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The RGP Experience

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Blogs

In optometry school, we learn that macular degeneration is a serious sight threatening condition that affects your central vision. This condition is thought to be caused by smoking and UV light. It seems to be hereditary and is more common in those of Caucasian race. As a white female with light green eyes and a grandmother with macular degeneration, one of my main eye related concerns is UV protection and prevention of this blinding disease. We recently learned in our physical optics course that Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) lenses provide the best UV protection of the contact lenses and are also better for the health of the cornea because they’re so oxygen permeable.   Further, they’re easier to take care of, cheaper in the long run and the vision is even crisper than regular contact lenses.  These seem too good to be true and being the curious person that I am, I just decided I have to try these.

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Of course I did wonder, if these are so awesome, why does everyone wear soft lenses?  After discussing with a few of the doctors in my primary care suite, I was warned that they are not the most comfortable to wear.  In order for me to be the best clinician I can be, I feel as though I need to experience everything I’m going to be prescribing and counseling my patients on. So, I mentally prepared myself and decided that I would try the RGP lenses for at least 1 month. I figured if I can’t get used to them in 1 month, then I’m not going to and I can be thankful that I don’t have one of those prescriptions where this is the only option.

Because these lenses are so uncomfortable, you have to start a wearing schedule that goes something like this: day 1, wear the lenses for 4 hours, increase by 2 hours each day, and book a follow up in 1 week. Sounds easy, right?   My wearing schedule went more like this:

Day 1, 4 hours of wear time: I just left the office and I’m checking my watch to see when I can take these out. Every time I blink, I have to wait for the lens to settle before the vision is clear. I think the right one is slightly more comfortable than the left; the left one seems to move a lot more each time I blink.

Day 2: “I have optometry lab today and I have to sit as patient, so I’ll put them in this afternoon after lab…” So, 20150517_165542that didn’t happen. I was dilated. I get enough glare from them when I’m not dilated. I can’t imagine how bad it would be if I had them in now!

Day 3, 6 hours of wear time: These lenses are making me so grumpy!! I was told my eye lids looked swollen. I can’t stop rubbing my inner canthus. They make me feel a bit off, so for the big event this afternoon, I’ll take them out and wear my glasses- I need to be on my “A” game.

Day 4, 8 hours of wear time: I wanna scratch my eyes out. I think I’ve lost more than a few eye lashes at this point. I feel like my eyes are so incredibly dry, and it makes me want to blink every second- except then I have to wait for the lens to settle again. Arrgggggghhhh!!

Day 5: I feel like I want to put eye drops in every 5 minutes or so.

Day 6: I’m just going to wear my soft lenses today.

After trying these lenses, I am very thankful that I do not have to wear these.  I think it’s safe for me to say that this was an unsuccessful experience in terms of me becoming an RGP wearer. However, I am glad that I got the chance to experience them through the educational contact lens program.

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What graduation from ICO means to me

What graduation from ICO means to me

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Blogs

If you have read my story on how I got to ICO, you might be able to empathize with how much graduation means to me and my family.

It means my brother can probably start investing in himself more instead of penny-pinching to ensure that I have food on the table while I have no source of income while I am on externships.

It means that I now have the opportunity to retire my parents so that they can stop working multiple jobs 7 days a week.

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My family

It means all those times the big bankers told me “you can’t/shouldn’t/won’t make it,” didn’t stop me from actually doing it anyway.

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Graduate of 2015

It means I can sign off on my own prescriptions and start to develop my own patient base that grows with me (no more asking for permission to dilate!)

It means I can pursue my dreams of continuing with mission work all over the world so I can make a difference in those that can’t afford to see.

Puebla SVOSH mission trip 2013

Puebla SVOSH mission trip 2013

It means I have a career where I am doing what I love every single day that I am working, and the world is my oyster.

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It also means that I will miss the ICO staff like Teisha Johnson, Hank, and Anthony who have been there for me and look out for me like my family away from home.

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Anthony was the first person to greet me on my interview day and gave me words of encouragement when I was nervous.

Hank made sure I was safe even while I was off campus. He's my family away from home.

Hank  is the head of security and he made sure I was safe even while I was off campus. He’s my family away from home.

My time at ICO allowed me to grow both as an individual and as an optometrist and I truly had the time of my life. You know it’s true when you start a hash tag #timeofmylife for it. I got to travel, build friendships, network with doctors and vendors. Each trip was an unforgettable experience.

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Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia 2014

Friendships were formed with people from all over the world that I would have otherwise never been able to have the pleasure to meet. Graduation is bitter-sweet, and I struggle with not being able to see my classmates like I used to in first year, but I definitely won’t be missing studying every weekend!

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ICO class of 2015

I am honored to be an alumnus of ICO class of 2015, I am proud of my education that I worked hard to obtain, and am forever grateful to all my professors and preceptors who have taught me all that I know, and encouraged me throughout my career here. A special thanks to Dr. Mindy Nguyen, Dr. Dominick Maino from ICO, as well as Dr. Barry Jose and Dr. Gregg Russell from my externships who were the most influential and inspirational people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I have no doubt in my mind I learned from the best of the best doctors.

Optometry for me is a dream come true, and like any other dream, it doesn’t come easy. It’s sweat and tears and more sacrifice than you can imagine, but standing with my cap and gown on graduation day made one thing clear; it was worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you ICO for making me Dr. Jennifer Tai.

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and now presenting…THIRD YEAR.

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Blogs

Suddenly… I was a third year. blog1

I swear I just wrote to you all about living in Chicago and nervously starting my first year of school. However, suddenly, I look around and the hallways look a little more familiar and clinic time is on the upward spiral as I shift into my third year of optometry school.

Second year proved to be a whirlwind in itself, filled most notably with practicals testing our clinical skills. These included everything from palpating for lymph nodes to assessing the most peripheral parts of the back of the eye. It is no joke that academics are of the utmost importance here, but I personally take greater comfort in knowing that ICO puts a much higher precedence on our clinical knowledge, application, and efficiency. After all, what will I be after school but… an optometrist? I would like to be a competent one, and I can feel that ICO is slowly making the Dr. Rina Sheth, O.D. that I had always planned to be. Of course right now, in the midst of it, it has been feeling like school will never end, but then suddenly… here I am, seeing patients by myself.

So now, I’m at the penultimate step in optometry school, third year. Filled with three clinic shifts, two at the Illinois Eye Institute and one at CPS (Chicago Public Schools), I’m finding that much more of my time isn’t sitting behind a desk – although don’t get me wrong, there is still much studying to do and much knowledge to absorb. I am frantically moving in between said clinic shifts and labs and class. This differs greatly from second year, where much of my time was in lab practicing skills to be one day hopefully apply in clinic. I’m beginning to feel like this is the moment that I had been waiting for: having enough knowledge where I can begin to see an entire educational career culminate into an actual career. I hope to solidify that knowledge this year.

IMG_3278Best part so far about third year: the world of contacts. I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was a young teenager, as I was stubborn to adorn a foreign plastic object upon my face. Finally, we get to learn and understand appropriate contact lens selection and care for patients and ourselves. I now know why I wear an Acuvue One-Day Moist. Wouldn’t you be curious to learn why your contact lens was picked for you?

Well, I write this blog in the very first week of my third year. I know it will get harder. There will be many days where I will be tired from the hustle and bustle of summer quarter here at ICO (especially taking the most demanding class in our academic career, Retina.) If there is one thing that is becoming more evident to me, day in and day out, it is that I have the makings of an optometrist in the sooner-than-I-think future.

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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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