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One of the biggest hurdles (if not THE biggest) that 3rd year optometry students face is Part 1 of National Boards. For optometry students, it’s “The Other Big Dance” in March, and it tests on almost every classroom subject covered within the first 3 years of school. With the massive amount of material that the exam covers and the extensive studying that’s required, there’s little time or energy left for much else during the months leading up to March. If you were to approach a 3rd year student around, say, March 10th earlier this year and ask them what their favorite place to eat in Memphis was, they would probably spew off a list of medications that are required to be taken on an empty stomach. I had classmates tell me that they couldn’t even escape the exam material by watching a Netflix show without having one of the main characters develop some sort of disease that was a risk factor for dry eye disease, glaucoma, retinal venous occlusions…. you get the idea.
However, as much preparation as there is that goes into the weeks and months leading up to the boards exam, the one thing that I learned the most from the exam itself was that the majority of boards preparation began at day 1 of year 1. The boards prep materials were fantastic ways to review and solidify knowledge, but upon completion of the exam, I realized how much I already knew from countless hours spent in the classroom, lab, and clinic. I had the privilege of learning from some of the best and brightest minds in optometry, and I owe much of my success on Part 1 to their skilled instruction.
I share this because there is a lot of apprehension that students undergo leading up to boards exams. Some of this apprehension is good because it keeps you motivated to study hard and strengthen areas of weakness. But I also think that many SCO students don’t know how much preparation they’ve already had in the years leading up to the exam. Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying you can breeze on into the exam thinking that sitting through class is enough. But what I am saying is that it’s important to not discredit how much just getting through the curriculum prepares you to not only pass boards, but to become a skilled doctor. It’s a long process, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.
I distinctly remember the feeling of inadequacy I had on my first day of lab my first semester of SCO. I remember thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m over here just barely learning how lenses work and I’m supposed to be a full-fledged doctor in 4 years! How is that even going to happen!”
As avid outdoorsmen, my wife and I love ascending mountains. I don’t mind a hike to a waterfall, or even just a loop trail through the woods. But by far the most rewarding hikes are those that give you a view at the top. The effort required, though, seems to have a linear relationship to how good the view is from the peak. My wife and I have an unspoken rule about climbing mountains, especially large ones. When we’re on the hardest bit of elevation gain, we don’t look up. We look around, we take water breaks, we’ll even sit and rest for a bit, but it does us no good to look up only to be discouraged by how steep the terrain is. Instead, we dig deep, we set our minds on the top, and we keep moving forward.
hiking the Fiery Gizzard trail near Chattanooga
The ascent to Part 1 of boards is tough, but it’s achievable through consistent, long-term effort. SCO has the curriculum and tools to make that happen and I’m incredibly grateful for the preparation that it’s offered. There will be many more peaks in my optometric education to ascend, but for now the view is great!