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Homecoming 2015

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in Blogs

welcomeCE signCE entrance

Homecoming is an event each Fall at the ICO campus that brings alumni and current students together. It provides an opportunity to meet future colleagues, make connections, and learn a little bit about the current hot topics of the field. The weekend-long event starts on Friday evening. This year, the ICO courtyard was turned into a Blindspot Kickoff party equipped with a photo booth, tiki bar, live music in the form of karaoke, and delicious food, of course. For the students, Friday is a great way to get warmed up to starting their weekend of networking. For the alumni, it’s a nice amp-up to the later event; 2015’s outing happened to be a White Sox baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field.

CE lecture

As an alumnus, your Saturday starts off with breakfast served at the hotel before shuttling over to the ICO campus to begin the line-up of activities. These include a 2-hour continuing education course and a Student-Alumni Mingle that takes over the gym. One of the sought after work study jobs during Homecoming is helping coordinate and assist with the Saturday night dinner cruise on the Odyssey that takes off from Navy Pier.

Fortunately, ICO has graduates all over the US and Canada, and you’re bound to find someone with similar interests that you can learn from at the Student-Alumni Mingle. Most often, there’s also a table or two with other professionals such as lawyers, company representatives, real estate associates, and practice start up and management assistants to help you get a more whole picture of aspects of optometry you probably hadn’t even thought about. Many exhibitors are also part of this event and are always eager to demonstrate their new products or talk about potential future opportunities with you; some are ICO alum themselves and are great resources for a “once school is over” perspective.

Name tags


homecoming food

After attending Homecoming, or other networking events offered, it makes me realize that networking is a skill in itself. One must learn it and practice it to be good at it. The earlier you start, the better at it you will be by the time you really need to turn to those skills- when you’re almost a doc and looking for a job… so start NOW! If you’re really ambitious, it wouldn’t hurt to start writing your CV now, either. I started mine about 6 months ago and I constantly think of stuff to add that I had forgotten about. It has become an ongoing project of mine, and not surprisingly, it will be a lot more complete by the time I need to submit it for a potential opportunity.

ICO is very fortunate to have such a geographically diverse student body. After graduation, some of us will return home, some of us will move somewhere new, and some of us will tackle a residency program. Once we start our careers and become busy with family, career and just life in general, it will be difficult to get everyone together at the same time and place. ICO Homecoming is an event that I look forward to attending as an alumnus. My circle of friends has definitely talked about the subject and agree that we will make every effort to be there.  I hope that my colleagues are having the same discussion and plan to attend.
student alumni mingle signhomecoming food 2










Student alumni mingle 2







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The RGP Experience

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Blogs

In optometry school, we learn that macular degeneration is a serious sight threatening condition that affects your central vision. This condition is thought to be caused by smoking and UV light. It seems to be hereditary and is more common in those of Caucasian race. As a white female with light green eyes and a grandmother with macular degeneration, one of my main eye related concerns is UV protection and prevention of this blinding disease. We recently learned in our physical optics course that Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) lenses provide the best UV protection of the contact lenses and are also better for the health of the cornea because they’re so oxygen permeable.   Further, they’re easier to take care of, cheaper in the long run and the vision is even crisper than regular contact lenses.  These seem too good to be true and being the curious person that I am, I just decided I have to try these.


Of course I did wonder, if these are so awesome, why does everyone wear soft lenses?  After discussing with a few of the doctors in my primary care suite, I was warned that they are not the most comfortable to wear.  In order for me to be the best clinician I can be, I feel as though I need to experience everything I’m going to be prescribing and counseling my patients on. So, I mentally prepared myself and decided that I would try the RGP lenses for at least 1 month. I figured if I can’t get used to them in 1 month, then I’m not going to and I can be thankful that I don’t have one of those prescriptions where this is the only option.

Because these lenses are so uncomfortable, you have to start a wearing schedule that goes something like this: day 1, wear the lenses for 4 hours, increase by 2 hours each day, and book a follow up in 1 week. Sounds easy, right?   My wearing schedule went more like this:

Day 1, 4 hours of wear time: I just left the office and I’m checking my watch to see when I can take these out. Every time I blink, I have to wait for the lens to settle before the vision is clear. I think the right one is slightly more comfortable than the left; the left one seems to move a lot more each time I blink.

Day 2: “I have optometry lab today and I have to sit as patient, so I’ll put them in this afternoon after lab…” So, 20150517_165542that didn’t happen. I was dilated. I get enough glare from them when I’m not dilated. I can’t imagine how bad it would be if I had them in now!

Day 3, 6 hours of wear time: These lenses are making me so grumpy!! I was told my eye lids looked swollen. I can’t stop rubbing my inner canthus. They make me feel a bit off, so for the big event this afternoon, I’ll take them out and wear my glasses- I need to be on my “A” game.

Day 4, 8 hours of wear time: I wanna scratch my eyes out. I think I’ve lost more than a few eye lashes at this point. I feel like my eyes are so incredibly dry, and it makes me want to blink every second- except then I have to wait for the lens to settle again. Arrgggggghhhh!!

Day 5: I feel like I want to put eye drops in every 5 minutes or so.

Day 6: I’m just going to wear my soft lenses today.

After trying these lenses, I am very thankful that I do not have to wear these.  I think it’s safe for me to say that this was an unsuccessful experience in terms of me becoming an RGP wearer. However, I am glad that I got the chance to experience them through the educational contact lens program.

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Second Year Flies by!

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Blogs

Nine months ago, the class of 2017 started the second year of optometry school. We hoped that this year would be as wonderful and amazing as so many upperclassmen had told us. Now that we have finished our second year, I can say from my own experience that second year is great. We are finally delving into the really eye-related stuff- the stuff we will actually be recalling during an eye exam one day. Everything counts from this point on- no more “I don’t really need to know this.”

This, however, is good and bad at the same time. Obviously, it’s good because this is what we came here for; bad because this means we can no longer cram for exams, then have the material jump right out of our heads the minute we finish taking it. This is the point when your professors expect you to know the things you learned in first year, and every exam you take becomes cumulative. I have found myself reviewing Dr. T’s ocular anatomy notes from first year just to keep up with some courses and help make sense of it.

The second year students have classes scheduled in the morning only. This means that if you don’t have clinic or labs in the afternoon, you can go home and enjoy all the free time you get as a second year. You will not have an opportunity like this in third year, which is quickly becoming a reality for me.

Since the second year is much less demanding and time consuming than the first, I have had a lot more time to take a more active role in the campus clubs, work study jobs, and elective courses. One of my friends also convinced me to to sign up for an improv class at iO; that was for level 1. I’m almost finished with level 4 now!

Looking forward, we’re going to be considered 3rd years in 2 months!! It’s hard to believe we are going to be selecting our externship sites and getting graduation photos taken relatively soon.

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Infant Eye Exams

Infant Eye Exams

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Blogs

In our Vision Science class during first year, Dr. Pang and Dr. Allison stopped by and perform eye exams on our professor’s three young grandchildren.

For a baby, the eye exam starts the moment the doctor walks into the room: The clinician pays close attention to the baby, watching the child as they look at the doctor, look at their parents, shift their gaze around the room, etc. Even at three months of age, a baby should be able to track an object up to 10 inches from them; if not, there may be an indication of a neurological deficiency. The best time to do an infant eye exam is first thing in the morning, when the baby is wide awake, fed and ready for their day.

Visual attention is an important cue and the baby should be able to follow an object or person moving around the room. In our class, the babies were six months and six weeks of age, and I can imagine that their attention was difficult to monitor with all the faces in the class looking at them. Watching the baby track an object, such as a bottle or rattle, is very important. Because a baby is a non-verbal patient at this point, the parents will become the key source of information and will usually notice if something seems not quite right; most commonly they’ll notice either an eye turn, or that the eyes aren’t tracking objects well.

Teller acuity cards, www.stereooptical.com

Teller acuity cards, www.stereooptical.com

How a baby’s vision quality is assessed
The traditional procedures for determining visual acuity can’t be used on a baby for obvious reasons–they can’t exactly tell you which one is better? One or two? An interesting way the profession has gotten around this is through the use of Teller acuity cards. The card has two sections: One section has a striped pattern, known as gratings, that varies from card to card; the other section is a uniform gray. Between the sections is a peephole that the clinician can use to view the baby’s response to the card, while keeping their face hidden. If the baby spends more time looking at the gratings than the uniform gray, that means they can visually detect the pattern presented to them.

Once it’s determined the baby is looking at the gratings, the clinician will move on to a finer grating, to determine the limits of acuity. As soon as the baby chooses to look at the uniform gray instead of the gratings, we know it has gone beyond the limits of their detection. A similar technique for measuring acuity in infants is using LEA paddles, which work the same way as the Teller cards; the difference is that Teller cards hide your face. A baby will always choose to look at a face over anything else because it is much more interesting to them–it’s one of the obstacles in doing infant eye exams.

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PAP and the Holy Grail

PAP and the Holy Grail

Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Blogs

A major deciding factor for me in choosing ICO is that clinical experience begins in the very first quarter. In the first year, this experience–all of it in ICO’s clinic, the Illinois Eye Institute–is called the Patient Advocate Program. During first quarter, our PAP experience includes familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the IEI, getting an eye exam and writing a report based on our own experience as a patient.

The eye exams at the IEI probably aren’t like others you’ve had. Before coming to ICO, I’d arrive at the clinic and a technician would perform most of the entrance tests like lensometry, OCT, fundus pictures, keratometry, autorefraction and tonometry. All of these tests would be performed with automated machinery, and they’d be completed in about 20 minutes. I’d then be directed to a waiting area, where I’d sit for 10 minutes or so. Then the doctor would see me for another 20 minutes. I’d be in and out within an hour, and I was never dilated.

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