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It feels like so much has happened since I last wrote on the blog. I’d love to fill you in on my third year at SCO. It’s been a very exciting year and so many new things have begun. The most exciting of those new things is that I began seeing patients in The Eye Center. Of course, I had spent some time shadowing in The Eye Center during second year but this has been the real deal. As third-year students at SCO, we spend three days a week in the clinic. One of those days is spent in Adult Primary Care and the other two days we rotate through different areas of the clinic such as Optical, Technology, Vision Therapy, etc. I have learned SO much in such a short amount of time and that’s what I love most. Naturally, I was a little intimidated and nervous to begin seeing patients alone, but I have gotten much more comfortable as time has progressed. And of course, much faster!! The staff doctors at SCO are super helpful, and that’s what I’m most thankful for. I never feel embarrassed to ask them questions and to bounce ideas off of them. That has been so fundamental as I start to brainstorm through differential diagnoses that I will need to consider in my future clinical years.
In addition to beginning to see patients in clinic, we have also selected and been assigned our externship sites for our fourth year. At SCO, we rotate through three different externship sites. One of those externship sites is at The Eye Center and the other two are at an institutional site and a private practice site. The process of choosing externship sites can be quite involved but our externship office does an amazing job making it run as smoothly as possible. For my externship sites, I will be spending the summer of my fourth year at The Eye Center and then I will be headed to the Daytona Beach VA for my fall semester and then Coastal Vision for my private practice site in Fernandina Beach, FL. I’m really excited to be back in Florida for my last two externship sites but am also feeling sad knowing that this will officially be my last year in Memphis :( It’s crazy to think how quickly time has gone…
Lastly, at this time, my classmates and I have begun preparing for Part I of National Boards. We take Part I in March of our third year. So although our class schedule has been much lighter than it was first and second year, studying for boards will be occupying our time. It’s not the most exciting thing to talk about but I’m sure once it’s over, we will feel very, very relieved!
Thanks for reading!!!
Just a reminder, my name is Pooja and I’m now a current SECOND year at SCO from Dallas, TX. If you read my previous blog post, I mentioned I would write about how I found myself at optometry school since this wasn’t my first career path.
After leaving my previous job running a corporate Mathnasium, I ended up going back home to figure out what I wanted to do for a career, shout out to my mom and dad for letting me live at home! My brother is an ophthalmologist with fellowship training in the cornea and was at that time starting up his own practice. He mentioned he could use some help in his clinic and employed me as his tech. Because my brother was starting from scratch, he wasn’t only seeing surgical patients. A lot of his practice was actually services an optometrist provides like diagnosing ocular conditions to refractions and selling eyewear. I told my brother how much I enjoyed those interactions and it was then that he set me up to shadow, Dr. Ivan Bank, an optometrist.
Here’s a photo of me and NOT my brother! That’s my nephew (my brother’s son). He’s a lot cuter than my brother so I’d rather give y’all something cute to look at!
Dr. Bank is a pretty well-known optometrist in the Dallas area. He specializes in management of care for patients with compromised corneas, like keratoconus. He specifically works with fitting these patients with medical contact lenses that not only help with their vision but also comfort. It was shadowing Dr. Bank that I also saw a great professional relationship between an ophthalmologist (my brother) and an optometrist (Dr. Bank). For example, after a transplant, the cornea can often have irregular astigmatism that can’t be fixed with standard glasses and contact lenses. I saw a lot of patients that my brother would transplant sent to Dr. Bank for a scleral contact lens to help them to see optimally. These patients were so grateful to not only my brother but to Dr. Bank for helping them see well again! Wink wink*, the plan is to work with my brother after I hopefully finish residency training. Maybe I’ll still be writing then and can keep y’all updated to how that partnership works out!
Well, there you have it, that basically sums up how I got interested in this field. It sparked such an interest that I finished all the other pre-requisite classes I needed (microbiology, physics, and organic chemistry), took my OAT, and applied to school in the following six months!
Just kidding, of course I have to include my brother in here!
When choosing an optometry school, I had an area of interest that was high on my priority list: research. I knew that whatever school I chose, I wanted them to have a research program that was available to students. After hearing about SCO’s Summer Research Program, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
During the spring semester of first yYear, information was sent out about how to apply to the program. I immediately sent in my application and was soon contacted by different faculty members that wanted to meet with me. During the selection process, I met with many faculty who are involved in the research program. This was a great opportunity for me to not only meet a lot of doctors that I hadn’t had a chance to meet yet, but to also get insight on their area of research and what really interests them.
Once you are selected to be in the program, you will be matched with the faculty who works in your area of interest. Ultimately, I was paired with Dr. Haworth who works with a lot of UV exposure, contact lenses, and dry eye, as well as other things. I was really excited to work with her to develop my own research project. Depending on your preference, you can be really independent and design and carry out your own research (with the supervision of a faculty member of course.) If you would like more help along the way, the doctor you are paired with is ready and willing to assist wherever you need them.
In addition to your central research project, we also had the opportunity to attend multiple 1-hour lectures over the summer that covered various topics of research such as how to write a research paper or how to present a poster on your research. This was also a great opportunity to meet multiple doctors here at SCO and listen to their talks.
Your work doesn’t entirely end at the end of the summer program. After you have completed your research and gathered your data, you get the chance to present your work at an optometry or research centered conference. I look forward to this opportunity once I’m fully done gathering my data!
Overall, this was an amazing program that gave me more insight into the field of research, more exposure to my area of interest, and gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of different doctors at SCO. I highly recommend applying and getting involved in optometric research!
Hello! I’m a 1st-year contributor to the SCO student blog and I am so happy to be able to lend my experience to those who are considering optometry school and Southern College of Optometry. Here in my initial blog post, I will tell you why I chose optometry and why I chose SCO. There are many career options out there for those who appreciate medicine and there are many options for where you can study to be an optometrist. Deciding where I wanted to go to school after my undergraduate education was tough- every school that I considered (about 10 schools in the US) were incredible! My decision to go to SCO involved a very long pro/con list and many plane tickets across the US, but ultimately, came down to an overall impression that I experienced at SCO. More about this in a moment, I would like to explain what experiences led me to pursue optometry school and how I overcame a less-than-perfect condition that culminated in a happy ugly-cry phone call that changed my life.
One of my first shadowing experiences was following a well-established optometrist in my hometown. In fact, after shadowing this practitioner, I encouraged my mom to consider making this optometrist her primary eye doctor. Within a year or so, the optometrist found a quickly-developing stromal ulcer in my mom’s right eye that resulted in a responsive treatment schedule and ultimate remission of the ulcer. My fascination with the eyes and optics became my purpose as I was inspired by this optometrist and other clinical experiences over the years. From that point, I went out in search of job openings in the optometric field and landed a position as an optometric technician. I gave myself the opportunity to back out if I didn’t like working in the practice or if I found that optometry wasn’t for me. However, there was no doubt in my mind- I absolutely loved it! I found that optometrists can help people see their world clearer in many different clinical environments.
Like so many other students, I was overworking myself and not putting in the time required to stay around the 3.5 GPA that most optometry schools expect from undergrads. I contacted every admissions director of the 10 schools to which I was applying. I received very specific instruction from each director to make my application “more competitive”. I would encourage anyone considering optometry school to reach out by phone call to the admissions office for personalized advice! After I knew what I had to do, I increased my GPA by completing a biology masters and I increased my score on the OAT using OAT destroyer, the Kaplan OAT practice tests, and “Chad’s videos”/Coursesaver. The first admissions phone call that I received was from SCO - I was admitted into SCO for the Class of 2022! It is still surreal being able to say those words. If you think that your application isn’t “good enough” for optometry school, reach out to those who can help you and never allow yourself to give up.
I am so excited to start my education in optometry, and particularly, at SCO. I was drawn to SCO because of the Eye Center, the external clinics, the diverse clinic-centered curriculum, the Hayes Center, and the unique student experience. The Eye Center is the community and research clinic on campus that cares for about 40,000 patients a year and houses every nearly subspecialty of eye care. Walking through the clinic, you know you are somewhere special. I knew that clinical studies were going to be the focus of my education at SCO when I looked at which classes were offered in the first year. I feel so welcomed by the students, staff, and professors at SCO. I cannot wait to get started!
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!