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Still Discovering Optometry

Upon starting at SCO last fall I thought a lot about how involved I wanted to be while here. There were a lot of clubs and activities available outside of the classroom, but I wasn't sure how much I could actually handle. My first thought was, "Does anyone in their right mind even have time for all of this?!" After realizing that there was, indeed, life beyond the classroom, I started looking for ways to get involved. There were a few clubs I knew I wanted to be a part of such as OPP (private practice) and NORA (neuro rehabilitation) because of my interest in those areas. I also signed up for a few intramural teams which kept me both active and sane. I felt like I had a good handle on my schedule and things were going well. However, as the semester grew longer I realized that I was missing something that was very important to my education: perspective. In all honesty, it's very easy to get bogged down beneath the piles of new information, endless quizzes and tiring exam weeks of optometry school and forget the reason of why you went there in the first place. As I searched for ways to regain this perspective, I began to heavily consider applying for the Ambassador Program at SCO. A few things went through my mind over the weeks leading up to the application deadline. Cons: It requires extra hours away from home, It requires extra effort in addition to my current school (and work-study) work load, It is unpaid. Pros: Networking with various optometrists, professionals, and campus guests, Improving communication skills, Working with groups of prospective students, Educating others about optometry, and advocating on behalf of SCO. In a word, the pros could be summed up as "perspective". It was clear that this would be a great opportunity for me.

After applying and being accepted into the Ambassador Program, it didn't take long for me to see this perspective take effect. An example may be useful:

Near the end of June I was involved in Discover Optometry; a day-long event of introducing prospective students to the profession of optometry and SCO. It came during one of the busiest weeks of the mini term nicknamed the "2nd Year Bootcamp." Initially it seemed like a huge sacrifice to break away from studying for the several quizzes and tests we had the following week, but ultimately I found that it was just what I needed. Most of the campus guests were in the process of obtaining their undergraduate degree. Others came from different professions and were looking to see if optometry was a good fit for them. There was an extremely diverse group of students and their families in attendance from all over the country. After greeting the guests and answering questions over lunch, we gave tours of the campus and clinic and discussed all the aspects of the profession. Part of the tour included a brief clinical demonstration by a few faculty and students using the slitlamp. Participants were also able to attend two Q&A sessions with panels of current students and faculty who answered questions ranging from OAT prep to annual starting salary.

One of the main things that stood out to me after participating in this event was how fascinating everything was to those visiting. They asked a lot of questions about the different areas of care within optometry and were excited about the many modes of practice the profession offers. During the clinic tour they were amazed at the level of care the student interns were able to give. Shortly after the event, it occurred to me that it wasn't too long ago that I was the same wide-eyed prospective student that couldn't wait for the chance to work in the clinic at SCO one day. Discover Optometry was just one of the many activities that I've been involved in through the Ambassador Program and it has helped me remember why I love this profession so much. It's comforting to see others share the same passion I have and to work just as hard as I have to move the profession of optometry forward. I haven't once regretted the decision to become an Ambassador and it has been a privilege to share my love of optometry with others. With the new school year upon us I'm looking forward to helping with Orientation and meeting a whole new group of entering students to help give me that much needed perspective!

at 8/30/16 | 0 comments

The best way to learn is to...

...FAIL! I'm referring to my very first patient encounter in The Eye Center, about four months ago. I can still remember that morning very clearly. Three of my classmates and I were gathered around a computer, nervously waiting for our four morning patients to arrive. When the screen indicated that a patient was ready to go, my stomach dropped. I knew that I was going to take the first patient of the day and I got major butterflies in my stomach. It's not that I felt unprepared. SCO does an AMAZING job preparing students to succeed in clinic. It starts during your first year with countless hours in the lab learning and practicing the skills. It continues with RAM trips, SVOSH trips, exams for the homeless in your community, school screenings, and even more hours during second year practicing and refining your skills. I knew that I could perform well in the clinic, but because it was my first official patient of my 3rd year clinic experience, I was petrified.

I jumped into my case history and chair skills, before returning to report to my staff doctor. As I prepared to give my report and plan before beginning refraction and the ocular health exam I noted the time. I had been in there for a VERY long time! Looking back now, I had spent too much time talking with the patient and had lost control of the exam. After getting back on track, I began to proceed through the exam. My patient had significant health challenges which I had never seen before (most of my patient encounters in screenings/labs had been on healthy eyes). Although I knew, on paper, what I should be seeing or looking for, I was amazed at how different some of the findings looked. Besides being very slow, I was very confused by what I was seeing. Only after my staff doctor confirmed the findings did I realize that conditions and diseases can present in many different ways. In other words, there is NO TEXTBOOK PICTURE that can accurately represent what I will see in every patient. The only way I will get comfortable with diagnosing and treating my patients will be for me to see LOTS of eyes. That is why I am SO grateful I came to SCO. We have the largest eye clinic in the country and see hundreds of patients every day!

While I didn't really "fail" in that first patient encounter, I made tons of mistakes in my charting and my time efficiency was atrocious. Now, four months later, I have gotten faster and more confident in my charting ability. Thanks to the dozens of patient encounters I have had this semester (in The Eye Center and nursing homes around Memphis), I have gotten better at identifying abnormalities in the eye. I have gotten better at striking a balance in getting to know my patients and proceeding through the exam at a good pace. While I have improved, I still have many weaknesses which I will improve in the coming months. My clinic experience has been enjoyable, challenging, humbling, and encouraging. The staff doctors at SCO are wonderful! They are there because they want to help us become great doctors. Their advice and counsel has been the secret to making strides in the clinic. I can't wait to see what the next few months have in store!

at 8/22/16 | 0 comments

A New Beginning

Hello there, everyone!

I should start by introducing myself. My name is Stephanie Ross and I am an incoming student at SCO (Class of 2020!...How cool is that?!). For my undergraduate years, I attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida where I graduated with a degree in Health Sciences. My husband and I (we just got married a few weeks ago :)) moved to Memphis from Sarasota, FL, last week. It's been quite the transition, yet such an exciting new journey for us! We actually moved into a 1-bedroom loft apartment at the Bristol on Union which is right across the street from SCO's campus and his new job at Methodist University Hospital. We also have a view of Downtown Memphis! It's perfect!!! Though fall semester has not officially begun yet, I began training for my work-study position in the SCO library and the location of our apartment allows me to walk each day- It's quick and we save money on gas!

One thing that absolutely boggles my mind is how quickly time has passed. The application process, taking the OAT, the interview process, all of it- was already 1 year ago! Since that time, I have attended the SCO Housing Fair, met several of my new classmates, got my White Coat measurement, attended a Memphis Grizzlies game and eaten at several BBQ places (Central BBQ is my favorite, so far...).

I am already falling in love with this city and cannot wait for my upcoming years at SCO, experiencing all that Memphis and SCO has to offer!

Stay Tuned... in just 12 short days is New Student Orientation :)

Talk to you soon,


at 8/13/16 | 0 comments

My final days on campus!

Hello, readers! My time here on campus at SCO is coming to a close. One week from tomorrow will be my last day as a student intern at The Eye Center and a week later I'll be starting my first externship rotation at my private practice site. This summer has been busy and I've learned a ton from my patient encounters. The main thing that sets the 4th year internship here apart from external clinics and private practices is the fact that we are assigned to a different service each day of the week. Rather than seeing a mix of every type of patient encounter each day, we have a whole day each week devoted to something specific. While this might not be how clinics will be structured in practice, it's been a good way to really refine our skills in certain areas and to work under doctors with a lot of experience in that specific sub-specialty. I really enjoyed having my in-house internship in the summer so that I have these specific skill sets a little more refined before starting my externships in the fall and spring semesters. For example, today I'm assigned to the Cornea & Contact Lens service at The Eye Center, meaning that all of my patients today are contact lens exams, fittings, and follow-ups. Tomorrow I'm assigned to Advanced Care Ocular Disease which will bring acute eye problems and various disease treatment and management. These are both things that I will likely see on a regular basis beginning in a few weeks when I start my first externship at Dr. Norton's private practice in south Memphis.

I'll miss working under so many different attending doctors when I'm off on my externships because its been a great way to develop my own skills from the influence of many different doctors, but I'm excited to get out there are to start using my skills in different settings. I'll be at a private practice through December and at my institutional site from January through May. I'll be sure to post updates throughout the rest of my 4th year comparing my externships to my time as a student intern at SCO. Also, I'll keep y'all updated on the post-graduation job search as well! Thanks for reading!

at 8/11/16 | 0 comments

Real Patients and Real Patience

Happy August, everyone! Only two more weeks left in this semester, and I will already be a third of the way done with year 3! Woo!

Obviously, the biggest change from last year to this year has been the start of clinic. I am in clinic on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but the day that I see patients in Adult Primary Care clinic is Thursday. I know I keep saying how big of a change it is, but it seriously is a huge change! We’ve been practicing our clinical skills in lab for two years, beginning with retinoscopy the first week of 1st year. Between preparing for practicals and then pre-clinic checkouts, I’ve definitely put a lot of hours into practicing these skills. I think I was the most prepared that I could have been to start using them with patients, but it’s still so different to go into a patient encounter with your first real patient! I was more than a little nervous going into my first exam, but, like I said, we were very well prepared for this experience, and at some point I knew I’d have to just jump right in. My first patient was actually very straightforward, and I couldn’t have asked for a better first day!

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this summer is to be patient with myself and with my clinical knowledge. It seems almost impossible to take all of the things we’ve learned from the classroom and in lab, and to throw them all together in clinic, but every week it gets more and more manageable. I love the feeling that I have no idea of what I could see during an exam, (though it also terrifies me at the same time) and this gives me something to look forward to every week.

Comparing clinical cases with other classmates, I know that there are so many possible patient encounters to experience in Memphis and at The Eye Center. Hearing my classmates’ stories and thinking about my own experiences, I really feel like being in clinic solidifies everything I love about optometry. It has definitely been a challenge, but certainly a welcome one after putting in two years of hard work to get to this point!

So, that’s all for now. I’m gearing up for finals next week, and am also in the process of choosing externship site locations for next year, so stay tuned for more updates on that! Enjoy the last few weeks of summer, y’all :)

at 8/10/16 | 0 comments