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The Trials of a Second Year Student Clinician

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 in Blogs

This year, my classmates and I are being introduced into the clinic. We get to do what we came to optometry school to do.


The rules of the game:

  • The class is broken down into two groups.
  • Each group has six clinic shifts – one each week.
  • One group gets to be in clinic for the first half of the quarter; The second group takes the second half.
  • Students work in pairs to do clinical exams on real patients.
  • They must perform the skills they know how to do.
  • The Attending Clinician will take over the rest of the exam.
  • One student takes the role of doctor, the other is the note taker.
  • The students alternate each week.

On the first day, I remember walking into my examination room with my equipment and my usual air of overconfidence. My partner, Lisa Pham, had already set up. This would end up being a common theme for our next six weeks together. Her equipment had been immaculately arranged on the desk and her suitcases put away neatly in the corner of the room, while I, in my ignorance, casually mentioned how excited I was. We decided to use Lisa’s equipment since it had already been set up; we also decided that I would be doctor.

And then, it was go time. Lisa and I met our attending, Dr. Foreman. After an introduction, she promptly and kindly handed us a patient record and sent us on our way with one direction: skip keratometry and use the patient’s lensometry reading to begin manifest.

And that was it. I don’t know what I expected, but it was pretty underwhelming.

We went to pick up our patient from the waiting room. We introduced ourselves, took her to the examination room, and then the trial by fire began.

The skills I spent first year honing were developed in a sterile environment. The people I practiced with usually gave me the answers I expected and my directions were always followed without confusion. My skills didn’t play out that way in a clinical setting. Patients who don’t know how the tests are done need clear and simple instructions, unlike my classmates who knew exactly how to respond and gave me answers I always expected. I kept my cool, but as the testing went on, my pool of confidence evaporated into a meager puddle. I began to doubt myself and my results. Then, I began to make a few mistakes, which Lisa helped me correct.

I consider manifest refraction to be one of my strong points, but I couldn’t do it that day. We had to call in Dr. Foreman to help us get through it- something I should have been able to do on my own. My confidence took a huge hit after that. Dr. Foreman was very kind and re-did the refraction herself. In short, it was embarrassing. Everyone in the room knew that I messed up.

Not wanting to repeat my experiences, I spent some time leading up to my next clinical session practicing my skills. On our third week (my second week as doctor,) things went a lot more smoothly. I was nervous during that clinic session, but the extra time spent practicing helped a lot. It turns out that I wasn’t a bad clinician; I was just rusty.

During my second week as doctor, I was able to make a difference in someone’s life. The moments leading up to it involved some doubting on the patient’s part. She knew I was a student and mentioned that I was making her vision blurry during manifest, which is a normal part of the process. I reassured her as best as I could, but felt doubt creeping back into my thoughts. Flashbacks from the first week made it a little difficult to concentrate, but once I had her final prescription and she could see clearly, she laughed, complimented my work, and said that “there’s a method to your madness.”

That moment made me realize that I’m more than just a student. It also made me realize that no matter how badly I embarrass myself, I can always turn things around- provided I get enough practice in before the next time I get a chance to try again.

I have a long way to go, but I’m still making tangible progress. It feels good. Sometimes you hit a wall and want to give up, but you have to brush it off and dedicate some time to rounding out your weaknesses. I came to ICO to learn to be a clinician, and no amount of embarrassment will stop that from happening.

I’m sure that every other optometry student experiences something similar at some point in their career. So, if you’re hitting a rough patch in clinic right now, hang in there. You can do this.

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What is the best way to get around Chicago?

What is the best way to get around Chicago?

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 in Blogs

I recently made a trip to Old Town to find a quiet place to study on a Friday night. The trip itself turned out to be quite the adventure.

First, I took the Green Line at IIT/35th to Clark/Lake where I was planning on transferring to the Brown Line and get off 2 blocks from my destination. Well, I forgot the Brown Line was under construction, so there was a shuttle bus running the same route. I left the train station at Clark/Lake and walked around the block to find the shuttle, which then drove me through the Brown Line route.

I studied for a couple hours and then decided to head back. I went back to the same train station where I was originally planning on getting off of the Brown Line because I knew there was a Purple Line stop that could take me back to the Loop. I could then transfer to the Green Line and get back to IIT/35th. Well, the Purple Line only runs on the weekdays and this was a Friday night. I could have waited for the Brown Line shuttle to take me back to the Loop, but I didn’t feel like waiting; I called an Uber.

The Uber then took me to the Loop where I got into a Green Line station planning on taking it back to IIT/35th. However, at this point, it was about 1:30 a.m. The last Green Line train had already left. A CTA official told me the Green Line trains were no longer running and that if I needed to take a train South, my only option was the Red Line. I walked a couple more blocks to get to the nearest Red Line station. I then waited about 15 minutes for the next train South. At this point, it was almost 2 a.m. and I was tired and ready to be home. Eventually, the Red Line train came and I rode it to Sox/35th. I walked back to ICO, arriving around 2:30 a.m.

The point of this rant is that transportation through the city can be confusing and challenging at times. This little adventure got me thinking, “What is the best form of transportation to get around the city?” The most common ways students use are cars, trains, buses, taxis, and Uber.

Cars: If you have a car on campus, you probably won’t use it much. Parking in the city is not convenient and rush hour seems to be all day. If you are heading away from downtown, sometimes it isn’t so bad. Or, if you are making a grocery run on a weekend, it also isn’t that bad, but most of the time there are better options. The only places I have driven to since arriving here are to get food in Bridgeport and to go to Target.

Trains: The train is my personal favorite way to get around. It’s fast, reliable, convenient, and inexpensive. The downsides of the train are only that you get your occasional homeless guy asking for money, it is usually crowded, and the lines and stops can be confusing. Once I figured out the train routes, it became my fastest and most favorite way to travel. You can get on a Green Line at IIT/35th (which is two blocks East of the school) and pretty much get to anywhere you need to go in the city by transferring lines and walking a few blocks.

Buses: I don’t usually take the bus. I don’t really like it unless I am not going that far. The few times I take it are when I have extra time on the weekends and know the routes. This is because the bus stops about every block, it seems, so it can take a while. Plus, traffic gets thicker the closer to downtown you get. Also, the bus routes are MUCH more confusing, in my opinion; there are over 60 buses that all make stops at the same places. It’s easy to get on the wrong bus and end up on the other side of town if you aren’t careful. However, there is a bus stop directly outside the RC which is very convenient. Maybe over the next 4 years I’ll figure, out this system. For now, I just stick to the train or Uber.

Uber: This is by far is the most convenient way to get around regardless of where you’re going. All you do is link a credit card to the app on your phone the first time you download it, order an Uber, it comes to where you are,  you get in and tell the driver where you want to go, he drives you there, and the fare is charged to your credit card. You can even split the fare with your friends by sending them a notification via phone number through the app. The problem with this is it’s easy to get used to the convenience of Uber. Before you know it, you check your bank account and realize you’ve spent $50 on Ubers over the weekend.

Taxis: These are similar to Ubers, but they dont really come near the school unless you call and order one. I have never personally taken one while in Chicago, but I have taken them in New York City and Detroit. They are convenient if you want to go several blocks and dont feel like walking.


Everyone has their go-to way to get around the city. Some might prefer Uber, while others like the public transportation systems. Whatever you are into, Chicago has options. The more time you spend in the city, the more you understand the public transportation systems and the easier it is to get around. It can be intimidating to think about getting around the city, but in the end, everyone figures it out. Good luck!

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Count down to Boo Bash

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Blogs

The Save the Date was sent out, ladies and gents, so starting planning your costumes- Boo Bash is upon us! While Boo Bash is a great way to let off some steam from studying (this year it is two weeks before finals,) it is also a great time for the whole school to come together and have some fun. And if ICOlympics didn’t prove it, our school can get into some friendly competition during the costume contest (a certain Wolverine look alike won last year.)

For anyone who is new to ICO, Boo Bash is an annual event where the entire school is invited to dress up and go out in Chicago. I should be studying for exams and trying to get ahead before Boo Bash starts, but thinking about a good costume is a welcome distraction.

While looking at photos, I came across costumes from my past. Maybe they will give some inspiration for someone (I’m thinking Teletubbies might be a good one.) I might also grab an extra costume for October 31st, because who doesn’t love trick or treating? Bonus points for eye related costumes (Worth 4 dot anyone?).







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My 3 Best Study Spots in Chicago

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Blogs

During the week, us first years are busy with classes and studying. If you live in the residential complex (RC) like myself, you find that you are constantly running back and forth between the RC and our academic building. Although these are great places, by the end of the week I find that I am getting a little antsy from being in the same buildings every single day. My roommates and I have found that exploring Chicago and seeking out new study spots is the cure.


Now, even though I would love to spend my weekends window shopping on Michigan Ave. or taking trips to the river, I really do need to take the time to study. What we have been doing is going to different coffee shops across the city and making these our study spots for the day. A change of scenery every once in a while can be quite refreshing. My list of study spots is continuing to grow, but for now, here are my top three choices.

The Wormhole Cafe

This tucked away spot can be found just off the CTA Blue Line and has an irresistible atmosphere. When you walk in, you are surrounded by fun sci-fi characters, cozy couches, and quite a unique menu. They even have a replica of the Delorean from Back to the Future. One of my favorite things about this space is that it is full of outlets (they understand the struggle.) If you are interested, make sure you get there somewhat early- I’m not the only one who realized it is a cool spot.


Intelligentsia Cafe

Intelligentsia is not quite as unique as Wormhole, but still a great spot. This is more of a chain in Chicago which can be nice if you don’t feel like traveling too far. They are known for their foam art and wide coffee selection. Don’t worry if you are not a big coffee drinker though, they do have smoothies and pastries to choose from!


Sip Coffee House

The third site on my list is Sip Coffee House. This spot is great when you are looking for an energetic place. There are large windows that welcome natural light, delicious pastries and a whole range of caffeinated beverages.  One of my favorite aspects of this coffee house is that they also have an outdoor garden portion. If the weather is right, you can study outside while enjoying your purchases. It’s great!

My time here in Chicago has just begun and I have already found some great places to hide out. As the months pass, I plan to continue to get to know this city. By the time I graduate, I hope to have an even longer list for you full of the ultimate study spots in the area.


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5 Ways to Deal with Stress at ICO

5 Ways to Deal with Stress at ICO

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Blogs

Exams are well underway, intramural play has started, weekly meetings are scheduled. We are pretty much into the bulk of the quarter. With that being said, things are hectic. I think I speak for all students when I say: we need an outlet.

When I say “outlet,” I am referring to a way to relieve stress, blow off steam, clear your head, or whatever you want to call it. Everyone functions differently and everyone has a different outlet. With all the different students at ICO and all the resources, there is something for everyone. Here is a list of some of the common techniques students use to de-stress at ICO.

1. The Fitness Center

The Fitness Center is open pretty much from 6am-11pm every day. So, whether you’re a night owl or a morning person, you can get your workout in. There is always someone on staff to answer your questions or help you with a specific piece of equipment or exercise. This includes group fitness classes like Cycling and Kick Boxing if you’re into that scene. If you want a personalized coach, there are Fit Coaches available to meet with you one-on-one to develop a personalized plan to achieve your fitness goals. In addition to this, they have every kind of equipment you can think of. This is my go-to de-stresser. There is nothing quite like getting in a workout, listening to some loud music, and releasing some natural endorphins.

2. Extracurricular activities 

This is a broad category and most people don’t think of a private optometry school being big on the extracurriculars, right? Wrong. There are IM Sports including volleyball, basketball, soccer, flag football, baseball, and numerous others. And, you’d be surprised at how competitive some leagues are as well as how relaxed and fun some of the others are. I personally am involved in soccer for now, but who knows what other teams I’ll end up playing on by the end of the year?

Besides just sports, if you live in the RC, there are planned events that are usually free. These include weekend trips to Bulls games, Shedd Aquarium, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is a great way to experience the city and get away from campus.

3. Clubs and Organizations

There is every kind of organization you think of related to optometry at ICO. To list a few, the Private Practice Club, the Spanish Club, the Canadian Club, and the Corneal Lens Society. Getting involved in one of these is a great way to get away from the academic demands of optometry and see the field as a whole from a different perspective. They almost always have free food, too, from local Chicago places which is a definite bonus.

4. Reading and/or Movies 

Netflix. What college student hasn’t succumbed to binge watching a season or two of a show on Netflix? I certainly did in undergrad and those habits seemed to have carried over.

Outside of Netflix, there are plenty of movies or books to check out from the library during a study break. Many of my classmates use this technique to give them a break from the books. I personally have not gotten into recreational reading so I am not speaking from experience, but I am told that it’s nice to read something other than a text book or your notes every once in a while.

5. Keeping in touch with family and old friends 

Many of my classmates do this. They will call home every day just to talk to their parents or a sibling or an old friend. It feels good to reach out and see what is going on outside of the ICO world. I keep in touch with a buddy from high school in addition to talking to my parents every once in a while. Getting away from the demands of school and talking to someone who has nothing to do with optometry can be quite therapeutic.


The better I get to know my classmates, the more and more differences I see between them- especially when it comes to their outlets and how they handle the demands of school. This is only a small list of some of the ways students here relieve stress. Like I said, everyone is different so naturally everyone has a different method of stress relief. Regardless of what that outlet is, ICO can facilitate it and in the end, it all adds to the ICO experience.

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