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Posted by on Sep 9, 2015 in Blogs

As I continue on my journey to becoming an optometrist, my experience would not be complete without the people I’m surrounded by every day here at ICO. Although I haven’t met EVERYONE in my class yet, I have to say: our bonds are growing strongly at a fast pace. Usually, I’m not the one to develop friendships this quickly, but I tell myself that I will be in the same lecture hall, labs, and living area as my classmates for 3 years and 9 months. Why not develop these friendships now?

Thanks to the students who never allowed the class to starve by telling us when there was free food in the RC kitchen. Thanks to those who went the extra mile by compiling flashcards and study guides and sharing them with the entire class. You guys are the real MVP! I can walk into the RC lounge and find my classmates for help on material. I can also find friends to play board games with during our study breaks. I’m never alone to eat at the cafeteria during breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A group of us even started the hashtag #ICOFoodies on Instagram to document our foodie adventures in Chicago.

Not only will we be spending all this time going through the ICO program together, but we’ll also be future colleagues for the rest of our optometric lives. During orientation, the faculty and staff told us that, in the lecture hall, we’ll find our best friends, our bridesmaids/groomsmen, and possibly even a significant other. This made everyone laugh, but I can only imagine what the future holds for everyone.

I let my new friends know that if they ever want to visit the Dallas/Fort Worth area back in Texas, my home is open to them. I would gladly be their personal tour guide, and they say the same to me. I now have future vacation spots in Canada, Boston, California, and more! Being here at ICO gave me more Canadian friends than I have ever had in my life, which was zero to none back at home. It’s a good feeling to know that you are welcomed and accepted into their lives.

To the Class of 2019, let’s not hesitate to say hello to each other in passing or make small talk while we’re struggling to work the non-contact tonometry equipment (air puff test for all those who don’t know what that entails.) Let’s keep everyone in the loop. We should all vow to not leave anyone hanging for the next 3 years of our professional careers. We’re all in this together, and for the future more to come!

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A Look into the Past

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Blogs

On a Saturday morning, many like to sleep in, some hit the gym, and others like to catch up on their to-do lists.  I decided to leave the house, grab a cup of coffee, and study the morning away.  Normally I would stay at home on a Saturday morning, even to study.  But now that our son is 2 months, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t get much done.  I am so grateful for my supportive husband who willingly stays home with the kiddos on days like this.  With my Starbucks gift card in hand and my optics textbook in my bag, I started off for my dose of caffeine.  Contemplating with Coffee

As I made my way through chapter 5, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation about ICO from what must have been a first year student.  I heard phrases such as “food from the cafeteria” to “we have finals on Saturdays” to “White Coat Ceremony.”  That took me back to a year ago.

This time last year, the class of 2018 had already taken two exams- Biochemistry and Human Anatomy.  We had already received our white coats, and most of us had our daily routine figured out.  It has been a whole year.  I’m not sure about the rest of my classmates, but it feels like first year was a totally different life- a life that we survived.

For the first time, I learned that having two to three exams a week was normal.  That a 3-inch binder wouldn’t fit all my anatomy notes.  That the normal course-load for winter quarter could change, forcing you to take neuro and anatomy at the same time.  That practicals were scary, and I could never practice enough.  That pregnancy brain was not a valid excuse to do poorly on an exam.  That snow days, although rare, do exist in grad school.  But most importantly, I learned that all the pain of first year was worth it.

Class of 2019, you now have your white coats.  You have your routines.  It won’t be easy, and the light at the end of the tunnel may not be very bright, but you will get through.  It’s worth every moment you spend listening to lectures, studying for exams, and getting ready for practicals. 

Second year is a little different.  Everything seems to flow a little better.  Instead of school just being “school,” it has become more of a way of life.  Instead of rushing to finish studying, the textbooks seem more interesting.  Maybe it’s because I know summer break is a thing of the past, and it’s full-time from here on out.  But I think it’s mostly because I view this more as a career and less as class or homework.  I am now becoming an optometrist.

I think my family is starting to realize this, too.  This afternoon, after the studying was over, my daughter and I decided to have some eye-related fun: googly craft eyes and “Parents” magazine.  In the midst of the studying, let’s not forget to goof around.  Congrats on receiving your white coats, Class of 2019, and let the fun begin!

Googly Cat

Googly Fam



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“Welcome to Doctor School”

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Blogs

WOW. It hardly feels like only two weeks have gone by since I arrived at ICO.

The first few days of my journey here were a daze of getting settled in, Orientation actives, and explorations of this beautiful city. In the blink of an eye, my class was able to mingle amongst ourselves while being introduced to many of the amazingly kind second years, as well as faculty/staff. I am so impressed by what a fantastic job ICO and the Orientation team did to make us feel so welcome. All of the upperclassman were incredibly warm and approachable- something that I definitely appreciated since I’ll take all the advice I can get! I was even set up with a mentor and a “big” who I could contact in case I have questions further down the line-, or just want to talk to someone who’s been through the ups and downs that graduate school is notorious for.

Where I've been spending a lot of time recently...and I mean A LOT.

My desk at the RC-where I’ve been spending a lot of time recently…and I mean A LOT.

Most schools only show you what they want you to see during your interview process. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about what the actual ICO would be like. To my relief, what I saw on interview day is exactly what I have been experiencing as a real student thus far.

One thing I was told during my interview was that at ICO, you “hit the ground running.” Boy, is that true! Our schedules might be jam packed, but you can tell that the professors here want you to learn and do well. They teach us at a fast pace, but are very fair in their expectations for us. Most of them manage to slip in a little bit of advice or a joke or two throughout lecture. My favorite line thus far is, “Your patients are not going to give you extra credit and neither will I.” I can tell that I am going to learn A LOT during my time here- both about eyecare and life.

My new motivational background for my phone.

Motivational background for my phone. Hey-it works!

Dr. Bakkum’s words of “Welcome to doctor school” ring in my ears often as I experience new things here. It’s a great feeling. I even got to spend my first “late night” in the Eyepod this week practicing taking auto-refracts and IOPs with many of my classmates. Along with practicing skills that we will eventually need for clinic (and getting a bunch of hilarious Snapchats,) it felt SO good to be physically interacting with equipment that we will be using in our real careers. For lack of a better word, it felt very “doctorly”.

Auto refractor

In the midst of preparations for our first round of exams, ICO gave us a break this past Saturday by presenting us with our White Coats.  The ceremony was beautifully done and an emotional one for many, my parents and myself included. This simple, white, fabric has now publicly solidified our student status of being in “doctor school”. Now its up to us to acquire the knowledge that we will need to live the part!

White Coat Ceremony

After receiving my white coat.

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What it Means to Receive a White Coat

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Blogs

On Saturday, August 29th our class of 2019 received our white coats. Personally, I had been looking forward to this moment since my acceptance to ICO.


To me, receiving a white coat is a symbol of our past, present and future.

The white coat is a symbol of our past because it shows how far we have come. Each of us has worked extremely hard to be here.  We have come from all over the United States (and Canada) to Chicago to pursue a career in optometry. Our backgrounds range from business, to biochemistry, to English, and our accents are just as unique. Some come from places where the snow rarely stops, and others have never experienced a snowy winter. Although we all are very different and come from different places, one thing is similar: we are each here to become the best eye doctors we can be.

In the present, we are facing a challenge. The white coat is a symbol of this challenge.  We have been given thousands of pages of note (yes thousands!) and will take an average of 3 exams a week. We are already spending our nights with our noses in our books, trying our best to stay on top of our work. In the present, we are balancing these challenges with curiosity. We want to explore the new city we have not yet gotten to know and find the best places in Chicago to study. As we continue to explore and challenge ourselves, we are all coming to the realization of what this coat really means. A white coat is the symbol of a clinician. Although we are only at the beginning of our clinical education and patient care, we are looking towards the future at what is up ahead.

The white coat reminds us of our future. It fills us with excitement about what is to come! In 3 years and 9 months, we will graduate from ICO and enter the world of optometric physicians. Some of us will take over practice, some will start practices cold. Some will work in hospital settings, industry, or research. Others will sit on the throne of a vision care empire. Together, we will all proudly wear our coats as representatives of ICO’s graduating class of 2019.

After overcoming the challenges placed in front of us, we will receive our doctoral hoods and be given the title “Doctor.” Receiving a white coat is a symbol of all this and so much more. It inspires each and every student at ICO to be the best that we can be and achieve the goals we have worked so hard towards.

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A City of Standards

A City of Standards

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Blogs

I recently attended a baseball game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were playing the Tigers. As I was at the game, I realized the standard of professional sports that Chicago has established for itself. Being from Michigan, I got a similar experience in Detroit.

I grew up going to Tigers games. I attended my first game before I could walk. This was when the Tigers still played at Tiger Stadium. As I got older, the Pistons were always great to watch, too (at least up until circa 2005.) I also got into hockey recently, and went to my first Red Wings game this past winter. While historically, the Detroit Lions haven’t had as much success as the Wings have, things seem to be picking up for the team. Also, there is nothing as traditional as watching the Lions (usually lose) on Thanksgiving Day.

Needless to say, professional sporting events are a someone significant part of my life. Call me spoiled, but I’m used to living in a state that provides good professional teams. After moving to Chicago, I have realized that this city is able to cater to those expectations.

For basketball, the Bulls have soaked up a lot more media attention since acquiring Derek Rose. I think I speak for all Bulls fans when I say I have high expectations for the team in the near future. For hockey, the Blackhawks have clearly made a name for themselves. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they won another cup during the remainder of my time at ICO. For American league baseball, you probably won’t ever find me cheering for the White Sox, but the stadium is too close to the school for me not to attend a game. For National league baseball, attending a Cubs game at Wrigley Field is just about as classic as you can get when it comes to sports. They are one of two teams left in the MLB (the other team being the Boston Red Sox) that are still playing at the same ball park where the team originated. As for football, the Bears are another team that you probably won’t find me cheering for, but, again, Soldier Field is so close to the school the chances of me not attending a game during my time at ICO is slim to none.

Regardless of where your loyalty lies, you can still come to Chicago and not be disappointed with the performance or atmosphere of the game. You can’t argue with the sporting opportunities available in this city. Whatever standard you have when it comes to sports, a Chicago team will reach it. The history is rich with each of the teams and so is the success. This, of course, is on top of all the other entertainment, cultural, and musical opportunities that are also available in this city. If you want to attend a quality sporting event, Chicago is the place to be.

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