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Third Year Summer!

Liz Frontino, Class of 2018, Brookville, PA

Hi again, everyone!

It’s crazy to think that I’m already halfway through first semester of third year!

This summer has been already been extremely busy so far, and unbelievably different from third year. We are still doing a mixture of classes and labs, with the added element of clinic! I am really enjoying having so many patient encounters, and feeling like I’m finally doing what I came here to do. I will share more on my clinical experience in a few months—so stay tuned for that!

In addition to being in various clinical departments 3 days a week, my classmates and I have had various after-hours opportunities for patient care. The first two were a part of our contact lens course, and involved two nights of contact lens fitting workshops. They were both through a program called STAPLE- the Soft Toric and Presbyopic Lens Education Program- and they gave us the chance to fit lenses on patients other than our classmates. The first night was the toric workshop (for patients with astigmatism) and the second was for patients over 40 who wanted to be fit with multifocal lenses for both distance and near vision. Both nights were really wonderful experiences. I wore contact lenses for over ten years so I have no problem putting them on myself, but it is always daunting to insert and remove a lens on someone else’s eye. Also, as students we are often very cooperative patients so it was much more realistic to be able to practice on people from the community. I think we are so fortunate at SCO to have some amazing contact lens didactic education (Dr. Jackson is the best!), but the hands-on experience is really invaluable for future practice. Contact lenses are such a huge part of the optometric world, and I really want to feel confident in this aspect of clinical care. It was great to feel like I was able to get a jumpstart on this through these workshops.

Another extra activity that I recently completely through SCO was a Saturday Service Experience. As third years, we have a service requirement to complete, and this was one of the components of that. To be honest, I was not all that excited to spend my Saturday morning at school doing an eye exam (sorry, Dr. McGriff!), but this experience was incredibly rewarding. We gave exams to patients from various drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs throughout Memphis, and were encouraged to spend a lot of time getting to know our patients more than we would get to during a normal exam; we even had lunch with them afterwards. It was a great feeling to be able to provide eye care, even if it was just a glasses prescription, to people who needed it, and I genuinely enjoyed talking to and learning about my patient. These are the kinds of patient encounters that will not only enhance my optometric career and practice, but also impact who I am as a person. Turns out, it wasn’t such a bad way to spend a Saturday morning after all!

Whew, who knew I could be so long-winded on a Sunday night? Other than clinic and classes, I’m busy finding ways to stay cool in HOT Memphis July. I’m looking forward to continuing this semester and seeing what else third year has in store for me. Until next time!

at 7/10/16 | 0 comments

Sliding into Second Year

Jed Harrison, Class of 2019, Brigham City, UT

I've only ever met three other guys in my life with the name Jed, all of which are about as cowboy as you can get. As much as I have dreamed spending my days riding horses through the Utah mountains, that's not me. I grew up in Brigham City, a small town in northern Utah with a population of about 18,000 people. My grandpa (who actually was a cowboy) settled in Brigham City shortly after obtaining his OD degree from Southern College of Optometry. My dad, also an SCO alumni, continued running the family practice and has been there for more than 30 years.

It might seem that optometry should have been an easy decision for me. In fact, not only were my dad and grandpa optometrists, but my great grandpa was one as well. With such a tradition in my family of providing eye care for over 100 years, it's surprising to many people that it was not until I was a sophomore in undergrad that I had decided on optometry.

I attended Brigham Young University in Provo, UT from 2011 to 2015. I loved my experience there and it still feels like a bit of home to me. I majored in Neuroscience as a result of two inspirational high school teachers that taught Biology and Psychology. Not only was neuroscience a topic I was fascinated by, but I also felt that it would help me get into a health-care field which was my ultimate goal. BYU is a private church school nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains. My spare time was filled with mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, mountain climbing, snow-shoeing and anything else I could get my hands on. I met my wife, Andrea, at BYU and we were married in July 2012. I had barely known her a year, but I knew early on after meeting her that she was someone I could spend the rest of my life with. During school, Andrea ran on the track and cross country teams and I kept the funds coming by working for the Intramural Program.

Jed and Andrea at BYU

As I mentioned, around this time I didn't know for sure what I was going to do after undergrad. I'd had some very significant moments dealing with optometry in my life but I still wanted to stay open to other professions as well. As I continued my education, I found myself more and more attracted to optometry. I loved the optics section in my Physics courses and I was fascinated by how intricate and detailed the ocular innervation was in my neuroanatomy class. More and more I found that optometry fit very well with my interests and strengths. Optometry offered me a chance to work with individuals to problem solve and help come up with the best treatment plan (which was why I was interested in health care in the first place). Not only that, but optometry was consistently ranked among the most satisfactory professions when it came to quality of life. Being freshly married, this was also a very important part of my decision.

After working hard to take the right classes, shadowing optometrists , passing the OAT, and other requirements, I was accepted to optometry school. I started my first year at Southern College of Optometry in 2015 and am now entering my second year. SCO had always been my top choice for many reasons, particularly for the superior clinical experience that I would obtain. This first year has had many challenges but it has been well worth it. With both my wife and I being westerners (she is from Washington) it has been a major cultural shift but we love our new home! We are continuing to find more things to do each month amid our busy schedules, and we're glad we are making Memphis home.

Andrea and I after the White Coat Ceremony last Fall. See how supportive she is wearing her glasses shirt? :)
Andrea and I after the White Coat Ceremony last Fall. See how supportive she is wearing her glasses shirt? :)

I'm looking forward to sharing with you my experiences here at SCO and hope that it might answer questions, make you think, or at least give you a good chuckle. Thanks for reading!

at 7/10/16 | 0 comments


AJ McCleary, Class of 2018, Puyallup, WA

I can't believe that my SCO experience is already halfway done! It seems like we were just pulling our moving van up to our new apartment in Southaven. My wife and I were recently reflecting on our time in Memphis and decided that even though it feels like we just got here, we definitely have made 2 years worth of memories! We were looking over our pictures and couldn't believe how many fun things we've been blessed to enjoy, from Grizzlies games to picnics with classmates. Even though we go out and explore some part of Memphis almost every weekend, we are amazed that we continue to find new things every time! Just this past week, we went to the Pink Palace museum for the first time and FINALLY tried the pulled pork nachos from Central BBQ. If I have one regret about living here, it is waiting two years to try the nachos.

Second year was definitely a busy year. Because it is the last purely pre-clinical year, our staff doctors and professors really pushed us to learn as much as we could. Even though it was very busy, and stressful at times, it was a lot of fun! Instead of viewing the classes as just something I had to "get through" like I did sometimes in undergrad, the clinical relevance of the material created a sense of urgency. I truly wanted to learn everything that was presented in class, not just to do well on an exam, but to be ready for clinic! I wanted to hit the ground running with my patients. Although the classes definitely pushed us to get ready for clinic, we still had plenty of opportunities to practice what we learned. Our labs were focused on new procedures. We improved the efficiency of our exams. We improved the skills we had learned first year. For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of second year were the school screenings we did. It was fun, challenging, hilarious, and humbling to perform eye screenings on school-aged children as young as three. I always walked away more excited to be an optometrist!

Now, a few weeks into third year, I am more sure than ever that I picked a wonderful career! My first patient encounters in clinic have reinforced my desire to get to know, diagnose, and treat those with whom I get the privilege to work. Every day in clinic is both humbling and exciting! It has been as wonderful to discover strengths as it has been frustrating to identify weaknesses. The good news is that I still have two more years of patient encounters at SCO to work on those weaknesses and a lifetime of work to continuously learn and improve.

I am so grateful I chose to attend SCO. Although only beginning, my clinical experience so far has been very rewarding! The "ah-ha" moments that we were promised in class would come have indeed come! It is amazing how much easier it is to internalize concepts when you discover them with your BIO or pick them up with your 90. Because The Eye Center at SCO is so busy, we are seeing lots of patients! Because of the many patient encounters we have had and will continue to have, I feel very confident that, upon graduation, I will be well prepared to go anywhere in the country and do a great job as an optometrist.

I can't wait to see what I will see in clinic this week. Until next time!

at 7/10/16 | 0 comments

Life as a 4th Year Intern!

Lisa Russell Roach, Class of 2017, The Woodlands, TX

Hello again! Now that I'm over halfway through my 4th year intern semester at The Eye Center at SCO I just wanted to check in with an update on what it's like to be seeing patients here as a 4th year. It's a pretty big change from 3rd year clinic so there is a lot to talk about!

For comparison I'll start with a quick recap of what 3rd year clinic is like. As a 3rd year, you have classes in the mornings from about 8:00 until about 10:00. After that, you have clinic for the rest of the day beginning at 10:00 - but only three days per week. Each of these three days is a different clinic assignment: one day in primary care, one day working in the optical, and one day rotating through other more specialized services such as vision therapy, teen clinic, technology, and our external nursing home service. The other 2 afternoons are either free time for studying (which comes in handy when it's time to study for Part 1 of Boards!) or labs, depending on the semester.

As 4th years, we no longer have any classes (which also means no more studying for midterms and finals - yay!). Another change is that only one third of the class is at The Eye Center each semester because the other two thirds are out on their external sites first (each student has to spend one semester in-house at The Eye Center). Also, it's a lot more like working a real full-time job: we are in clinic from about 8:00am until about 6:00pm five days a week. We are divided into groups of 4-5 students and each group is in a different service each day of the week. My group is in pediatrics on Mondays, primary care on Tuesdays, low vision/vision therapy on Wednesdays, contact lens clinic on Thursdays, and ocular disease on Fridays. It's a good system and it makes sure we get adequate exposure to each service so that we are competent in all areas and are able to determine what services we might want to offer when we are out practicing on our own. I also think being in a different clinic each day of the week makes the weeks fly by, and I can't believe the summer term is over halfway over already! It's been a busy summer, but I'm learning a ton every day. I'm excited to begin my external rotations in the fall so that I can apply everything I'm learning here in different settings.  Graduation is in 300 days and I'm making sure to benefit as much as possible from time working with my brilliant attending doctors before I'm out on my own!

Thanks for reading - I'll write again at the end of the summer to wrap up my experience as a student doctor at The Eye Center before I head off to my private practice site in the fall. I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July!

at 7/7/16 | 0 comments

Part 1, externs, and a new last name!

Hello, readers! It has been a while since my last post and a LOT has happened in the time that has passed!

Spring semester of third year was busy with preparing for Part 1 of our National Boards (which my class took in the middle of March this year) while finishing up our last semester of coursework and seeing patients in The Eye Center three days a week. The time between Christmas break and Boards FLEW by, and before we knew it it was time to take the big test! Part 1 is taken over two full days and consists of 500 questions over a LOT of topics. Studying for it was a huge task and could be stressful at times, but the feeling of walking out after the second day of testing was almost worth it. The downside to finally finishing the exam on March 16th was that we had to wait until May 3rd to receive our scores and find out whether or not we passed. My new husband (eek!) and I found out four days before our wedding that we both passed, which definitely added to the happiness and celebration of that week! And just in case we weren't already sure that we are compatible - we actually got the EXACT same score on the test, which has to be pretty unlikely since scores range from 100-900. I guess all of our "study dates" over the past 8 years paid off. Happy day!

Speaking of happy days, Ben and I got married on May 7th in our hometown in Texas and it was just perfect. We had a blast celebrating with our family and friends and dancing the night away at our reception! The morning after the wedding we flew to Canada for our honeymoon. We spent 3 nights in beautiful French Canada (Quebec City) and 3 nights in busy downtown Toronto and we couldn't have asked for a better trip. We were sad to head back to the states on Sunday, but excited to start our 4th year externships the very next day! I am in-house at my SCO rotation this semester and Ben is at his institutional rotation at the Memphis VAMC. We are only on day 3 so far so I will write a more detailed post specifically about externs later on, but so far so good! It's hard to believe my class is already in our 4th year and that we're spread out all over the country at different extern sites. What an adventure it has been!

Thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to the SCO community for going above and beyond in congratulating Ben and I on our marriage! We are so happy and are so thankful for the support. I'll be back soon with a post about externs!

-Lisa Roach :-)

at 5/18/16 | 0 comments