Although the optometric community is considered to be small, it is full of great minds. Just within my class alone, ICO’s class of 2019, there are so many varied professional interests. With some interested in the politics and law side of optometry, others are greatly interested prescribing low vision devices and the rehabilitation that comes with severe vision loss.
I never knew going into the profession that there were so many options to pursue beyond just primary care. As I continue my education, I find myself continually falling into the pediatric/vision therapy niche. I have always gravitated toward this field since the very beginning of my optometric education.
One of my favorite courses during my first year at ICO was the third course in the optometry sequence. This course introduced the fundamental clinical techniques that are part of a near visual system analysis. This class introduced the details of the binocular visual system and the accommodative system, and gave insight to the optometric assessment of a patient’s phoria, vergences, accommodative amplitudes, accommodative facility, fusion capabilities, and ocular motor skills. In that same year, I got the invitation to become involved in the pediatric/vision therapy department as a work study. This was only the beginning of my love for pediatrics.
As a third year, I am still involved in working within the department, expanding my view to all that is out there to pursue. As I continue to learn more about pediatrics, binocular vision, and vision therapy, I realize this field relies heavily on objective findings. It requires you to trust your own skill set to complete an exam, diagnose a disease, and treat a patient. I find this is what attracts me to the field. It challenges me to test my knowledge clinically, even beyond primary care optometry.
At the Illinois College of Optometry, students are given the opportunity to rotate between pediatrics, low vision and rehabilitation, cornea and contact lenses, and advanced care optometry. The externships carried out in the fourth year at ICO help perfect skills different areas of optometry in a more realistic setting. It is important to get exposure to each branch of optometry so that you can decide what is the best fit for you. I am lucky enough to attend a school that gives me so many chances to explore the optometric possibilities out there, to determine what I like, and what I don’t like.
Each student of optometry has a universal love for the profession, but also a different, specialized passion waiting to be uncovered. I am thankful for the variations of the human mind. It allows optometrists to put forth the best of their diverse interests and abilities. We become a group of solid experts that can help vision through a multitude of avenues.
I recently attended a talk about pediatrics and vision therapy in a real-life practice setting. One of ICO’s very own, Dr. Schlange, said it best, “Don’t compete, differentiate.”