Call me ICO’s resident list girl. As I say goodbye to my third year and venture on to fourth year externships, I wanted to share my wisdom, experience, and in some cases, just plain surprise as to what third year entails here at the Illinois College of Optometry. We are pushed harder in the classroom, clinic, and most importantly, as future leading optometrists. Take a look for yourself below. Enjoy!
1. Clinical experience skyrockets – Rather than being in clinic once a week for half the quarter, you will now be assigned two clinic shifts (plus one rotation – see #2.) You will be in clinic BY YOURSELF. That’s right, you’re (kinda) calling the shots under one of ICO’s esteemed attending doctors! Additionally, class load will decrease somewhat, but you’ll be taking classes with far more ocular disease.
2. Specialty clinic rotations – During your third year here, in addition to seeing your own patients two times a week in clinic, you will immerse yourself each quarter in four different rotations. These expose you to specialties in optometry. Rotations include Chicago Public Schools, Low Vision/Pediatrics, Contact Lenses, and the Illinois Eye Institute Optical.
3. Case study or research paper – In the Summer, you’ll be asked to fulfill a case study or research paper designed to help you prod further into an area of optometry. You can do it by yourself or in small groups. I selected a case study under one of ICO’s favorite doctors, Dr. Erica Ittner, where I am detailing primary open angle glaucoma and appropriate treatments for difficult/non-compliant patients.
4. Primary Care Conferences – Starting from your very first quarter of third year, you’ll sit alongside the rest of your class once a week at 8:00 a.m. to hear guest lecturers, take case quizzes (very helpful for upcoming Part II of NBEO), or learn about topics such as billing and coding. Although it’s early, it’s very helpful to explore clinical topics.
5. Practicals are still a thing – While you may have all of your optometry clinical skill practicals under your belt, there are more specialized practicals underway that include subjects relating to pediatric examination, amblyopia/strabismus diagnosis, contact lenses, and low vision. You’ll learn to get organized like you never have before. Do yourself a favor: employ a calendar early!
6. Externship selections – These begin in fall quarter and last for a period of a few months so that you may do your research. In fourth year, you’re required to do one rotation at the Illinois Eye Institute and three others wherever your heart desires. To make you a well-rounded clinician, you will be asked to fulfill 20 primary care hours, 10 pediatric, 10 contact lens, 5 low vision, 10 advanced care, and a bonus 10 hours for extra play room. (See previous blog post here for full details and where I’ll be going!)
7. You’ll study for NBEO part I… a lot – It’s good to know in advance that you’ll putting in many hours of studying while undergoing your third year. Many opt to study prior to winter break. Others start right after. Have a game plan about when you’ll start and stick to it, and make manageable goals! (See where I studied here).
8. KMK prep – KMK is a boards part I/part II preparatory program designed to help you tackle this seemingly daunting test. My advice: order the KMK books/materials as early as August/September. I’m not saying you have to touch them right away, but it’s good to see what you’ll be up against. It may even motivate you to start earlier than you would have originally.
9. Contact Lens Society Lunch and Learns – One of everyone’s favorite parts about third year is that the ICO Contact Lens Society organizes MANY lunch events. Contact lens and anterior segment leaders/vendors/representatives from across the nation come speak with the class about the latest technology and clinical trends. It’s a fantastic asset to enhance our contact lens/anterior segment knowledge, and it’s FREE lunch! Catering ranges from Panera and Jimmy Johns to Chicago favorites like Thai, Korean, pizza, and Portillos.
10. Injections and laser labs (YEAH, you read that correctly) – Everyone at ICO hears rumors of injections and laser labs. Well, to give you the skinny, third years undergo a series of various injections ranging from intradermal and intravenous and even subconjunctival. As far as lasers go, we have a wet lab in which we actually perform LASIK on pig eyes and gain experience in ocular laser use such as with YAG, SLT, and ALT. We’re a lucky group of optometry students in the nation to have our noteworthy professors, Dr. Lindsay Sicks and Dr. Elyse Chaglasian, go out of their way to organize these courses for us. It’s a lot of fun!
That wraps up the top 10 things that third years have to look forward to that you may not have otherwise known in detail. Be on the look-out for my next ICO list, coming soon.