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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.