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SCO Student Allison Wirt, ’22, writes about the changes our students have faced over the last year
At this point, it’s a cliche to say that everything has changed. At SCO, things have certainly changed in ways that we couldn’t have foreseen a year ago. Our class lectures have been solely virtual for a year, our patient schedule has been cut in half, and all of our on-campus clubs and professional events have been restructured. Sure, this has been enough to feel overwhelming but, every now and then, I sit back and think about how all of these changes have ultimately made us stronger.
Currently, our third-year class is studying for Part 1 of the NBEO - the first part of the optometry national boards certification process. Basically, it’s an exam as large as the OAT but encompassing everything that we have learned in our courses from our 1st year through 3rd year. It’s a large undertaking but our class has made strides to support each other every day. Many of us find time to study together and keep each other accountable with deadlines and evolving school policy in our class GroupMe. Over time, we have become reliant on each other and have grown as resilient doctors-in-training.
Club meetings have always been a fun way for us to spend time with other students. As you can imagine, these meetings have switched to an online format but we have thought of creative ways to have fun and spend time with each other. Two weeks ago, I helped teach a painting class for our Low Vision Club on campus. Students of all years and a few of our professors joined us for a low vision-themed paint night. Interacting with each other in a meaningful way made this so joyful for us all. You can see how much fun we had in the photo below!
We have accepted the challenge of maintaining our grades, excelling in clinic, and becoming the student leaders of our program with the help of our fellow classmates and an understanding administration. We’ve adapted by maximizing our class and clinic time throughout the week through careful planning on the part of our faculty, staff, and SGA. We consistently have had opportunities to have our opinions heard with administrative decisions in order to perform at our best. Our collective experience, much like yours, has been a journey riddled with unforeseeable circumstances but we have persevered nonetheless.
As we close a very challenging year, a few SCO student bloggers are sharing reflections on gratitude and thankfulness. We hope this post imparts some joy, thoughtfulness, and calm. All of us here at SCO wish you a very safe and happy holiday season.
Happy holidays, everyone!
As I contemplate what has transpired in the year 2020, I am reminded that I decide what 2020 has meant to me. The year 2020 needs no introduction. A couple of weeks ago I was invited to focus on things for which I am grateful. This came along with the hashtag #givethanks. It has been amazing to see social media explode with millions of posts about family, friends, lessons learned from trials, life, beauty, etc. This does not discredit how difficult life can be, but focusing on gratitude has helped me adjust my perspective. Here are a few of my thoughts:
The Earth is a marvelous place. I enjoy and #givethanks for its beauty wherever I find myself! I am from Utah and I miss seeing the majestic mountains, but I cannot get over how luscious and green it is here.
I have been thinking about the wonderful people I meet because of SCO. My great classmates, kind staff, patient faculty, and supportive patients have really made my life special and full of meaning. I #givethanks to the people I rub shoulders with every day as they help me realize what truly matters in life.
Lastly, I would not be where I am today without my sweet wife, Annaliese, and family who continue to support me especially when almost every time we talk on the phone I am studying or taking exams! It has been a sacrifice to be 1,500 miles away and only physically see family a couple of times per year. I #givethanks to Annaliese for her love and patience as she helps me fulfill one of my dreams of becoming an optometrist.
I am excited for this holiday season when the world becomes a little kinder and more thoughtful. I invite everyone to try and #givethanks at this time, and always, and see how it changes your life!
Have a successful, safe, and healthy holiday season!
Hi everyone! It’s Paige Willett from the Class of 2024! When thinking back on 2020, I think most of us can agree it hasn’t been the best year for anyone. Going into this year I was so excited for what it would hold. I was going to be starting optometry school in “the year of perfect vision” aka 2020. The year took a turn no one expected it to, but there have still been so many good things to be thankful for in 2020. I’m thankful that despite being sent home in the middle of my senior year I was still able to graduate from Arkansas State University (go red wolves!). And that by being sent home early, I got to spend four extra months with my family before moving to Memphis.
I am also thankful I was still able to begin my first year of optometry school at SCO. I have absolutely been loving this semester, it is hard but so rewarding. I couldn’t make a list of things I’m thankful for without including my lab group, shoutout to group 1A. They have become the greatest friends and I’m thankful I get to see the top half of their faces four days a week in lab.
The best thing that all this extra time at home has given me is the chance to get a puppy! Her name is Gigi and she’s a standard poodle. She is so fun and I have loved having her company. She even made a debut in our ocular anatomy class when she walked across my keyboard and typed something in the class chat. Dr. Grant is a fellow animal lover so the whole class got a good laugh out of it. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to get Gigi during my first semester, which otherwise would have been too busy for a puppy without online classes.
Of course, a list of things to be thankful for wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Amazon Prime. Whether I needed dog toys, ankle weights for at-home workouts, a new book to read, or something else to keep me entertained at home they’ve had it on my doorstep in two short days ;). Hope you all can spend time thinking back on the good things of 2020 to be thankful for.
It’s not a hot take to say that 2020 has been a difficult year for all, cataclysmic for some. I’ve found it extremely challenging to come up with a sincere statement about gratitude because the cold truth is, it isn’t always easy being grateful. It’s not like waiting around until your stomach screams that it’s hungry. Gratitude is more like getting in shape, and takes time to improve. You have to try, and at least in my case, fail many times before you see any progress. I have panicked a few times that this piece would turn into an inauthentic, Hallmark-card-cliche about giving thanks around the holidays. I’ve written for thirty minutes only to delete every single word of trite nonsense no less than three times. Through the aggravation, I have realized something important; the effort and frustration is the whole point. I had to set my phone down to avoid the constant dumpster fire of a newsfeed, drink warm coffee on my couch, and allow my thoughts to wander a bit to get there. I had to reconcile the fact that, although things feel more chaotic and uncertain than ever before in my life, it is perfectly possible to express gratitude for everything positive in life, all while willing some things to change.
This year provided a massive opportunity to remember, and express gratitude for, all the things I take for granted, or even complain about on a regular basis. When I honestly consider my life, I realize how great things really are, even when they feel their worst. While I don’t always love my cooking, I am grateful that I have the ability to buy and prepare myself food. I don’t always dress the best, but I am grateful that I have clothing to wear and shoes on my feet. Although I haven’t seen many of them in far too long, I have friends that will pick up their phones (rather, they eventually text me back) when I need someone to talk to. I am in school pursuing a career that will afford me so many opportunities to play to my strengths and passions, and already has. My favorite thing to complain about— my car— still gets me where I need to be on time almost every time I turn the key. Why is it so natural for me to fixate on the few times in the past year when my car hasn’t behaved predictably? Of course it feels like it happens at the least convenient times; cars acting up is always inconvenient. I simply don’t realize all the times my car does not let me down. Recognizing this through the headache is the beginning of gratitude.
As counterintuitive as it seems and feels, in this dead battery of a year, it may be the perfect time to look at our lives and say “I’m lucky I have so much to lose.” There will always be problems. Instead of fixating on them, causing us to panic, despair, and make things worse, we can realize that those problems keep us employed. They give us challenges to solve, fulfilling our biological and psychological needs. Problems teach us so much more than when things go smoothly (e.g. ask me about my car’s front end). Keeping an appropriate perspective when the inevitable bad creeps into our lives will help us live longer, more joyful lives. You cannot control what happens, only how you react to it. The next time a crisis arises, without minimizing it or procrastinating its solution, take a moment to breathe deeply. Realize that no matter what you feel you are losing, it is only possible because you already have so much; your car can’t break down if you don’t have a car.
It’s Pooja again, and as a quick reminder, I am now a big old 4th year at SCO from Dallas, TX. I cannot believe I have been writing since 1st year! Wow, do I feel old.
Anyways I figured I would write a little bit about how my 4th and last year at SCO has been, especially since 2020 has been far from normal.
Our 4th year at SCO is spent doing a total of three rotations, one being at the school, another at an institution, and lastly one at a private practice. This is to help ensure students what type of practice they’d like to dive into once they’ve graduated.
As of right now I have completed my summer rotation at SCO and am currently in my institutional rotation in Kansas City, MO at Moyes Eye Center, an OD/MD practice in which both optometrists and ophthalmologists are employed at.
I have learned a WHOLE lot just in the couple of months I’ve been here and that’s not only in a disease and management aspect but also professionally. I just had one of the doctors send me a recommended book list to help improve my financial literacy!
This is what I’m currently reading:
The truth is there is so much more to this career than just being “an eye doctor” which is why I feel like it’s extremely important to physically show students the different avenues we have. Not only does SCO make this part of the program but also personally handpicks the practices the school works with to really make sure we are as well rounded as possible!
Also 6 more months (till graduation)!! Woohoo!
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!