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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.
My name is Christopher Pope. I am a rising second year from the great state of Utah. My wife, Annaliese, and I made the 1,500-mile drive from Utah to Memphis last year. It was quite the daunting move as neither of us has lived in this area of the country before. She works at a local hospital in the laboratory while I spend much of my time here at SCO! Even though school is busy there is time to enjoy with family and friends! We have found many entertaining activities to do over the past year. Some of which have been catching a live concert while eating chicken and waffles at BB Kings on Beale Street, walking through the beautifully landscaped Shelby Farms and taking a weekend trip to Nashville to check out historic sites while attending more concerts. Make sure to study efficiently and make time to get out and enjoy the fun city we live in!
I am blown away that my first year is in the rear-view mirror! Wow. Pretty amazing to look back and reflect on student orientation and the beginning of the school year. Take advantage of being a student here! This is prime time! SCO offers amazing educational and clinical programs that will pass by like any other semester unless you dig in, get involved and positively push forward. You are where you choose to be! I have found that striving to stay positive has helped me cope with difficult classes and other life obstacles. We have each other to lean on when times get stressful and tough. Ask for help and support will come your way. Remember that your SCO experience is what you make of it!
The professors did a good job helping me adjust to a more rigorous schedule by reviewing material that was taught in undergrad and, then, gradually introducing new material. After I got a few weeks under my belt the pace began to pick up. The first of everything was a little stressful. Lab practicals were something that I had never previously been exposed to. My good friend, the schematic eye, and I spent many hours together in the lab practicing for the first retinoscopy practical exam! After it was over, I knew that things were going to work out. Thankfully, SCO provides many resources you will need to succeed! If those doctors who just graduated in May could do it then we can too!
I hope you are looking forward to your time here at SCO. You will become a part of a loving family. I feel cared for here and I am sure you will as well. Enjoy the rest of the summer!
All the best,
My wife, Annaliese, and I at the White Coat Ceremony
Hi y’all! :)
I’m officially a 4th-year optometry student!!! How crazy! It’s such a bittersweet feeling to be completely done with my didactic career at SCO. Yes, I’m very very excited to no longer have to take an SCO exam again but I’m also extremely sad that time has gone so quickly. I just cannot believe that I’ve already been in Memphis three years and have taken hundreds of exams at the school. A lot of my classmates are no longer on campus because they have headed out to their fourth-year externships. I, however, will be staying in Memphis for my first rotation at the Eye Center- so my official goodbye to Memphis will be in August. :(
At the end of third-year, we had a much needed two-week break. I went home, to Florida, and enjoyed some much-needed family and beach time with my husband! It was so much fun! This trip was a special one because while I was home, NBEO part 1 scores were released and I found out that I PASSED!!! It had been six weeks since we took the exam so figuring out the results was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. After a wonderful trip home, it was much easier to head back to Memphis knowing there are only three more months before moving to Florida- near family! I’m so excited to enjoy these last few months in Memphis. I will be soaking up every minute! (Especially now that studying is finally over)
Externships are such an exciting time! As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post, I will be rotating through the Daytona Beach VA hospital in the fall semester and then Coastal Vision private practice in Fernandina Beach, FL in the spring. I’m really excited about the clinical experience I’ll be receiving at those sites. I’m grateful that SCO requires an institutional rotation as well as a private practice rotation because I am sure they will be very different from one another. I have heard that the VA hospital will provide a lot of additional experience, particularly in ocular disease and I am excited to learn more about how to run a private practice while in Fernandina Beach- since my goal is to be in private practice post-graduation.
As of right now, I am two days into my SCO externship. Yesterday I spent half of my day in low vision clinic and the other half in vision therapy. Today I was at one of SCO’s satellite clinics at the University of Memphis (in a more private practice setting). Tomorrow, I will be in pediatric clinic. Each area of the clinic is so unique and provides such a great learning experience. It’s definitely been an adjustment to get used to clinic all day, every day and no classes but I have been loving it so far. I’m sure it’ll take a few weeks to get fully adjusted but I’m super excited about what the rest of the summer has in store.
I’ll make sure to keep you updated about how externs turn out…for now, here is a picture of my last first day of school, ever! :)