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Hi y’all! Paige Willett (second-year student) here, writing this during one of the busiest semesters I have had of optometry school yet. Second year really kicks it into gear and you hit the ground running! It has been so fun, albeit stressful at times, learning so many new skills and focusing on more clinic-oriented classes. We have also been over in The Eye Center for the first time this year so that has been one of the most interesting parts of second year so far.
One of my favorite things about our profession is that it is never stagnant. There are always new advancements being made on both the research side of things and the legislation side of scope of practice. Something that has made me realize our profession really is like a family is seeing how we will come together to expand scope of practice. Some recent advancements made in our scope of practice include: Arkansas, Mississippi, and Wyoming being able to perform laser procedures; Massachusetts and Texas being able to manage glaucoma; and most recently New York state being able to prescribe oral medications. These expansions are very important because these are skills we are currently learning at SCO, so being able to practice to the full extent of our knowledge means better care can be provided to our patients. Many of these legislative battles were years in the making and involved many doctors around the country. Without the joint effort of doctors in their home state as well as surrounding states, none of these advancements would have been possible. The American Optometric Association also plays a big role in helping states expand their scope.
So you might read and this and think to yourself, “that’s really cool I’m sure I’ll be involved in helping with that once I graduate.” Which is exactly what I was thinking when there was legislation trying to be passed in my home state of Arkansas. A quick backstory on the legislative battle in Arkansas: The bill was originally passed by the House or Representatives and Senate approving the expansion of scope, when ophthalmologists in Arkansas challenged this bill and collected signatures for a referendum. The Arkansas Optometric Association then sued the ophthalmologist group citing that the signatures were collected unethically and therefore should not be valid.
One Saturday the summer before my senior year of college, I was approached by two different people collecting signatures “to keep optometrists from cutting on people’s eyes because they aren’t doctors” as they worded it. In true Gen Z fashion, I whipped out my phone and started videoing the guy who was so aggressively trying to get my signature by spouting off tons of misinformation about optometrists. Fast forward to the summer before I started optometry school, I was asked to testify in court because the videos I took were now being used as evidence. This was a very nerve-wracking day for me, I even had to take the oath to tell the truth like they do on TV (so wild!). Never did I ever think the videos I took would result in all that. This experience really showed me that students can still play a role in advocacy for our profession. It’s easy for us to think that we don’t have a big role to play while in school, when that’s far from the truth. No matter what state you plan on practicing in, the American Optometric Association and local state associations are always looking for student involvement and you never know where that involvement might lead you in the future.
Signing off to go study,
Class of 2024
Hi friends! My name is Anita Prasad and I’m about to start my first year here at SCO! I graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Film Studies. Don’t be fooled by my major and career choice; film was in the driver’s seat for most of my life. I geared every aspect of my life toward the cinematic process: I played piano (to learn movie scores), painted (it’s like film stills), competitively danced into college (it's like set staging), and went to the Cannes Film Festival (biggest international film festival in the world, no big deal!) You might be wondering how I ended up on the other end of the spectrum, pursuing a doctorate in a STEM field. I’ll spare you the details of a long story with one lofty segue: my real passion is to work with the lens of the eye, not the lens of a camera.
Ok, maybe I lied. I may have a passion even greater than film and optometry and her name is the Memphis Pyramid, aka Bass Pro Shops Pyramid. The first thing I told people when I said I was moving to Memphis was about this pyramid. They all thought it was a cute little joke, so let me clear the air now -- this is the 9th largest pyramid in the world. Right behind all those posers in Giza, there is the Memphis Bass Pro Shops. At this point, this is more than a Bass Pro, this is a lifestyle. They’ve got a whole resort-style lodge, an aquarium, alligators, a restaurant at which I could only afford appetizers, a panoramic viewing deck, and a little candy store. I specifically chose my Mud Island apartment knowing that it is about thirty seconds from the Bass Pro Shops. I’m obsessed.
I think my Bass Pro obsession perfectly illustrates how Memphis is a city of niches. Just as there is the Bass Pro Pyramid for me, I’ve noticed that there is a space for everyone. Whether it’s art, music, food, sports, etc. Memphis is an energetic city with small-town charm. I can say the same of SCO which is one of the many reasons I chose this school. With a class size this big, everyone can find the perfect niche of friends. I’ve only met about a fourth of Class of ‘25 but I can already tell it's a winner. I know I’m going to have so much fun here (respectfully, educationally, professionally, of course, of course).
Here’s some pictures of some CO ’25 enjoying our last days of summer break. Eye am dying to meet you all!
Hi everyone! My name is Brianna and I am an incoming first-year student. I am very excited to begin my optometry journey and to contribute to the student life blogs during my time here!
I was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but I spent the longest chunk of my life in Katy, Texas, just outside of Houston. For undergrad I went up to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where I graduated with a Neuroscience Degree in 2019. At that point I had very little idea of what I wanted to do for a career. Like a number of my new SCO classmates, I started undergrad thinking I wanted to be pre-med. But after doing some shadowing and understanding more about the profession, I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it the way that I believed it should be for anyone pursuing medicine. I felt like I was back at square one, but I was determined to keep going with interests I enjoyed and see where they would lead me.
During my junior year, I became a Research Assistant under one of my professors in a lab that studies the effects of visual experience on the mind and brain. We would run MRI studies examining what tasks the “visual” cortex of a blind person’s brain does, as well as behavioral studies examining what blind individuals know about vision-related concepts like colors and light. I was fascinated by the research, and I enjoyed my time there so much that after I graduated I became the full-time Lab Manager.
Soon after I started full-time, an old colleague of my supervisor gave a guest lecture at our lab meeting. It was the most interesting research talk I had ever heard! The speaker was an optometrist who did clinical research on children with Cortical Visual Impairment, a type of blindness that is very difficult to diagnose because it is due to abnormalities in the brain rather than the eyes. I was moved by how much he cared for his patients and how passionate he was that there was not enough research on the widespread condition. After his talk, the lab took him out to dinner, and I was able to talk to him more about optometry and his path there. That very night I looked up optometry as a career, and it became something I came back to again and again.
Meanwhile, it became apparent to me that in both the Research Assistant and Lab Manager roles, the days I enjoyed most were those where I was interacting with participants. Because of the specific criteria our blind participants had to meet, we had a pretty small pool of people and would spend a lot of time with them, either flying them in for MRIs or running studies back to back at conventions. I got to meet all kinds of different people and hear a lot about their experiences living without any vision. It truly changed the way I thought about vision and vision loss. As I continued reading about optometry, I learned about the field of low vision where the doctor helps patients navigate vision loss when there is nothing further that can be done medically. This speciality in particular sounded like a great fit to me, and cemented the idea that I wanted to pursue optometry.
I applied to 5 different schools, but SCO was an easy choice for me. I could write a whole post about why this school is great and I know that the longer I’m here, the more accurately I’ll be able to speak about that. So to keep things brief for now: top-tier board passage rates; impressive arsenal of scholarships; extremely nice staff, faculty, and students (I mean seriously, every single person I’ve met so far has been lovely); huge eye clinic; mock board exam rooms; low cost of living; dedicated business education. The list goes on and on but I could not be happier to be here.
I cannot wait to begin classes, and to start learning clinical skills in lab on day one. The fall semester seemed incredibly far away for so long, but now this time next week I’ll be in class. Ready for the adventure!
Hi everyone! My name is Saniya Merchant and I’m thrilled to be part of the incoming class of 2025. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Spring of 2020. Moving in this past weekend came with a ton of mixed emotions since it’s my first time moving out of state! Though it’s been overwhelming, I’m very excited to begin this new chapter in Memphis and call this city home for the next 4 years. With the support of my family, friends and the faculty here at SCO, the transition process has been seamless.
My initial interest in the medical field was sparked by my late grandmother who was an OBGYN. As I continued to explore different occupations in the healthcare world I knew optometry was the right fit for me because of all the intricacies in optometry as well as the potential to improve the quality of life for so many people. One of my biggest inspirations to pursue optometry has been my older sister who is currently a Low Vision Resident at Illinois College of Optometry. She has guided me every step of the way and I’m so thankful to have had her support.
It's crazy to think that exactly a year ago I had begun the application process and now I am days away from starting classes. I knew SCO was the right school for me not only because of the amazing clinical program but also because of the supportive staff and faculty that I have met along the way. Everyone has been so helpful in easing many of the stressors we are currently facing especially with things ever-changing due to COVID. I am excited to start my journey here at SCO and look forward to meeting everyone in the class of 2025.
Hello everyone! My name is Kammy Lin, and I am from Diamond Bar, California. I graduated this summer from the University of California, Riverside with a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Psychology. I don’t know how the time flew by so quickly these last four years, though now that I’ve commemorated my undergraduate experience, it’s time to look forward to what’s next in store for me - optometry school! The move to Memphis is particularly exciting for me because it’s the first time in my life I’ll be living somewhere new. College was so close to home that I could drive back every weekend if I wanted to. But now, leaving this close proximity will give me the chance to adventure out into the world and discover what it has to offer beyond what I’ve been used to seeing thus far. So, here’s to embracing change and beginning a new chapter!
Since I grew up with family members in the healthcare field, following that same path was a possibility I had in the back of my mind. (Shocker!) However, it did take me a while to ponder on it since I had other interests, as many would, as a child. Then I had my very first optometry visit during middle school. I found myself in a pleasant environment with a doctor who didn’t inject me with needles or subject me to any pain or bleeding. The optometrist got bonus points for being super nice to me, but more importantly, he looked happy doing his job. When I left the exam room, that was the first time I thought, “maybe I could be an optometrist.”
Fast forward to my first year at UCR. One of the very first organizations I joined at school was the pre-optometry club. I will say that it was one of the best decisions I made during my undergrad career. Through the pre-optometry club, I learned the importance of networking, and from there, landed my first internship at a private practice. One internship slowly turned into two, along with other shadowing opportunities. The more I learned about optometry, the more absorbed I became. There’s a great balance between work and personal life, freedom to choose where and how you want to practice, different specialties you can focus on, and the list goes on. To me, the most beautiful aspect about this profession is the ability to protect the most important sense a person can have: their vision. Optometrists foster the gift of eyesight to others, thereby making a positive change and improvement in people’s everyday lives/routines. I especially took notice of this as a volunteer at free eye clinics, where there were many underprivileged individuals who had gone a long time without access to an eyecare professional. Imagine one of them came up to you and you played a part in restoring their vision. What could be more rewarding than that? Seeing the gratitude they had after finally receiving the proper eye care attention they needed was incredibly fulfilling. I knew this was the career I wanted upon learning how meaningful and impactful the world of optometry can be.
For those who don’t know, there are 23 optometry schools in the U.S., 3 of which are in California. You might be wondering why I did not pick one of the schools in California. To be honest, I too thought I would be attending an optometry school in my home state, especially since two of them are less than a 20 minute drive away from where I lived. I hadn’t really gauged any other schools at the time. One day, I was talking to the graduating seniors in the pre-optometry club as they were discussing the optometry schools they applied to. SCO was one of the schools they mentioned. They spoke of SCO so highly that it started to pique my interest towards the program. I realized then that there were other great schools that I hadn’t considered because I limited my choices to only what was close by. Thus, I removed those limitations. After all, this is my professional career we’re talking about. I had to look at every option in order to select the school that was the best fit for me.
When it was time to apply, I emailed the SCO Admissions Office a couple questions on some things I was uncertain about. It was just a few questions, but the response I received was so informative and detailed that I could tell they were really trying to help me with the situation I was in. It even felt like they were rooting for me as an applicant. The encouragement and support were recurring themes with each successive SCO interaction I had - during my interviews, speaking with current students, contacting the staff with more questions, and meeting my classmates online virtually. These people truly care and want me to succeed. I knew this was a community I wanted to surround myself in. Furthermore, a separate factor that mattered to me was the educational experience found at SCO. I was astonished by the strong clinical program, advanced technology, and state-of-the-art facilities, not to mention the sky-high board passage rates. SCO additionally offers an abundance of resources, including the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence, which provides guidance on career planning/practice management not just for current students but for alumni as well. This goes to show the support that SCO dedicates to their students during enrollment and even beyond graduation. Given all the amazing opportunities and people here, it was an easy decision to select SCO as my choice of school. I can truly see myself obtaining the best optometric education here while growing to be a well-rounded clinician.
In about a week, I will be starting my very first classes as an optometry student. It feels like I’ve waited forever for this day to come and it’s finally arriving. Now let the journey begin!