My desire to go into Optometry was a surprise since no one in my family was in the field. Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, my immigration with my family to New York City at the age of 15 was a big life changing experience. During the difficult times, one thing in life that stood out to me is the value of helping people around you, and how rewarding it is to change someone’s life for the better. After realizing that, it was an easy decision to go into the field of health care, despite being trained as a classical pianist since a very young age.
I went to college at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, balancing the worlds of art and science with a double major in biology and piano performance. After graduating in 2007 with one too many bachelor degrees, I took a job as junior scientist at the Medical College of Wisconsin. For three years, I spent hours looking at one tiny protein in the kidney that plays a key role in the development of polycystic kidney disease. This rare condition affects mostly young kids when it is genetically presented as an autosomal recessive disease, and I felt that I was helping others in a grand scheme of things. As a bonus, I felt extremely cool to be published in scientific journals, even though I only understood 60 percent of my own paper. It was when I started naming the experimental rats that I realized I needed more human connection with real people at work and in my life.
I found a part-time job at a private practice of six optometrists, all ICO graduates, and my life changed. After pre-testing patients and constantly talking to the optometrists about their career choice, everything started to fall into place. It was clear to me that all the skills I’ve gained through piano, science and my diverse background would serve me well toward striving to become the greatest optometrist that one can ever be.
After a few weeks here at ICO, I realized that studying optometry is so much more than learning the techniques of prescribing glasses to people who cannot see well–although that is one of the coolest part of it. What I hope to portray on this blog is what it’s like to grow as a person in optometry school while understanding the importance of learning the art of optometry. It took me four years beyond college to get to here, but I’m happy with my decision and cannot wait to share with all of you the challenges and joys of being part of the Illinois College of Optometry.