ICO Blog

Illinois College of Optometry's Official Blog

Navigation Menu

Future Practice Inspiration

Posted by on Nov 13, 2015 in Blogs

As I walk around Chicago exploring many new places and trying out new restaurants, I gather a lot of ideas in my head that I hope to one day implement into my future career setting. I may be a little too ambitious right now but a girl can dream, right? I mean, who knows what I will actually be doing after I graduate optometry school?

None of my family members are optometrists so I can’t just hop in and start working with someone I’m related to. What that really means is that I’ll have to prove to others that I will be a beneficial person to their practice or to those who plan on helping me open up my own practice. It really is another ball park out there after graduation, but I hope one day I’m able to own and operate my own business and practice. Here are a few places that I have noted in my mind while exploring Chicago that have inspired me to create and design my “future” practice setting.

1) Owen + Alchemy (Logan Square)

One of my hobbies is designing graphics so this place struck out to me the most. Whoever put all of the branding together for Owen + Alchemy really had me going. When you walk into this small shop that sells cold-pressed juices, there is so much going on yet it’s all very simple. Who knew someone could make the color black look more hip and soothing than it already was? The branding for Owen + Alchemy is something I would like to implement into my future practice. Owen + Alchemy use black and gold as their main colors which they use heavily inside their store, in their logo, and all of their promotional material (business cards, menus, etc.).









2) Wormhole Coffee (Wicker Park)

I am definitely a huge Star Wars nerd, so this coffee shop caught me off guard when the whole place was decorated with plentiful amounts of Star Wars-related things. If you are to step into my future practice, don’t be surprised if I have a Stormtrooper photograph hung up on the wall or way too many Star Wars artifacts lying around. I’ll channel my inner Star Wars nerd for everyone to see in my practice. Maybe patients might even think I’m cooler because of this fact… we’ll see!

3) Ramen-san (River North)

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I am a huge advocate for any place with wood interior and exterior. Wooden features make a place look modern and welcoming. This would suit my business style a bit more than having a regular store front because I am always finding ways to make things look more “modern” to the public. When I am walking around the city, stores that utilize wood catch my attention more than others. The details of wood not only provide a minimalistic effect, but are also vibrant to look at.


If I do end up opening up my own practice and am able to implement any of these ideas, I will be one happy individual. I want to provide a practice that will make patients feel welcomed and not dreadful to be at the eye doctor’s office. I believe little ideas like these can help change the mindset of patients when they step into my “future” practice. They will absolutely help make the eye doctor visit a more pleasant experience.

Read More

My Favorite Piece of Interview Advice

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Blogs


It is interview season! All over the United States (and world) prospective students are traveling to graduate schools with the goal of admission to their dream program. Here at ICO, interviews began early in October and will run up until Spring. For most people, interviews cause a bit of stress. Have no fear! I have a way to help.

When I was in undergrad, I went to a club meeting where a doctor came to speak about how she was admitted to her professional program. This was probably one of the most helpful meetings for me during my search for an optometry program. She told us that, although you will be traveling to schools to be interviewed remember one thing: you are also doing the interviewing.  

Even though you are striving to impress the interviewer, they also need to impress you. They want bright students (like you!) to attend their program. You are the one paying them money to attend and, when it comes down to it, the final decision is yours. 

She gave us an example of a program that asked her a question: “If you had to choose between family and your career, which would you choose?” She said she told them, straight up, if this was the kind of program that made her make that choice, this is not the kind of program she would like to attend. A week later she received her admission letter.

Now, I’m not saying to go too over the top and not try to impress the interviewer. What I am saying is to take a deep breath and think about the fact that you are in control of your final choice. You want to determine the school that fits you best. This was something that was always in the back of my mind during all of my interviews, and it always calmed me before I walked in. I hope it helps boost your confidence, too!


Read More

Low vision and much, much more

Low vision and much, much more

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Blogs

This quarter, I am rotating at the Sidney Hillman Health Center and 3 other sites. Together, they encompass not only low vision, but also primary care, contact lenses, retinal disease, and advanced care.


Sidney Hillman Health Center

Sidney Hillman (SHHC) is a union and not a VA, which kind of took me off guard. During externship site selection, it was included in the VA category for Chicago-only students. Working at SHHC takes me back to clinic shifts at IEI; we have ICO faculty members as preceptors and our exams are primary care. Primary care exams are familiar, and working with some of the friendliest preceptors has been a treat. There are 3 of us students during each shift and three rooms. Sometimes equipment like a slit lamp won’t function (burnt bulbs?) and we play musical chairs with our patients moving between our exam rooms. The majority of patients we see are Spanish-speaking, which can be difficult since none of us speak Spanish. I have learned a number of new Spanish terms working here, though I wish an elective course existed for completing an eye exam in Spanish. I am at Sidney Hillman on three weekdays and every other Saturday.

IMG_5065On Monday and Tuesdays, I fulfill my low vision hours at the Chicago Lighthouse, a center for the blind and visually impaired. My time at the Chicago Lighthouse is divided into shifts in the Pangere Center and in the Low Vision Clinic.

The Pangere Center is a hereditary retinal disease clinic where I work with an OMD and an OD. The majority of patients I have seen there have had one of the four types of Retinitis Pigmentosa, while dozens of other patients have had retinal diseases that I may never see again. We have managed patients with Choroideremia, Stargardt, Occult Maculopathy, Cone/Rod/Cone-Rod Dystrophy, Usher’s Type I and II, Leber’s congenital amaurosis, Achromatopsia, Oguchi disease and two hereditary diseases I had not heard of: Wolfram’s Syndrome and Autosomal Dominant Cystoid Macular Edema.

In the Low Vision Clinic, we work with optometrists to prescribe a plethora of low vision devices from hand held magnifiers and cocoon fit-overs to telescopes and bioptics. The clinic is attached to a store with even more devices and electronic instruments for patients to purchase and maintain their independence with.

IMG_5066The Chicago Lighthouse is a pretty neat facility.
Housed within it is a school for children aged 3-21 years with visual impairments. There are work opportunities for people who are visually impaired including a clock-making factory and numerous call-centers.

When you call Illinois Tollway, you could be speaking to someone at the Lighthouse. Or, when you’re in a hospital waiting area, you may notice that the wall clock you’re counting the minutes on has an inscription that reads “the Chicago Lighthouse.”


Lenscrafters at the Oakbrook Center

Mid-week, we get a taste of the corporate world with a full day at LensCrafters in either Oakbrook or Skokie. LensCrafters is a more laid back corporate setting where the optometrist makes his own schedule and decides exactly what he wants to do for patients. At LensCrafters, I see up to 10 patients a day for routine exams – the majority of which include contact lens fittings and evaluations. Most of the patients are fit in soft contacts, while a handful are fit in gas permeable lenses.

Every third week, I am back to where it all began for urgent care at the Illinois Eye Institute. I have rotated there three times so far and have enjoyed it. During a recent shift there, I saw four patients. One patient came in for a follow-up for an internal hordeolum, which was simple. A second patient came in with recent onset photosensitivity, had signs of raised grey stellate lesions within the corneal epithelium and anterior stroma, and was diagnosed with Thygeson’s superficial punctate keratopathy. A third patient came in with recent onset unilateral central scotoma, had signs of ongoing proliferative diabetic retinopathy that resulted in bilateral tractional retinal detachments. A unilateral tractional detachment at the macula was the mischief behind the scotoma. A fourth patient came in with ongoing unilateral redness and lids swollen shut, a possible result of a few differential diagnoses. After thorough case history and tests including my first AdenoPlus (which came back positive), viral conjunctivitis was diagnosed.

These cases each taught me sometime new, which was exciting. Yes, how nerdy.

Read More

Transformation, Reflection, and Anticipation

Transformation, Reflection, and Anticipation

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Blogs

It has been 8 weeks since classes began here at ICO. Those 8 weeks have been packed with tests, labs, events, ups, downs, failures, triumphs, memories, and most importantly, experiences. I remember sitting through the week of orientation hearing students, staff, and doctors bombard us with information, most of which I could not relate to and had no idea what they were getting at. I am just now beginning to understand some of the things they were telling us.

For starters, one of the biggest things that stands out is the spiel given by the security staff. This mostly stood out due to theatrical entertainment reasons, but nonetheless it stuck. They talked to us about safety, mostly, but also about us coming into their office and getting to know them when we bum a cup of coffee. I never thought I would actually stop into their office for coffee, but one day I was tired of the cafeteria coffee and decided to give theirs a chance. Now, it has become somewhat of a routine. Besides having decent coffee, the staff is as friendly as they said they were during orientation week.

Another thing that stood out with me from orientation week was Dr. Baker. I remember him talking about marathons; at the time, I saw no direct relationship with optometry school. The point of his speech was, however, that school is not a sprint, but a marathon. In other words, you can’t cram for exams. I obviously disagreed with what he said because it went against my previously formed habits from undergrad. However, I am starting to see the truth in  what he was talking about. Yes, I have classmates and there are always going to be those students who are excellent “crammers” and can get through school with short “sprints” rather than a steady-paced “marathon,” but I am starting to drift more towards the marathon approach of which Dr. Baker spoke.

The last thing that really stuck with me from orientation was speaking to older students. They told me that they have no sleep schedule and this will probably be the case for me. I, again, remember disagreeing because I had a somewhat consistent sleep schedule in undergrad so why wouldn’t I have one now? Nope. I was wrong. They were right. I cannot remember when I had the same sleep schedule even two nights in a row.

The point of this reflection is simply to realize the transformation that has been occurring since I got here. I may not have realized it until now, but it has. I’m sure if you spoke to the second years, they would tell you how much things have changed for them, and third and fourth years would speak of even greater changes. But that’s the goal of higher education.

I recently read an article in TIME magazine written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that relates to the transformative experiences of education. For those of you who don’t know who this author is, he is a former professional basketball player from New York City who is known for his success with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1970’s and 18980’s. His article was basically about higher education and some of the obstacles students face throughout their programs. My favorite quote from the article was, “If you end up with all the same opinions you had before, then at least you can be confident that they are good ones because you’ve fairly examined all the options.”

He was, of course, talking about a student entering and graduating from some sort of post-high school education with a bit of a sarcastic tone. This quote basically means that someone completing a program should have a changed perspective from when they started. If they didn’t (and this is the sarcastic tone,) at least they can be confident that they came in with some pretty good habits and opinions.

This article and certainly this quote can be applied to the transformations that all students at ICO go through. We come in with one way of thinking and we leave with a new perspective and lots of newly acquired knowledge. I may only be at the front end of this transformative process, but I am beginning to notice it… and I’m sure my classmates are too.

Read More

5 Travel Tips for this Fall

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Blogs

While many of my peers spent some time in the sun in New Orleans for this year’s American Academy of Optometry conference, I decided to embrace Fall with a trip to the Northeast. ICO does not have classes during this conference, which gave us students some much needed time to unwind and catch up on our studies.  I took this time in New York.


Although I love Chicago, Manhattan never ceases to take my breath away. Flying over the iconic Empire State Building and monumental Freedom Tower always fills me with a sense of excitement and curiosity. On Tuesday me, myself, and I hopped on a plane at O’Hare destined for Laguardia.

Some of you may think, “Flying alone? Piece of cake!” Others may not be familiar with traveling alone, but it is a great way to take hold of your independence.  I learned at an early age how to travel by myself and it has been very beneficial throughout my whole optometry school career. From interviews to externships, you will be doing a lot of things on your own. That is one of the great things about graduate school- you learn how to be an independent adult.

Now, because I am a strong believer that learning how to travel independently is a crucial component to adulthood and a successful optometric career, I have developed a short list of travel tips from my trip to New York. Let’s start with getting to the airport…

1. Taking the CTA 

ICO is conveniently located near the Green Line of the CTA. If you are traveling to the airport, you can easily hop on this line (towards Harlem) at the IIT/Bronzeville stop using your Ventra card (bought online or at a station.) Get off at Clark/Lake to make your connection to either the Blue Line (towards O’Hare) or Orange Line (towards Midway.) These lines have easily distinguishable airport signs and take your directly to the airport. Easy and inexpensive!


2. Pack light and carry-on when you can!

I know, I know, you may need that extra scarf or the 5 sweatshirts, but try to think long and hard about what you are actually going to wear. I have learned the hard way that over packing can break the bank. Today, most airlines charge a fee to check bags and they all have an extra fee if you exceed their weight limit. Do your homework ahead of time to find out what their policies are before you begin packing. I always try to bring the minimum to avoid fees and save time heading straight to security.

3. Aim for arriving 2 hours early

This is sort of an unspoken rule when flying.  Airlines generally begin boarding a little more than a half hour before the flight takes off. Even if your arrive 10 minutes before your departure time, they may have already closed the gate and won’t let you on (it has happened to me.) Playing it safe is best. I always try to arrive two hours early. I do this in case I hit any traffic on the way (especially in a big city like NY or Chicago) or if there are major lines in security or unexpected delays. It may get boring waiting around if you are really early, but being in optometry school, you always have plenty of study material to keep you busy.

4. Charge your electronics

One of the most important rules about travel that my parents ingrained into my head was always have your phone on you and charged. You never know if you will get lost or need some information about your flight. Today most of us are very reliant on our phones so it is crucial to have it available for a day of travel- especially traveling alone. Additionally, having your laptop charged can help pass the time if you are arriving early and have to wait as stated in the above passage.

5. Know your exit strategy 

If someone is picking you up when you land, make sure you are communicating with them about the arrival time. Take into account how long it will actually take you to get off the plane and to baggage claim. If I didn’t check a bag, I generally ask my ride to arrive 15 minutes after our designated landing time to allow me to find where they are at. Some airports are easy to navigate and your ride can simply loop around until you arrive. Others, like Boston or New York, are very large and may even have a toll nearby. Once my dad had to pay a toll twice because he was trying to loop around the airport waiting for me and went the wrong way. If your ride doesn’t mind paying for parking, that eliminates most of this stress. Otherwise, try your best to time it well.

If you are taking public transportation to your destination, again, do your research ahead of time so you know where you are headed. Don’t get too stressed, though. There are many information desks at airports with people more than happy to answer your questions.


I hope these 5 tips are helpful for your next (or first) time traveling alone. Each time you do it, it gets easier until it is almost second nature.

fall 2015

Safe travels and happy fall!



Read More

My first Academy: A quick summary of NOLA

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Blogs

Ready for our first convention

Ready for our first convention

At first, NOLA seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about our future profession, meet our future colleagues, try new technologies, and see a famous city. At second thought, two exams and one project made me second guess if I should really be going on this trip. However, if your first exam back is an optometry exam, then the best place to study is a town full of optometrists. While studying NRA/PRA during our layover in Atlanta, we ended up asking a Resident (from a different school) for his help.

Pit Stop at the AAO booth

Pit Stop at the AAO booth

Once we arrived in NOLA, the notes were set aside. We decided to try some New Orleans cuisine before attending our first Academy meeting. I had the brisket and mac and cheese, someone else tried fried gator. Throughout the trip I tried the famous beignets at Cafe Du Monde, a po’ boy, a Pig Mac, another brisket, and ribs (which were amazing.) However, you might note that I had no seafood, and as a stranger on the street told me, I was in the wrong town to eat.

The Pig Mac

The Pig Mac




After eating, we visited what we really came for: the American Academy of Optometry. We got our name tags, put on our ribbons (student, new member, first academy!) While I won’t bore you with all the details, I will share some of my memorable experiences.

Some included great sales pitches, such as when we were talking about the automatic phoropter, and the salesman said that our patient would be more impressed with this than the 200 year old manual phoropter. We also met a salesman selling a new slit lamp that was more accessible for “Americans,” a.k.a. larger people. We had to remind them that we were only second year students, and promised to come talk to them when we were looking to buy.

The Smart Vision Labs had us try out the SVOne, a smartphone-based autorefractor. We saw blue light lenses that block blue lights, and different types of trial frame lenses. I got to try 1-Day Acuvue Define (my eyes are too dark for shimmer and shine,) which made my iris look huge. I got a Cup-to-Disc Ratio guide and I got to pick some informational posters. Of course, I got a fews bags and beads (we were in New Orleans, after all.)

Free Pamphlets

Free Information Pamphlets

1-Day Acuvue Define

1-Day Acuvue Define Sample

My eyes look huge

Wearing the Define contact lenses. My eyes look huge.

Even though Saturday and Sunday were filled with cramming for optometry and trying to catch up for the upcoming week, Academy was worth the panic of studying. It was a great opportunity and a great reminder of why we are studying to become optometrists. I wish I could go into every detail of Academy, but it would be too long to write, and too long to read. My only advice is if you haven’t gone, you should start planning your trip for next year. I can’t wait to go again, and next year’s is in Anaheim (Warm weather? Yes, please!)

My ribbons and bag

My ribbons and bag

Read More