Since arriving at ICO in 2012, I’ve tried to improve my study habits and general approach to student life. I was a model of poor health during my first year. My extreme commute and my time-consuming responsibilities as senior editor of OptometryStudents.com took their toll. But I made some adjustments, and now I feel mentally sharper and have more energy. Here are some tips that have helped me be successful in my classes and stay healthy–maybe some of these can work for you, too.
Treat your lectures as if you have an exam on that exact material the next day
Don’t waste your time half-listening in class, “multitasking” by scrolling through Facebook or Snapchat on your phone. Imagine that you’ll be performing the clinical procedure you’re learning about later that day, and the patient’s sight depends on YOU. If you can hang on to every word your professor says, you’ll save tons of time studying later on. (Sorry for not heeding this advice sooner, Dr. Goodfellow!)
Half way through our second year, the class of 2016 has had plenty of experience in lab. By now, we’re all comfortable with practically pressing our faces together for Direct Ophthalmoscopy, or contorting the faces of our patients to get a good look for BIO. I’d like to give a few pointers on simple etiquette in lab that we’ve all learned since first year. Some of this may seem obvious, but as we get more comfortable and get into a routine, we often fall into bad habits unconsciously. On top of that, some people may not feel comfortable correcting you. This makes it even worse, because as you cross over and become an OD, these habits stick with you and could affect your patients’ experience, and determine whether or not they return or find somewhere else to go.
Quick disclaimer: I’m not saying I’ve necessarily experienced every item on this list this first hand. Some of this comes from joking around with classmates, casual conversation or just common sense.
What a difference a year makes. First quarter wrapped up a month ago, and I think all my classmates would agree that first quarter of second year is a walk in the park compared to first quarter of first year. Last quarter, as I walked through the library, I noticed first year students hunched over those dreaded Human Anatomy notes, 20 different colors highlighting the hundreds of tiny anatomical parts we needed to memorize. It was a bittersweet moment: I felt the pain of those first years trying to remember which nerves at the upper thyroid cartilage would be affected by damage to the right side of the throat. But I also rejoiced in the knowledge that I’d never have to relive the rude awakening most of them were experiencing. Spare time was a luxury rarely afforded last year. This year, believe it or not, I’ve actually been able to work out regularly and get more than five hours of sleep a night.
My commute is kind of crazy: Door-to-door roundtrip, it takes five hours. Some days I really don’t mind it, others I feel I could go off the deep end like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. Here’s a quick synopsis of my everyday journey:
-up at 5:30 a.m., pulling out of my driveway by 6.
-frantic 5-10 minute drive to get to the Metra train station in Kenosha, Wis., praying to hit every green light and hoping for no cops with speed guns along the way. Try to find a close parking spot at the train station. Jump out of the car, grab my backpack and lunch, and do the awkward shuffle/run with my backpack swaying from side to side, and hop on the Metra by 6:15 a.m.
-an hour-and-a-half train ride where it’s crucial to be productive. I create my own little work space in the cramped seat: computer open, notes propped up, pen, phone, water bottle and snack by my side. Arrive at Ogilvy Station in downtown Chicago by 7:45 a.m.
Meeting with Sen. Boozman (middle)
So one day I’m sitting down with a senator giving him my opinion on foreign policy (no big deal), the next I’m wired with caffeine at 5 a.m., sitting on my friend’s couch cramming for my Ocular Physiology exam. Just a day in the life I guess, ha! In all seriousness though, those events did happen last week, and it was crazy but incredible. Last Monday I flew to Washington, D.C., for the Congressional Advocacy Conference. I returned back home Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., crashing at my buddy’s house two blocks from campus and cramming as much as possible for my OcPys exam the following morning. On Thursday I took the exam on four hours of sleep, and also had clinic and a practical. Whoa!
For those of you unfamiliar with Congressional Advocacy Conference, every year optometrists and optometry students converge on Washington to lobby for pro-optometry bills and against anti-optometry ones. Attendees may also go to some fantastic restaurants and bars, meet tons of students and ODs (great networking opportunities!), and have the chance to rub elbows with some big names. Along with a few others, I got to sit down with Sen. John Boozman, OD at his beautiful office on Capitol Hill. He’s the only senator that’s also an optometrist, and he’s a great advocate for the profession and a very down-to-earth guy. We talked optometry, Arkansas football, and then he actually asked us for our thoughts on Syria before a meeting with Pres. Obama!