This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the National Optometric Association Convention in our very own Chicago! Being the first convention I have attended as a student, I had no idea what I was in for. Whatever I had envisioned in my head, the weekend exceedingly surpassed all of my expectations.
The days were packed full of continuing education, business meetings, leadership classes, exhibit halls, and more, all located at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel. Waking up at the crack of dawn each day and ending late into the evening, I was exhausted in the best way possible.
The weekend was kicked off with breakfast and a presentation from Mr. Mike Elton of HOYA. Later in the day, during networking, I was able to personally talk with him. Mr. Elton’s most valuable piece of advice was to be open, try everything, and network, because you never know where you are going to end up.
As the day continued, I attended the first business meeting for students. This meeting gave me more insight into NOSA and what their mission is. It also gave me the opportunity to meet and connect with various members from different chapters.
I was able to walk around the exhibit hall where I met and networked with various corporate contributors. Directors and managers lined the hall from Alcon, Allergan, VSP, and various other companies. This was my chance to talk to each representative and build a relationship with them. It was also a student’s dream; each table had some free goodies to take home including occluders, pocket books, bags, gift cards and more!
The day progressed with poster talks from students of all different chapters. Our very own Rina Sheth presented the topic of Severe Primary Open Angle Glaucoma. She later ended up winning a scholarship award because of her amazing presentation of the case!
We continued to learn about corporate contributors and finances while also participating in “speed netting.” This is where the doctors and corporate representatives would continually rotate as we got to ask them any questions we had. Basically, as one individual put it, “speed netting is like speed dating- learning as much as you can about the doctor or company, but you don’t get to go home with them afterward.”
The evening schedule consisted of a social event sponsored by HOYA. This allowed everyone to gather in a more relaxed setting and have a little fun, too.
I started off the next day by participating in the VSP Leadership Institute. This was a very unique experience for me. Each of the presidents from various chapters came together to learn about what it takes to be a leader, how to brand yourself, what you want your own mission to be, and how building a team and getting feedback can help you become a better future doctor. This was such a valuable course and really allowed me to get personal with all of the presidents from each school. The room was full of outstanding minds and extraordinary personalities. Just be a part of something so special made me feel extremely grateful to be there. We had deep conversations, laughed, and conducted business. This is where I gained the confidence to expand my connections to other great students of optometry.
Next on the schedule was the NOSA award luncheon where each member was served another delicious meal and multiple students were recognized for their success. My ICO family took home numerous awards and scholarships, and I was proud to be representing such an incredible school with highly successful scholars. After this event, we got to attend an NBEO review.
At the second business meeting, we elected our new national executive board. I am extremely happy to announce that ICO’s Nicole Akpunku and myself have been honored with the positions of president and recording secretary, respectively.
That evening, I attended the banquet as the closing for the convention. This formal event was where I really got to see all of the accomplishments of the NOSA/NOA, and why I so badly wanted to be a part of this group of people. Everyone I met throughout the weekend was gracious, exuberant, successful and on a mission to bring light to underrepresented minorities and underprivileged communities.
I can easily say that my first optometry convention was a huge success. I am pleased with the deeper connections I made to my own ICO acquaintances, as well as the new relationships that I had formed in just a few days. I would like to thank everyone who made this convention possible. For me, personally, it was something I will never forget. I walked in to the NOSA/NOA convention unaware of what to expect, and came out with a family I was honored to officially become a part of.