a chocolate cake with whipped topping and heath bar. It’s something she doesn’t make often but one day in passing I told her that that was my favorite dessert. Two days later I was eating my lunch and Ms. Melissa came up to me and gave me a free slice of her cake and said, “I hope you have room for dessert.” I was genuinely touched that someone that really doesn’t interact with me on a daily basis wanted to make my favorite dessert and give me one for free. Anytime she has that cake, she always makes a point to let me know! And y’all I’m not joking at how great this cake is!
So, over the summer I actually moved! I used to live on Mud Island but for my last year at SCO I decided to move Downtown into a studio apartment. And with the new move I actually needed a couch, and since I have a handy dandy boyfriend – I asked him to make me a couch. YES, I said make!. My new couch actually required crib mattresses for the cushions. I bought my couch cushions (aka crib mattresses) from Walmart online and because I wasn’t thinking I had them sent to my school mailbox. Well, when they came in – I was in clinic and had maybe 20 minutes to somehow carry TWO of them to my car that was parked at the Activity Center. As I was lugging these things around (I know they’re crib mattresses, but they were kind of heavy), Kevyn from Physical Plant saw me struggling with them. Now I knew Kevyn from before this because any time he’s around he’d always greet us as we entered school. He saw me struggling and asked if I need any help. Not only did he help with carrying these mattresses throughout the school, he also walked them out to my car! He even asked me the next time he saw me how the couch turned out!
I’ve realized at SCO that these are not just random acts of kindness – this is just how kind everyone here is! I think I’ve always ended these posts with something along the lines of how SCO does a great job of making you feel welcome when you join, and I hope now y’all can believe me!
My name is Coralis Millien and this is my first year at SCO! I am originally from West Palm Beach, Florida. Just because Florida is one of the states in the south, does not mean it IS the south! Memphis is “a-whole-nother” ballpark for me, but I’m loving every part of it! Everything from the food and city life to all the friendly and welcoming people. One thing that has impacted me thus far was during my 14-hour drive to Memphis. My brother and I were driving by the Georgia- Alabama state line, and all of a sudden I saw the clock on my phone turn back an hour! I looked up and noticed we were about to pass the central time zone limit. I felt like I was traveling back in time and it made my move all that more real to me!
Ever since 10th grade of high school I knew I wanted to be in the eyecare field - whether that be optometry or ophthalmology I was unsure. So, I started shadowing in both fields both in high school, but I was sure I did not want to do surgery. When I went to undergrad at the University of South Florida, I realized I was set on optometry! I joined the pre-optometry club my freshman year and eventually became an officer senior year. We were a tight-knit group, but we had a lot of resources for shadowing and volunteering, optometry school applications, and even studying for all the hard classes like organic chemistry and calculus! Through this club I had the opportunity to attend Vision Expo in New York in 2017 and even be a part of 2 optometric/ophthalmologic mission trips to Haiti!
Having the opportunity to go to Haiti these past 2 summers and be a small part in changing these patient’s lives was an amazing experience for me. My father’s family is from Haiti and it felt great to be able to give back to my people. I am not fluent in Creole by any means, but every word that I DID know and said to the patients changed their whole outlook on their visit. On this trip I worked alongside 3 ophthalmologists and 1 optometrist (who’s an SCO alum) providing full eye exams, glasses, and cataracts surgeries. I assisted in handing the doctors the tools, ushering patients to and from the OR and administering eye drops to the patients. Watching the patient's faces light up and smile when they put on glasses or unbandaged their eyes for their one-day post-op appointments melted my heart each and every time.
Part of the reason I chose SCO is for the dedication to missions and service. I have been a part of this school for 3 months so far (feels like a lifetime) and I was able to volunteer with Eye Serve Memphis at a plant sale. This is an organization at our school that offers community service events for students that are unrelated to optometry. Another club that I joined, called Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, has community service events locally and abroad. Over the summer they have 2 mission trips – this year one is to Jamaica and the other is to Costa Rica – and I look forward to participating. I think this will be even more impactful to me since I would have learned so many skills by then and will actually be able to perform them on patients, instead of assisting the doctors as I did in Haiti. I know either trip will be a great experience.
I would like to end my rant with why I choose SCO and Memphis to be my home for the next 4 years. The first interaction I had with SCO was when Sunnie (the SCO Director of Student Recruitment) visited my pre-optometry club my junior year. She was so nice and talked about all the great things that SCO and Memphis had to offer. That made my application process and eventual interview that much better because I had a familiar face to greet when I visited. From the moment I stepped onto campus and every interaction since then, I have been warmly greeted and felt welcomed by every staff, student, and faculty. This school has built a community that is willing and wanting to see you succeed every step of the way. Secondly, I have only been here for a few months, but I have already learned so much from my professors and upperclassmen. From day one, we received our first set of equipment and learned clinical skills that will be the foundation of what we do for the rest of our lives. The dedication and strong foundation of clinical skills right off the bat was at the top of my list in choosing schools, which is why SCO was the perfect match for me!
EYE am so excited to SEE what the next 4 years has in store for me!
My name is Michelle Alaimo, and I just started my first year here at SCO. I’m originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and went to Ohio State University for undergrad, so moving to Memphis was definitely a big change for me. So far, the transition could not have gone smoother! Before classes started, I was able to meet my second-year big sib, get to know some of my classmates, and spend time exploring Memphis. Although I know I will eventually miss the days of lounging by the pool, I was ready to jump in and get started with classes!
The last week of August, our class had orientation for two days, where we learned all about how things work at SCO. Getting to see the ins and outs of the school just reminded us all why we chose SCO and how many resources it has to offer. We also got our first set of equipment, which was so exciting! The first day we learned about the logistics of SCO, like where to park, where our lockers are, etc. The second day of orientation was more focused on the field of optometry and our classes. We got to meet our instructors and hear about their expectations. Besides getting information about starting optometry school, throughout orientation we also took fun photo booth pictures and met classmates through different activities.
At the end of the second day of orientation, our families and friends arrived for the much-anticipated White Coat and Honor Code Ceremony! It was such a great feeling to put on our new white coats and celebrate this next step in our journey to becoming optometrists. Of course, after the ceremony we had a delicious barbeque dinner! I loved getting to show my family Memphis and SCO over the weekend.
There have been many opportunities to meet other SCO students and make friends. I had already met a lot of people through the Housing Fair back in March but was able to meet so many more people in the past couple of weeks, including upperclassmen. The social fraternity at SCO, Omega Delta, has already organized multiple events like a pool party and float trip to bring students together.
This past week, we started classes! The first day was surprisingly not as intimidating as I had expected. All of the instructors were really great, and unlike undergrad, all of our classes are actually important for our career which makes them more interesting. After morning lectures, I had my Theory and Methods lab, so I got to jump right into learning the techniques and basics to patient care. After only a few days, it already feels like I learned so much!
I am confident I made the right decision in choosing this school, and know I’m going to be getting the best optometric education and clinical experience I could. Besides that, I’m going to make so many memories with an awesome community and eat lots of delicious barbeque! I can’t wait to see what these four years have in store for me at SCO!
For the first two years of school, your experiences will be primarily classroom or lab-based. As a second-year you will observe different forms of patient care in clinic, but third year is when you actually start seeing your own patients.
Throughout the week you will have classroom lecture every morning from roughly 8 AM to 10 AM. After that, you will either have lab or clinic. Two days out of the week you will have labs after lecture, similar to those that you will experience your first and second years of school. The other three days, you will have various clinic assignments from 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM.
Your three clinic days will usually consist of one day in optical, one day in Adult Primary Care, and one day in a rotation. The rotation day varies between being in Technology, Vision Therapy, Nursing Home, and Teen Clinic.
On your optical day, you get to help patients pick out glasses, do repairs and adjustments on frames, and even see the process of making lenses in our optical lab. This process exposes you to patient interaction, insurance coverage, and many other things that go along with working in an optical setting.
A typical day in APC will involve you seeing around 3 or 4 patients for various exams including yearly routine exams, glaucoma follow-ups, prescription checks, etc. This is the part of clinic where you really have to put everything you’ve learned to the test, but you will have a staff doctor to help you along the way and answer any questions you might have. You will have one staff doctor in the morning, and a different staff doctor in the afternoon, so you will get exposure to multiple methods of patient care. Throughout the day you will be in charge of completing all your own charting and performing all the necessary parts of an exam for your specific patient. The staff doctors are really good at letting you be the doctor and allowing you to make your own decisions and come to your own conclusions, but also will advise you about anything you may need help on. You’ll never have to worry about a patient not being taken care of because your staff doctor will check over everything and make sure nothing has been missed throughout the exam.
This semester I was in Technology and Vision Therapy for my rotation day. For the first half of the semester I was in Technology, which was a great experience to have in the beginning of my clinical time here at SCO because it allowed me to understand all the testing we can order for our patients, including Visual Fields, OCTs, pachymetry, fundus photos, and so much more. This rotation really helped me know what technology was best to order for different conditions, and how to best interpret the results. For the second half of the semester, I was in Vision Therapy. This is an amazing rotation that lets you work with patients in an atypical exam environment. Vision Therapy is like physical therapy for your eyes, so we work with patients doing different activities that train the eyes to function properly. These activities sometimes seem more like games than work because you’ll be in an open room throwing balls, balancing on boards, and tracing pictures, just to name a few examples.
As you see more and more patients throughout the year, you will become more confident and more efficient in patient care. It’s amazing to think about how nervous I was on the first day—I was about to do an exam on a real-life patient. Now, with the guidance of my wonderful staff doctors, I feel prepared, and even excited, for patient care. This school does an amazing job of preparing you to be a competent, well-rounded doctor once you get to clinic, so don’t be afraid that you won’t be ready when the time comes.
My first year of optometry school just flew by in a flash! This week, which is two weeks into my second year, we are learning basic slit lamp techniques. It feels like just yesterday that we were first acquainting ourselves to the Theory and Methods lab (where you will learn optometry exam techniques). Looking back on my first year, I am so thankful for the great friends and study partners, which are one in the same now, that I have found in this incredible program. I couldn’t possibly learn all the information that is thrown at us without them - think a cannon ball of information that bursts into detail confetti that you have to pick up and thrust into an exam piñata. Nice visual, right? Sure, first year was often challenging but usually the moments of panic precede the moments of clarity and understanding – a fair trade-off in a professional school program, I think! We get by with a little help from our friends certainly, but we are also supported immensely by our professors and school staff.
Some of our professors say that the summer between the first and second year is “the last summer of your lives”. They say this as an inside joke but we all honestly feel that it might be. Before the break, we were encouraged to shadow optometrists in Memphis and our hometowns, embark on optometry medical trips, volunteer our time to local organizations, and well, study (you can’t escape it) for our upcoming summer mini-term semester. A good friend of mine was able to practice her refraction, chair skills, and Spanish interpretation in Colombia as a member of the SCO chapter of SVOSH. She was able to be a part of a larger effort to provide much-needed medical care while experiencing the Colombian culture. Another friend of mine participated in the SCO summer research program, creating her own scientific study to observe the effects of myopia incidence in school-aged patients. Some of my classmates spent their time working at optometry practices in their hometown or in Memphis. Some of my classmates observed in career shadowing with professors at the school or around town. I spent most of my summer selfishly: travelling and relaxing with some great novels! I was very excited to make time in my verrry busy schedule to volunteer on campus for an event that Dr. Dumas and Dr. Zarn orchestrated to encourage high school students to pursue careers in healthcare. The event ended in a hilarious student race around a conference room while wearing yoked prism glasses! Imagine running around and around a baseball bat then trying to walk in a straight line – the prism glasses shift everything in the room to the right or left dramatically. The students had a great time and I felt very grateful to be given the opportunity.
During our first day at optometry school orientation, one of our professors told us that no matter what we thought we are getting ourselves into, none of our previous experiences could have prepared us for optometry school. Even though I learned so much about eye care as an optometric and ophthalmic technician, she got it absolutely 100% spot-on. My experience didn’t even skim the surface of what I learned in my first year of optometry school! Now, your experiences will go a long way in preparation for an undertaking like this but every so often you might think you’re a little in over your head. I have been so humbled, and at times overjoyed, by the high standards that SCO has set for us. I can speak from personal experience here: it’s as simple as picking yourself up, reviewing your exams, putting in the work, and reminding yourself how you want to learn everything you can to treat the patients in your community.