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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!