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What graduation from ICO means to me

What graduation from ICO means to me

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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and now presenting…THIRD YEAR.

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

Suddenly… I was a third year. blog1

I swear I just wrote to you all about living in Chicago and nervously starting my first year of school. However, suddenly, I look around and the hallways look a little more familiar and clinic time is on the upward spiral as I shift into my third year of optometry school.

Second year proved to be a whirlwind in itself, filled most notably with practicals testing our clinical skills. These included everything from palpating for lymph nodes to assessing the most peripheral parts of the back of the eye. It is no joke that academics are of the utmost importance here, but I personally take greater comfort in knowing that ICO puts a much higher precedence on our clinical knowledge, application, and efficiency. After all, what will I be after school but… an optometrist? I would like to be a competent one, and I can feel that ICO is slowly making the Dr. Rina Sheth, O.D. that I had always planned to be. Of course right now, in the midst of it, it has been feeling like school will never end, but then suddenly… here I am, seeing patients by myself.

So now, I’m at the penultimate step in optometry school, third year. Filled with three clinic shifts, two at the Illinois Eye Institute and one at CPS (Chicago Public Schools), I’m finding that much more of my time isn’t sitting behind a desk – although don’t get me wrong, there is still much studying to do and much knowledge to absorb. I am frantically moving in between said clinic shifts and labs and class. This differs greatly from second year, where much of my time was in lab practicing skills to be one day hopefully apply in clinic. I’m beginning to feel like this is the moment that I had been waiting for: having enough knowledge where I can begin to see an entire educational career culminate into an actual career. I hope to solidify that knowledge this year.

IMG_3278Best part so far about third year: the world of contacts. I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was a young teenager, as I was stubborn to adorn a foreign plastic object upon my face. Finally, we get to learn and understand appropriate contact lens selection and care for patients and ourselves. I now know why I wear an Acuvue One-Day Moist. Wouldn’t you be curious to learn why your contact lens was picked for you?

Well, I write this blog in the very first week of my third year. I know it will get harder. There will be many days where I will be tired from the hustle and bustle of summer quarter here at ICO (especially taking the most demanding class in our academic career, Retina.) If there is one thing that is becoming more evident to me, day in and day out, it is that I have the makings of an optometrist in the sooner-than-I-think future.

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End of First Year

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

Things felt different when I finished that last exam.

The last exam of first year. We talked about it like it was some kind of rare and exotic animal, and in my opinion, it ended far too soon.

My step out of that exam room punctuated the end of the first chapter of my career at ICO. The next 24 hours felt like I was waking up from a dream that was desperately trying to teach me something. Now, I am reminded of the words I wrote those many months ago:

“Life is full of things that you can enjoy, and they are around you at this moment. Don’t wait until you lose what you have to treasure it.”

So right now, I’m in Chicago: home of the Bean, a skyline to die for, and great food.

I’m here, on my laptop, in a hotel room on Mother’s day, 500 miles away from home and reflecting on the last 9 months. That wasn’t the plan – but my flight got cancelled.

Before I left, I took a walk around ICO. The first time I walked the halls of the school, it was a maze to me. As I became better acquainted with it, ICO served as a backdrop for the theatre production of my life. And today, it was different. It felt like home. And I had taken it for granted – the same way I took Toronto for granted before I left in August.

When you first get here, people will tell you that “four years are going to pass by quickly.” You’ll hear it over and over again – and it’s said with good intentions. It’s meant to be comforting. People say it to remind you that the difficulties you’re facing as an optometry student will only last four years. You just have to hang in there! You can do it!!

But sometimes, people say that magic phrase to remind you to enjoy the moment. I’m beginning to appreciate that now.

This year has passed so, so quickly. It’s gone by in the blink of an eye, and it was so startling to me that I’ve already worried about having to leave my friends in a few years when I graduate.

This experience has changed me profoundly. I have made great friends and colleagues that I hope I will know for life. I’ve learned so much in the realm of academics, as well as personal relationships and life. I am grateful to have survived first year with a wonderful group of people – ICO’s class of 2018.

My biggest regret from the last 9 months is that it took me until the end of first year to realize that I should value the time we have together – as friends, colleagues, and as a class. And I am sorrier still, because I should have learned this lesson the first time around, when I left Toronto.

If I could go back to orientation week, I would have gone out with you guys a lot more. I would have made an effort to get to know you all better and earlier.

Take note, all of you first years who come after me. I know that it is difficult to realize it when you’re swamped by exams, practicals and your personal life, but this will end far faster than you expect it to. Make sure you appreciate the friends and people you have around you, because someday soon, you may not be able to spend time with them.

Man, I miss you guys already.

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Second Year Flies by!

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Blogs | 0 comments

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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Tasty Chicago

Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Blogs | 1 comment

Everyone knows that Chicago is all about food. This past year, I have found some new favorite places:
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Yolk‘s strawberry orange juice!

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If you love donuts, Firecakes is a must.

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Make sure to go there when they are serving their ice cream donut sandwiches!

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If you don’t like donuts, Insomnia Cookies is the next best option, especially if it’s a late night. You can build your own ice cream cookie sandwich.

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Eataly has everything you would want to eat! The Neapolitan pizza is a great alternative to the famous deep dish.

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This last place is probably my favorite find in Chicago. I’ve been looking for an authentic tapas bar since studying in Spain, and I finally found one: Café Iberico! They have tortilla espanola and paella!

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They even have jamon Iberico and manchego cheese with tomato bread.

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Or, you can try their goat cheese with pesto bread.

Even if these places do not sound appetizing, they are just a few examples of the tasty places you can find in Chicago. It is definitely impossible to pick a favorite place because they are all so different from each other. I cannot wait to return to Chicago next year and continue exploring all that it has to offer.

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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 | 0 comments

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.

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Work station for corneal epithelium removal 

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

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Work station for femtosecond laser guided epithelial flap creation 

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