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End of First Year

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Blogs

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

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

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

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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House Of ICO: Act like Matadors

House Of ICO: Act like Matadors

Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in Blogs

If for some reason you aren’t a fan of House of Cards (yet), you must have noticed the hundreds of posts, quizzes and memes take over your feeds when the new season was released about a month ago. My friends and I may or may not have binge-watched the 13 episodes over a weekend (we HAD to finish before exams started!). The show is a reference point for some pretty important life lessons (for example, never trust politicians). So, I got to thinking, how does House of Cards relate to optometry students? Can I learn anything from Frank Underwood?

“If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table”. Optometry school is like politics. The student body is the House, and the faculty is Congress. We work together to find the best possible solutions to problems when they arise. Now, we don’t have 160 first year students ambushing the professors, but our class representatives do a great job making sure our voices are being heard. In fact, Dr. Mothersbaugh and Dr. Ittner decided to make changes early on–within the first two weeks of spring quarter–based on the feedback we gave.

“There are two types of vice presidents: doormats and matadors. Which do you think I intend to be?” I doubt anyone at ICO is trying to be vice president of the United States, but imagine if he had said, “there are two types of optometrists: doormats and matadors.” ICO isn’t teaching us to be doormat optometrists; they expect us to come here and act like matadors. If we don’t understand something, we practice and ask questions until we get it. Besides, who wants a doormat as their eye doctor?

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