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ICO in Florida

ICO in Florida

Posted by on Sep 11, 2015 in Blogs

Last April, I received an invitation to an all-expenses paid conference with the Vision Care Institute in Florida. Free airfare, hotel, and conference in the Sunshine State? Sign me up!

Fast forward a few months later. It was late August and the conference was finally here.

Along with six of my classmates, I flew to Jacksonville for two days to attend the conference with the Vision Care Institute (TVCI.) TVCI is home to Vistakon, a Johnson and Johnson company, that produces the Acuvue products that I have grown up using and now prescribe in clinic.

On the Thursday when I arrived, a driver picked me up and delivered me to the Sheraton Hotel, my home for the next two nights. After quickly checking in and receiving my welcome packet, myself and a few others took to Jax Beach for brunch and fun in the sun. With only a welcome reception on schedule for that night, we saw no reason not to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the nearby beaches in the Sunshine State.

The welcome reception began with cocktail hour snacking on coconut shrimp and empanadas while meeting some of the other 30 or so optometry students from other schools. Once the doors to the reception hall opened, we took our seats, listened to a welcome address from Dr. Millicent Knight and Dr. Charissa Lee, then helped ourselves to a plethora of food.

The morning of the conference began with breakfast at the hotel followed by a drive to the  Vision Care Institute and a second breakfast. TVCI was huge, modern, and beautifully designed. Having signed their secrecy form promising not to share company details, I took a single picture outside, then said goodbye to my camera for some hours.

The conference began with a couple of lectures from optometrists on practicing in the real world and succeeding in patient care. Topics of discussions included handling the tough stuff in patient care and prescribing for presbyopic patients. We took a lunch break and got to chat with some of the ODs on an informal basis.

Following lunch, we broke up into three groups to rotate through three activities. In the first activity, we worked in pairs to fit two different presbyopic patients in the Acuvue Moist multifocals. During the second activity, we learned about the different uses for the Acuvue Define lenses and tried them on ourselves. Because of the enhancing pigment at the limbal region, the lenses are also perfect for aging patients and those with arcus. We also learned about the level of UV protection Acuvue products have in comparison to other familiar soft lenses. The last activity included a tour of the large manufacturing facilities. Seeing how much thought and engineering goes into the production of a single lens was pretty neat. The program ended with a panel and Q&A with the five optometrists that had been with us for the day: Drs. Dortheanne Roberts, Edward Wygnoik, Drew Dayton, Patricia Poma-Nowinski, and Sharokh Kapadia.

At the end of the seminar, we were taken to Seasons 52 for a fancy dinner complete with flatbread, salad, entrees, and some incredible desserts. During dinner, we were given certificates celebrating our participation and completion of the program. Each of us getting called Dr. So-and-so as we received our certificates was icing on the cake.

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Beautiful palm trees and a lovely yellow house on the beach


White sandy beaches  


Atlantic Ocean 


Pretty dinner reception set up on arrival day 


The Vision Care Institute 


With my ICO crew at the Sheraton


Dinner at Seasons 52 on a very long table post conference


Salmon dinner


At dinner we were called doctors and received certificates for completing the program 


Pina coladas at the beach at our post-conference celebration

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Walking through Andersonville

Walking through Andersonville

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Blogs

The past five weeks have zoomed by and I am loving the change in pace. Gone are the days of classes, homework, and tests. From morning to evening for five days a week, I’m a clinician tasting what real life could be like in one of many clinical settings.

My clinical rotation site this summer is Visionary Eye Care, a private practice with two locations – one in Andersonville and the other in the South Loop. My time at the practice is spent doing routine eye exams, contact lens fits and evaluations, lasik pre and post-ops, dry eye work ups and treatments, binocular vision management, macular degeneration evaluations, and more. My favorite thing about being a fourth year is the level of autonomy I have. In clinic, I can make my own decisions. Outside of clinic, I am free to spend my leisure time as I please. Well, until Part II and III start to creep up.

The Andersonville location, where I am stationed 4 days a week, is set amidst a bustling neighborhood of restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, galleries, bakeries, and more. In the past few weeks, exploring and getting to know more about the diverse and vivid Andersonville community has been a delicious treat.

Before the work day begins or somewhere in between, I delight in coffee trips to La Colombe. Their mochas are delicious and my weakness!


I usually bring a “brown bag” lunch, but on occasion check out what the neighborhood has to offer. I lunched at Polygon Cafe, a thai restaurant and sushi bar, with a opened wall perfect for people-watching and awkwardly responding to greetings from my patients. The shrimp tempura and spicy tuna maki were yummy and my first-try of thai iced tea was delicious! There’s a lovely and often packed Swedish Bakery nearby where I’ve often disappeared into for mid-day treats. When National Donut Day rolled around, I popped in to claim one of the last two sugary fruit-filled pockets of goodness.


Across the street from Visionary, I got a manicure at Nail Palette complete with an oh-so-good neck and back massage which was so perfect after a long day at work. A few steps away is Marguerite Gardens, a ethereal flower shop with a expansive collection of glass and ceramic vases.


Throughout Andersonville, there are these neighborhood maps and history boards that are such clever touches. The Coffee Studio, just a few short blocks away, is another great caffeine cafe where I’ve savored delicious cold-brew iced coffee.


My favorite treat this summer has been at George’s Ice Cream and Sweets. The ice cream is delicious and the waffle cone is the perfect balance between chewy and crispy.


On one summery weekend (I do work on Saturdays but not on Mondays), the Andersonville Midsommarfest was in full swing. It was a treat to be front and center at the fest. During eye exams, concert music streamed in and wafts of grilled goodness touched our noses. So, it made perfect sense that during lunch break, I walked through the seemingly endless stands and indulged in a fresh and hot churro.


There are just five weeks left at my summer externship. I’m looking forward to further increasing my clinical experience, improving my skills, and learning from the doctors and a staff I have been enjoying working with, all while having a great time.

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Optometry Students and Lasers: In a Pig’s Eye!

Optometry Students and Lasers: In a Pig’s Eye!

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Blogs

Alas, NBEO board exams have come and gone. My classmates and I are free again. Free from studying at all hours of the day and night without end. Except, we’re not free. At any moment, we’re haunted by the bone-chilling thought of having failed boards. But that aside, life is pretty great right now.

After those two dreaded days of exams, we picked up where we left off and spring quarter classes began. In our last quarter here at ICO, we are taking four classes:  Injections for the Optometrist, Business of Optometry, Strabismus & Amblyopia II, and Ophthalmic Lasers. Back when spring quarter had began and we were off for a month to study for boards, my classmates and I got a taste of Ophthalmic Lasers during an evening workshop with TLC. TLC is a company of ophthalmologists and optometrists providing eye surgery and LASIK in Mid-Michigan and Northwest Ohio. TLC providers specialize in “cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal tears and detachments, eye infections, and laser vision correction.”

The event with TLC brought in optometrists and technicians that taught us how to perform a number of refractive laser procedures complete with hands-on demonstrations. In some states, namely Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma, optometrists can perform these laser procedures.

In our gymnasium, stations were set up to teach three techniques. The first station that I visited was set up to teach corneal epithelium removal, an initial set in PRK. In PRK surgery, the corneal epithelium is removed and then the corneal stroma is treated with laser. Once an overview of the technique was given, I gloved up to perform epithelium removal on pig eyes. Since pig eyes are pretty similar to human eyes, the simulation was great and comparable to doing the procedures on real patients.

The second station I visited demonstrated how to create a flap for Lasik using a femtosecond laser. During Lasik, a flap is made from corneal epithelium, then laser is applied to correct refractive error and the flap is laid back down. Like in the first station, we carried out the procedures using pig eyes. While we used the more precise femtosecond laser to create the flap, corneal flaps can also be made mechanically using a device called a microkeratome. In a way, the last station I visited finished the story. While listening to an ICO grad talk about his own experience working at TLC, one by one we got the opportunity to apply the corrective excimer laser to pig eyes that already had flaps created.

All in all, the workshop was pretty neat. We learned a lot about refractive surgery techniques and how to perform them ourselves. And if time takes any of us to places like KY, LA or OK, performing these skills will be well within our scope of practice. Now that boards are done and classes have resumed for us, we’re learning the intricacies of how lasers work, about the multitude of other lasers used in eye care, and much more.


Work station for corneal epithelium removal 


A closer look at the days old pig eye and our instruments of choice


Work station for femtosecond laser guided epithelial flap creation 

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Private Practice Club Dinner

Private Practice Club Dinner

Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in Blogs

“Surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses.” “Focus on what you’re good at.” These tokens were just two of the many pieces of advice given by William Montag to a group of students at the Hilton. Montag, a certified financial planner at the North Star Resource Group, hosted a dinner presentation on finances for members of Private Practice Club.

The PPC plans numerous events each year for students to learn about the important aspects of owning a private practice as well as the trials and successes that current owners have experienced. Through the club, I’ve listened to optometrists talk about their experiences and visited practices. The event hosted by Montag was a little different and made for a fun new experience, as a group of 25 of us attended a fancy dinner presentation at 720 South Bar and Grill. We received folders filled with spreadsheets, charts and checklists addressing the important financial aspects of owning a private practice, and what steps we can take now to achieve that goal. Montag took questions from the group as he gave his presentation. The event was informative and the dinner was delicious. At the end, students could schedule a one-on-one session with Montag about finances.


Dinner Menu + Program folder


Left: Bartlet pear Salad. Right: Salmon Spaetzle

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The Wonders of Winter

The Wonders of Winter

Posted by on Jan 9, 2015 in Blogs

We resumed classes this week following a two-week winter break. Whenever winter break comes around, one of my best friends and I always meet up to do something seasonal. Nine times out of ten, that wintery activity is ice skating followed by lunch and maybe a side of shopping. This year, we made plans to check out Maggie Daley Park, just east of Millennium Park.

Maggie Daley Park opened on Dec. 13 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was named in honor of the late wife of Chicago’s former longtime mayor, Richard M. Daley. The 20-acre park features a winding “skating ribbon.” With a surface area of 27,500 square feet of ice, it’s nearly twice the size of a traditional rink and makes for a great race course.

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