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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!!!
Just a reminder, my name is Pooja and I’m now a current SECOND year at SCO from Dallas, TX. If you read my previous blog post, I mentioned I would write about how I found myself at optometry school since this wasn’t my first career path.
After leaving my previous job running a corporate Mathnasium, I ended up going back home to figure out what I wanted to do for a career, shout out to my mom and dad for letting me live at home! My brother is an ophthalmologist with fellowship training in the cornea and was at that time starting up his own practice. He mentioned he could use some help in his clinic and employed me as his tech. Because my brother was starting from scratch, he wasn’t only seeing surgical patients. A lot of his practice was actually services an optometrist provides like diagnosing ocular conditions to refractions and selling eyewear. I told my brother how much I enjoyed those interactions and it was then that he set me up to shadow, Dr. Ivan Bank, an optometrist.
Here’s a photo of me and NOT my brother! That’s my nephew (my brother’s son). He’s a lot cuter than my brother so I’d rather give y’all something cute to look at!
Dr. Bank is a pretty well-known optometrist in the Dallas area. He specializes in management of care for patients with compromised corneas, like keratoconus. He specifically works with fitting these patients with medical contact lenses that not only help with their vision but also comfort. It was shadowing Dr. Bank that I also saw a great professional relationship between an ophthalmologist (my brother) and an optometrist (Dr. Bank). For example, after a transplant, the cornea can often have irregular astigmatism that can’t be fixed with standard glasses and contact lenses. I saw a lot of patients that my brother would transplant sent to Dr. Bank for a scleral contact lens to help them to see optimally. These patients were so grateful to not only my brother but to Dr. Bank for helping them see well again! Wink wink*, the plan is to work with my brother after I hopefully finish residency training. Maybe I’ll still be writing then and can keep y’all updated to how that partnership works out!
Well, there you have it, that basically sums up how I got interested in this field. It sparked such an interest that I finished all the other pre-requisite classes I needed (microbiology, physics, and organic chemistry), took my OAT, and applied to school in the following six months!
Just kidding, of course I have to include my brother in here!
When choosing an optometry school, I had an area of interest that was high on my priority list: research. I knew that whatever school I chose, I wanted them to have a research program that was available to students. After hearing about SCO’s Summer Research Program, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
During the spring semester of first yYear, information was sent out about how to apply to the program. I immediately sent in my application and was soon contacted by different faculty members that wanted to meet with me. During the selection process, I met with many faculty who are involved in the research program. This was a great opportunity for me to not only meet a lot of doctors that I hadn’t had a chance to meet yet, but to also get insight on their area of research and what really interests them.
Once you are selected to be in the program, you will be matched with the faculty who works in your area of interest. Ultimately, I was paired with Dr. Haworth who works with a lot of UV exposure, contact lenses, and dry eye, as well as other things. I was really excited to work with her to develop my own research project. Depending on your preference, you can be really independent and design and carry out your own research (with the supervision of a faculty member of course.) If you would like more help along the way, the doctor you are paired with is ready and willing to assist wherever you need them.
In addition to your central research project, we also had the opportunity to attend multiple 1-hour lectures over the summer that covered various topics of research such as how to write a research paper or how to present a poster on your research. This was also a great opportunity to meet multiple doctors here at SCO and listen to their talks.
Your work doesn’t entirely end at the end of the summer program. After you have completed your research and gathered your data, you get the chance to present your work at an optometry or research centered conference. I look forward to this opportunity once I’m fully done gathering my data!
Overall, this was an amazing program that gave me more insight into the field of research, more exposure to my area of interest, and gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of different doctors at SCO. I highly recommend applying and getting involved in optometric research!