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).
My pig eye in a cup
Tools we used to remove epithelium
Our tools in action under a microscope
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.
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.
The National Board Examiners In Optometry and the Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry exams were always a mystery to me. Until perhaps two months ago, all I knew was that I had to write some sort of exam that’s going to determine whether I get to practice my passion for the rest of my life. Although I’m Canadian, I chose to take the American boards to give myself more options when I graduate. Those of us taking the NBEOs begin the exam on March 19.
The most influential factor in my decision to come to ICO was the board exam pass rates. I scoured the internet forums, talked to optometry students, and went on program websites to understand how students from each school perform on board exams. ICO’s amazing pass rates were reason enough for me to brave the cold winters of Chicago. After all, the whole point of getting an optometric education is to achieve this one goal: obtain a license to practice optometry.
As a prospective student, I was always curious to know how externship selection worked. All my life, the best everything was awarded to those with the highest grades (or “marks,” for my fellow Canadians) or standardized test score. Personally, I think they deserve it. I expected externships to be no different–students would be ranked by their GPA, clinical skills, perhaps leadership involvement, and then allowed to select accordingly. The top-ranked students would get to choose whatever their heart desired. Seriously, if you have a 4.0 at ICO, I think you freaking deserve top choice, you smarty pants, you. Actually, I’ve heard rumors that this is how it happens at some other optometry schools, and even at ICO in the past.
But that’s not how it happened for the class of 2015. So friends, get ready to hear all about the most draining, complicated, twisted mind game ever invented. As blogger Michelle once observed, it’s almost like a fantasy football draft. Except this affects your future for the next year, and possibly longer, depending on the type of experience you have.
Disclaimer: This guide reflects the experience of my class only. It may change for your class, depending on what style you vote for and ideas from your class reps. Here’s a neat little diagram in case you get lost:
When you live in Chicago, it’s bound to happen that friends and family will visit you. The city is lovely, and I tell everyone to come and take advantage of a free stay. You’ll notice, however, that after a while, you are bound to re-visit the same Chicago tourist attractions time and time again. I could try and fit an entire itinerary in this post, but instead, I think the Shedd Aquarium deserves it’s own.
Shedd gift shop with a giant octopus that blinks
After being here for a good few years now, I learned some neat things about Shedd that might save you some money. As the blog’s coupon queen, I think it’s pretty helpful to know that Shedd has Illinois Resident Discount Days, which are designated days you can bring proof of residence in the state and visit the aquarium (not including special exhibits) for free. What about all your friends from out of town, you ask? General admission is just $8, and residents get $3 off admission if it’s not a resident discount day. (Note: General admission is not really advertised anywhere at the ticket booth, but trust me, there is such a thing!) I know you’re probably thinking, ‘Well, their other regular packages go up to about $35, what on earth am I missing here?’ I think the main attraction that I’ve noticed missing from general admission access is Stingray Touch, Jellies, the Aquatic Show, the Oceanarium and the 4-D movie. If you’re really looking for a fancy time, you can meet the penguins and belugas and everything for a premium price. If you’re tight on time or money, or if you’ve already visited everything once, $5 is a great deal.