ICO Blog

Illinois College of Optometry's Official Blog

Navigation Menu

What graduation from ICO means to me

What graduation from ICO means to me

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Blogs

If you have read my story on how I got to ICO, you might be able to empathize with how much graduation means to me and my family.

It means my brother can probably start investing in himself more instead of penny-pinching to ensure that I have food on the table while I have no source of income while I am on externships.

It means that I now have the opportunity to retire my parents so that they can stop working multiple jobs 7 days a week.


My family

It means all those times the big bankers told me “you can’t/shouldn’t/won’t make it,” didn’t stop me from actually doing it anyway.


Graduate of 2015

It means I can sign off on my own prescriptions and start to develop my own patient base that grows with me (no more asking for permission to dilate!)

It means I can pursue my dreams of continuing with mission work all over the world so I can make a difference in those that can’t afford to see.

Puebla SVOSH mission trip 2013

Puebla SVOSH mission trip 2013

It means I have a career where I am doing what I love every single day that I am working, and the world is my oyster.

profile pic

It also means that I will miss the ICO staff like Teisha Johnson, Hank, and Anthony who have been there for me and look out for me like my family away from home.


Anthony was the first person to greet me on my interview day and gave me words of encouragement when I was nervous.

Hank made sure I was safe even while I was off campus. He's my family away from home.

Hank  is the head of security and he made sure I was safe even while I was off campus. He’s my family away from home.

My time at ICO allowed me to grow both as an individual and as an optometrist and I truly had the time of my life. You know it’s true when you start a hash tag #timeofmylife for it. I got to travel, build friendships, network with doctors and vendors. Each trip was an unforgettable experience.


Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia 2014

Friendships were formed with people from all over the world that I would have otherwise never been able to have the pleasure to meet. Graduation is bitter-sweet, and I struggle with not being able to see my classmates like I used to in first year, but I definitely won’t be missing studying every weekend!


ICO class of 2015

I am honored to be an alumnus of ICO class of 2015, I am proud of my education that I worked hard to obtain, and am forever grateful to all my professors and preceptors who have taught me all that I know, and encouraged me throughout my career here. A special thanks to Dr. Mindy Nguyen, Dr. Dominick Maino from ICO, as well as Dr. Barry Jose and Dr. Gregg Russell from my externships who were the most influential and inspirational people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I have no doubt in my mind I learned from the best of the best doctors.

Optometry for me is a dream come true, and like any other dream, it doesn’t come easy. It’s sweat and tears and more sacrifice than you can imagine, but standing with my cap and gown on graduation day made one thing clear; it was worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you ICO for making me Dr. Jennifer Tai.


Read More

My Most Memorable Patient Encounter

My Most Memorable Patient Encounter

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Blogs

I’m assigned four 45-minute vision therapy sessions with four different patients every Wednesday night. The best part about this shift is that unless a patient wishes to discontinue therapy, I pretty much get to see the same people every week. It’s an opportunity to get to know them, bond with them, encourage them and learn from them.

I think the most unique experience I’ve had throughout my entire career at ICO happened with my 23-year-old vision therapy patient who needed some new glasses (getting the right prescription is the first step to therapy). She was my last appointment on that first Wednesday evening. Her day starts at 4 a.m., so she was tired, practically falling asleep during the exam. Her main issue was that she saw double of everything due to an eye turn, and her vision was blurry.

In a nutshell, I refracted her the best I could, and got her to see 20/20 from both eyes, but she was still seeing double of everything in the room. My attending, Dr. Smolyansky, then instructed me to put some prism into the temporary trial-glasses we put on her.

That’s when the magic happened.

Patient: “Oh my gosh, I can see!”
Dr. Smolyansky: “Do you still see double?”
Patient: “Not even a little bit.”

Read More

My Bumpy Road To ICO

My Bumpy Road To ICO

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Blogs

I never thought I’d have the guts to write this. It’s pretty personal, but I want to hopefully inspire those who have hit similar hard paths, and to remind people to appreciate what they have, and never give up.

How I found optometry
I haven’t always known a lot about optometry. I didn’t consider it as a profession growing up, mostly because I come from a family of bankers and IT professionals. I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare, so I spent most of my life volunteering and talking to healthcare workers to see what I wanted to do. For a long time, I thought I’d be a pharmacist or physiotherapist–it makes me laugh now. The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing in my first year of undergrad, and had no drive to succeed in anything because I had no set goal in mind.

I am not one for cliches. But when I randomly turned in my resume to an optometry office, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t meant to be. I was also on my way to drop off my resume at a local restaurant for a position that would presumably pay better, but I couldn’t find the restaurant. At the interview, I still remember I telling my soon-to-be boss that I wanted to become a pharmacist. But I loved every patient interaction I had at the optometry office, and I fell in love with the profession. My co-worker, Janet, worked for the LensCrafters next door and told me about her mission trip to the Philippines to help give eye exams and glasses to those in need. That’s when I knew I wanted to become an optometrist someday. I wanted to be in a position to help people, to go on those mission trips and give back globally and locally to the best of my abilities.

Preparing myself in undergrad
Once I was back in school, I went to the career office on campus to get more information about my newly chosen profession. We had a folder with a list of careers and schools; I think one measly page was devoted to optometry. I even signed up to talk to a career counselor, who admitted she didn’t know anything about the profession. In fact, when I asked her about the OAT, she talked to me about MCAT, DAT, and even the GMAT instead. I remember being so disappointed to be so thrilled about this career path, only to have virtually no information about how to get on board. Optometry felt almost taboo during undergrad. I remember doing a ton of research online (thank goodness for the advent of the internet), and got a lot of good information about schools in the USA, job rankings, the profession in general. I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through the hard path that I did to find optometry, so I founded the Pre-Optometry Club at the University of Toronto. I wanted to tell everyone about this awesome profession, disperse all the information I collected so others wouldn’t have to accidentally stumble upon optometry like I did as they considered their own career paths. I collaborated with a business student to write the club’s constitution, and even used my own money and artistic skills to create my own membership cards and banner.

Read More

Fun with Lasers

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Blogs

So in terms of labs, I think third years get the best ones. We have a new course offered at ICO: Ophthalmic Lasers. Dr. Chaglasian organized an awesome lab with the help of the doctors at TLC Laser Eye Centers to give us first-hand experience working with lasers. We had several different stations set up and got to learn the components of each different type of laser refractive eye surgery.

At the first station, we were each given our own pig-eye-in-a-cup to work on, and had the opportunity to remove the epithelium, simulating how we’d prepare it for laser eye surgery. It was at this station that I saw a bag of real eyeballs for the first time in my life. Most people might feel a little squeamish about it, but for me, as an eye nerd, it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen (besides lasers, of course).

2014-02-26 08.31.41

My pig eye in a cup

2014-02-26 08.37.28

Tools we used to remove epithelium

2014-02-26 08.34.18

Our tools in action under a microscope

Read More

7 Things that Change in Optometry School

7 Things that Change in Optometry School

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Blogs

1. You start collecting everything that has an eye chart or glasses on it
Even before hipsters or the “nerd look” became cool, optometrists have always been on the lookout for glasses everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of us have owned an optometry mug or two at some point. Just how many shirts with glasses on it could I need in my lifetime? I don’t know, but what I DO know is that I will probably spend a good portion of my savings on optometry-related pieces for my wardrobe. I almost bought a bottle of wine with an eye chart on it, and I don’t even drink wine. I have at least four rings with glasses of different styles and colors. My roommate has earrings with an eye chart on them. It’s an addiction, I don’t know how to stop it, but I am secretly quite proud of it. glasses

2. TV isn’t the same anymore
I was watching “House” and noticed that Dr. Foreman was holding an ophthalmoscope funny. Silly Dr. Foreman, his finger should be on the dial so he can focus on the optic nerve! Even while we watch “Friends,” in the episode where Rachel goes to see the eye doctor (Google Rachel at the Eye Doctor for the video), you’ll notice the optometrist uses a slit lamp and pretends it can deliver a puff of air. Things I could overlook as a naive first year can no longer escape me. I noticed I started getting satisfaction from correctly guessing what ailments the characters had. I distinctly remember yelling at the TV, “THIS GUY HAS A TIA!” (transient ischemic attack) right before the doctor diagnosed the same thing. Sure, all my non-optometry school friends have no idea what I just said out loud (a little too loud), but hey, I felt pretty smart. I don’t think I could get much more nerdier than that. I guess that’s one way to apply the knowledge I learned at school.

Read More