ICO Blog http://blog.ico.edu Illinois College of Optometry's Official Blog Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:38:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Optometry Students and Lasers: In a Pig’s Eye! http://blog.ico.edu/optometry-students-and-lasers-in-a-pigs-eye/ http://blog.ico.edu/optometry-students-and-lasers-in-a-pigs-eye/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:37:16 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4852 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.


Work station for corneal epithelium removal 


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


Work station for femtosecond laser guided epithelial flap creation 

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House Of ICO: Act like Matadors http://blog.ico.edu/house-of-ico-act-like-matadors/ http://blog.ico.edu/house-of-ico-act-like-matadors/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 22:31:00 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4873 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?

“Even Achilles was only as strong as his heel”. Individually, we try to work on our weaknesses. Every day you hear students saying that such and such is their worst class, and so they study ten times more for that class than for any other class. However, collectively, ICO tries to strengthen its “heel”. If someone is having trouble with topics in a class, they can ask anyone and someone will help them. No one is looking for anyone else’s Achilles heel and everyone wants people to succeed.

“Treading water is the same as drowning for people like you and me”. Like most graduate schools, graduate students are used to being the smart kids in class. Last quarter was hard for a lot of people, and I saw one too many of my friends break down at some point from the stress. They would complain that their family and friends back home didn’t understand, and that is because they don’t. For people like us, treading water is the same as drowning. But we also need to remember that treading water is not the same as drowning, it just feels like that. We need to take a step back and realize that we won’t drown.

WWCUW? Ok, you got me, this isn’t a quote from the show but it is probably one of the most important lessons from the show. What would Claire Underwood wear? We can learn to be ruthless and powerful from Frank, but Claire shows us all that a great outfit can be just as powerful and give you the extra confidence you need.

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Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously http://blog.ico.edu/live-consciously-eat-deliciously/ http://blog.ico.edu/live-consciously-eat-deliciously/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 04:21:37 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4808 Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

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Private Practice Club Dinner http://blog.ico.edu/private-practice-club-dinner/ http://blog.ico.edu/private-practice-club-dinner/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 19:57:01 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4740 “Surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses.” “Focus on what you’re good at.” These tokens were just two of the many pieces of advice given by William Montag to a group of students at the Hilton. Montag, a certified financial planner at the North Star Resource Group, hosted a dinner presentation on finances for members of Private Practice Club.

The PPC plans numerous events each year for students to learn about the important aspects of owning a private practice as well as the trials and successes that current owners have experienced. Through the club, I’ve listened to optometrists talk about their experiences and visited practices. The event hosted by Montag was a little different and made for a fun new experience, as a group of 25 of us attended a fancy dinner presentation at 720 South Bar and Grill. We received folders filled with spreadsheets, charts and checklists addressing the important financial aspects of owning a private practice, and what steps we can take now to achieve that goal. Montag took questions from the group as he gave his presentation. The event was informative and the dinner was delicious. At the end, students could schedule a one-on-one session with Montag about finances.


Dinner Menu + Program folder


Left: Bartlet pear Salad. Right: Salmon Spaetzle


Cheesecake with fresh fruit for dessert

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Practicing for Practicals: Who Makes the Best Patients? http://blog.ico.edu/practicing-for-practicals-who-makes-the-best-patients/ http://blog.ico.edu/practicing-for-practicals-who-makes-the-best-patients/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 21:50:48 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4778 With the next round of lab practicals inching closer, we first years must decide on how to study. There are basically four options: practicing with our classmates, practicing with family and friends, reading over the syllabus/rubric for the lab practical, and just winging it. The last two options aren’t good ones. Even though we have been practicing in lab, we’re not prepared for the pressure of someone breathing down your neck and grading you. Which means we need to decide who we’re going to practice on.

Practicing with Classmates

Tips and feedback: Other OD students may do something in a different (better) way and can help you on the areas that you are struggling with. They also (hopefully) know the rubric and can let you know what you missed.

No explanations: While you have to tell them why you are performing something, they won’t ask you a million questions about every little thing.

Time: They won’t take as long to answer questions, as they know you’re being timed and will make it about the same level of difficulty as the actual practical.

Convenience: You can always find another student to practice on. You can either sit in the Eyepod and wait, or walk across the street and knock on anyone’s door in the RC.

Answers: Other students know their stuff, so you can double check if you get the correct C/D, strabismus, etc.

Pressure: Other students know if you’re doing something wrong. While they will give you advice, you still want to look like you know what you’re doing in front of your peers.

Tips and feedback: Your classmates may do something in a different (worse) way. You may know that you’re actually in the right, but you will still have to be polite and shake your head (being Minnesota nice and all) or it could lead to a debate, and your patient might leave you.

You’re next: Nothing comes free, so be prepared to sit as patient. Definitely a con, unless you like bright lights in your eyes and checking to see if your strabismus is still there.

Practicing with Others

No pressure: Don’t worry, they’ll never know if you messed up (even if you realized it). Just act natural and don’t do it on your next patient. Also, if your patient is a close friend or family member, they’ve seen you embarrass yourself plenty, so relax and you’ll be fine.

Next patient, please: They’re not studying to be an optometrist, so you don’t need to sit as their patient. If you have a large family or lots of friends, just line them up and keep on practicing!

Variety: You can practice on a wide range of ages, and may see something that you wouldn’t regularly see on a classmate.

Eager patients: Your friends and family haven’t sat through five weeks of optometry lab and therefore haven’t done these tests yet, so they’ll be more willing to sit and let you practice on them.

Questions: Get ready to explain in a lot of detail what every test does. Even worse, be prepared to explain what all your findings are. For example, saying “Oh my gosh your C/D is huge!” might make your patient going into panic and rush to the ER.

Equipment: Unless you live at an optometrist’s office, you probably don’t have all the equipment you need (and the correct lighting). Therefore, you might not be able to practice distance VAs and lensometry.

Convenience: Unless you have close connections nearby, it may be difficult to find non-classmates to practice on. You may end up lugging home all of your equipment so you can practice during school breaks. Or if you’re lucky, you can catch Santa in the act as he’s delivering presents at your house and you can practice on him!

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Long Distance Relationships http://blog.ico.edu/long-distance-relationships/ http://blog.ico.edu/long-distance-relationships/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 21:53:24 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4784 I’m going to write about a very touchy subject here.

I come from Toronto (in the magical land of Canada). Before I left, I spoke to my girlfriend about how hard it would be to maintain our relationship. I had heard from friends in optometry school that long distance relationships  were especially stressful in first year because of its difficulty. I wanted to make sure that we could work things out–that we would see each other as much as possible in between quarters and reunite at the end of these four years as if nothing had come between us.

When I left her the night before my plane took off, we both knew that it would be difficult. We felt we were ready to put in the necessary work to make things work.

A lot of people talk about how difficult it is to maintain a long distance relationship, but no one really talks about it in detail. A lot of long distance relationships work out–but for me, it hasn’t all gone according to plan.

No one told me how hard it would be for me sit in front of the computer screen, trying to comfort my girlfriend when she was upset.

No one told me I would lose my temper during those few moments I had to talk to my girlfriend over Skype, struggling to keep my insecurities in check while I was sleep deprived and tired of looking at books all day.

No one told me that I would have to make tough choices–like, when on a break from studying, choosing between going out with my friends or talking to my girlfriend. That isn’t even taking into account the time I want to spend on other things.

I’ll admit that I was a little bit naive when I came to ICO with a relationship. The reality is more difficult than I imagined–but I attribute that more to my ignorance and lackadaisical attitude. While I’ve been here, I’ve had to make tough choices. I’ve learned a lot about my priorities and the things worth paying attention to.

I’ve been spending more time thinking about relationships.

I am not an authority on love and commitment. The words that follow are not meant to be the truth. I don’t even want you to listen to me if you disagree, but maybe these words will help someone out there who’s deeply in love and unaware of the mistakes that they are likely to make.

You’ve probably heard this before in other places, but serious relationships absolutely need to be nurtured. There is no way around that fact, unless the people in that relationship are extremely low maintenance.

Relationships are built on a commitment to trust and love each other, and if you suddenly spend all of your time studying, it’s easy to overlook your relationship. I am guilty of this.

By nature I am an introvert who enjoys conversation and good company. I am goal-driven and I know a lot about myself, but because I spend so much time in my head, thinking about myself, I am also very self-centred. I tend to forget that there are other people in my life.

As you can imagine, this isn’t very good for maintaining a long distance relationship where communication, understanding and effort are mandatory.

I’ve realized that I don’t know myself nearly as well as I thought I did. That the priorities and goals that are at the top of my mind aren’t as important as some of the things I’ve sidelined. That worries and concerns aren’t black and white. That right and wrong don’t matter in an argument with someone you love deeply, especially when it’s about things that don’t matter.

I’ve learned that it’s hard to apply and remember everything even though I know it.

And I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned–the thing I should have know all along but didn’t– is that relationships are deliberate. They don’t just “happen.” You have to choose to make it a priority.

I can’t say my workaholic days are behind me and I can’t say that I’m the greatest person to be in a relationship with, but I’m trying. I hope that if you’re in a relationship with someone you love, long distance or not, that you’re trying too. It’s not worth losing love over the little things.

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The Wonders of Winter http://blog.ico.edu/the-wonders-of-winter/ http://blog.ico.edu/the-wonders-of-winter/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 20:41:42 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4753 We resumed classes this week following a two-week winter break. Whenever winter break comes around, one of my best friends and I always meet up to do something seasonal. Nine times out of ten, that wintery activity is ice skating followed by lunch and maybe a side of shopping. This year, we made plans to check out Maggie Daley Park, just east of Millennium Park.

Maggie Daley Park opened on Dec. 13 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was named in honor of the late wife of Chicago’s former longtime mayor, Richard M. Daley. The 20-acre park features a winding “skating ribbon.” With a surface area of 27,500 square feet of ice, it’s nearly twice the size of a traditional rink and makes for a great race course.

My friend and I checked out the park on a Sunday morning and it was filled with countless eager skaters. Thankfully, we had our own skates and avoided the long line for rentals. I love how it’s not like a typical circular rink where all you can do is skate in endless and sometimes boring loops. The ribbon coursed through the park and took us up and down hills and around sharp turns all while offering us beautiful views of the city.

This park is definitely a must visit! I’m excited to check it out again in the spring when it’ll be completely open with rock climbing, and enchanted forest and more.


The lamp strewn path into Maggie Daley Park


A very crowded ribbon with a long line of people waiting to get skates 


Interesting sculpture in the middle of the course


A scenic view of the city on the walk out of Maggie Daley Park


Ice skates laid to rest 

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Glaucoma and Lasers http://blog.ico.edu/glaucoma-and-lasers/ http://blog.ico.edu/glaucoma-and-lasers/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 18:31:31 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4674 One of the best things about the IEI is its comprehensive service offerings. A patient who is diagnosed with angle closure glaucoma on the first floor in Primary Care can take the elevator up to the second floor and receive laser treatment in Advanced Care. During third year, you’ll learn just about everything you’ve ever wanted to know about glaucoma. You’ll learn about all the flavors and forms it comes in, who it affects, what factors put an individual at risk, and how to analyze endless visual fields and scans of the optic nerve and nerve fiber layer.

What is glaucoma? Short definition, it’s a blinding eye disease that clinically manifests as damage to the optic nerve and retina, causing a gradual loss of vision that begins peripherally and ends centrally. A lot of the time, this damage to the optic nerve and retinal tissue is due to high intraocular pressure. At this point, my classmates and I have had Glaucoma I and II. I feel confident in my knowledge of glaucoma and rumor has it, it’s one of the few sections on NBEO exams that everyone answers unhesitatingly.

Most commonly, glaucoma is managed with the use of pharmaceutical eye drops that work to decrease intraocular pressure and hopefully halt or slow progression of the disease. Less known is that glaucoma can also be managed with laser and surgical treatments. At the IEI, laser treatment is offered in office. The two main used laser treatments for glaucoma are laser peripheral iridotomy (LPI) and selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT). LPI is used for angle closure glaucoma and SLT is used for open angle glaucoma.

Last month, I had the pleasure of working in Advanced Care alongside three attending doctors–one ophthalmologist and two optometrists–with patients scheduled to receive laser treatment. As a student clinician, my tasks included working up SLT and LPI patients. We also saw patients post-op to see how their treatments were or weren’t working for them. Since it was a work up for laser treatment, the slew of entrance testing we normally do in Primary Care wasn’t necessary. After patients signed the treatment consent forms, I asked them about their current condition and concerns, and I then performed a couple of tests. These included examining entering visual acuities, checking intraocular pressures, and doing a thorough slit lamp exam to assess ocular health.

For SLT, patients were given a drop of brimonidine pre-op. Brimonidine is an alpha agonist used prophylactically to prevent post-op pressure spikes. For LPI, patients were given drops of brimonidine and pilocarpine. Pilocarpine is a miotic agent that works to constrict the pupil and stretch the iris making LPI easier. After working up patients, I observed a number of procedures and watched as laser was applied using a slit lamp and gonioscopy lens. During SLT, a laser beam is used to burn areas of the trabecular meshwork. This increases outflow and helps decrease intraocular pressure. During LPI, little openings are made in the periphery of the iris allowing a decrease in eye pressure by an increase in outflow.

All in all, this experience in Advanced Care gave me great insight into what happens when a patient is referred for laser surgery.

Editor’s note: Optometrists do not have the ability to perform laser surgery in Illinois at the moment. At the IEI, these treatments are performed by ophthalmologists.

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Do We Need Money for Fun? http://blog.ico.edu/do-we-need-money-for-fun/ http://blog.ico.edu/do-we-need-money-for-fun/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:59:56 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4407 La Vida Está Hecha de Pequños Momentos

At 22 years old and recent college graduates, my friends and I are at the age that we have entered the real world. College loans, grad school, jobs, figuring out where to live, and how to still have a life are all problems in our young lives. It seems that no matter where you go or what you do, you have to spend money. For instance, my friend just asked me if I had any ideas for a date night for him and his new girlfriend because he was already running out of ideas. Besides going for walks or bike rides, what else is there to do besides watching a movie in your parents’ basement for free? All my ideas involved going out to eat or a movie, or even paddle boarding (rent for an hour or two?). But everything involves money. And it becomes even more of a concern when you’re taking out a ton of student loans for grad school.

Is it really impossible to find free things to do, or does our generation lack imagination? Or is the issue that we look at the cost of something to determine the worth and fun of it? Even as a grad student, I still want to make money, save money, and pay for the occasional fun outing or item in addition to the necessities!

So how do we accomplish having fun without the money? I remember one afternoon in Seville, Spain during siesta when I just started to explore. It was one of my favorite days because I saw so much of the city that I had never seen before, and the best part was that it cost me nothing. Similarly, I’m from the Twin Cities, which is one of the most active communities in the nation, where people are constantly outside swimming or biking or roller-skating (hey, we’ve gotta soak up enough vitamin D in two months to last us the other 10). These are all fun things to do but they are never the first things we ever think of. How often do we decide to sit on a bench and read a book, or just sit down and talk to a friend without any distractions?

Our generation forgets that money isn’t everything and that we control money–not the other way around. There was a restaurant in Seville that had a sign “La Vida está hecha de pequeños momentos-0€,” which means, “Life is made of small moments–$0.” If we look all around us there are many ways to live life to the fullest even without spending money. We should stop waiting until we have a large income to live our lives, and start living the best free lives that we can.

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Do What You Love! http://blog.ico.edu/do-what-you-love/ http://blog.ico.edu/do-what-you-love/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 17:19:37 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=4721 I’ve just eaten dinner and was about to start studying when I decided that I would rather spend my time writing. So I’m writing this. Even though I have an Optics test tomorrow at 8 a.m.

But I’ll explain why I’ve made that choice a little later.

My classmates and I have been at ICO for nearly four months now. The bright-eyed, naive idealists–who stepped onto the grounds of ICO as a group of strangers, hoping to learn as much about the world of optometry and to help as many people as possible–have disappeared.

Today, we are battle-worn. We know each other as well as only optometry students can know each other. Our bonds are strong, having been tempered by the difficulties and tribulations of professional school. We are like lost soldiers, depending only on each other as we struggle to survive in an endless desert of notes and diagrams of eyes. We climb sand dunes to find an ever-expanding desert of deadlines and test dates. And sometimes, among the sleepless nights spent fending off coyotes, whose only goal is to whittle our GPAs closer and closer to the cut-off point of failing a course, it seems like this desert will never end.

I may be exaggerating a bit here.

It’s not that bad…

No really, it isn’t. I’ve only had one all-nighter since I’ve been here–and that was because I had insomnia.

You’ll be fine, I promise.

The point I was trying to make (with a bit of theatrical flourish) is that optometry school can be difficult. Stress levels can get high when you don’t see your family or friends from home, and it seems that from the time you wake up to the time you go back to sleep all you’re doing is studying. Days blend together, and it can feel overwhelming when it’s so difficult to learn just ONE concept–and you realize that you still have 100 pages to read before you take the exam in three days… and that you have another 150 pages of notes to go through before the next test two days later.

It is difficult. But it is doable.

If you are a prospective student, don’t let this scare you. But take this as a cue to brush up on your study habits and learn how to LEARN. Trust me, it makes a difference, and–no matter where you are in the process, whether you’re already here at ICO, hoping to be here one day, or already done with optometry school–it is never too late to learn how to learn. It is a meta-skill with many applications.

(Feel free to leave a question in the comments section and I’ll see if I can help.)

When you are here, you might feel pressured to study day in and day out. You’ll end up seeing your notes more than any other sight one way or another, but I beg you: Take some time to be yourself.

When you feel pressed for time, I guarantee that you will want to stop doing things those time consuming things that you love, whether it be drawing, working out, writing (in my case), making music, exploring–whatever your thing is.

Make sure you do those things in the tiny amount of time you have free, at least once in a while.

You are an optometry student and you have a responsibility to your studies, but don’t forget that you are you, too. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one will.

You will forget why you are here at times. You’ll have more things to worry about than you can count, and your aspirations to be the kind of optometrist that you want to be will get sidelined. So take a moment and inspire and motivate yourself. Keep the goal in mind.

And go out.

Seriously, go out when you have the chance. You’ll get sick of being in the same two buildings everyday, especially if you don’t have a car and you live in the RC. It doesn’t matter where you go. Just go.

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