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Falling Forward at ICO

Falling Forward at ICO

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Blogs | 0 comments

After four quarters at ICO, I find myself becoming an ever-more confident optometry student, knowing not only my way around, but also exactly where I am going.

Processed with VSCOcamFollowing the rigor of first year, second year in comparison has me a bit more at ease–but that doesn’t mean that the school days aren’t still busy. However, it’s a different kind of busy. Every day I feel more and more like a clinician, more and more interested in the profession that I have chosen–simply for the fact that now I’m really in the “application” part of the curriculum. The things I hear in class so easily translate to what I see in clinic, and it probes me further to keep motivation high.

School days are not only filled by academics, but also extracurriculars. I serve as president of ICO’s National Optometric Student Association chapter, and the club is in full swing with our endeavors to increase membership and regularly provide healthcare to underserved populations in Chicagoland. This weekend was a perfect example the kind of activities NOSA engages in: On Friday, we led an outing to Chicago’s annual Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza (just a short bus ride away from campus); on Saturday, we organized a vision screening at the Family Health Network‘s Keep a Child Warm coat distribution event.

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Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Blogs | 0 comments

In high school, I took two classes that were similar: Freshman year it was called Values, and senior year it was called Spectrum. Instead of taking three individual classes for English, religion, and social studies, my high school opted to combine these three. For two hours a day, three teachers were in the same classroom. It may sound strange, but it worked because those three subjects overlap–you can’t study one without the other. It also helped draw connections and relationships between things, and therefore helped us retain the information.

After months of studying, I’ve come to a realization: ICO is of one big spectrum class. I came to this conclusion after I started studying for my second exam of the week. While I was going through the first few sets of notes, I was surprised to find that a lot of it was review. Yes, there’s usually some review from classes I took in undergrad, but this took it even further. Everything that I’d just learned for my Monday exam was being applied for my Wednesday exam. Though this was the first time I realized it with such clarity, it actually happens quite frequently. At least once a week, you’ll hear a professor reference another class we’re in, and relate the topics. I’m truly surprised and impressed at how well the courses overlap.

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Professionalism and Uncertainty

Professionalism and Uncertainty

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Blogs | 1 comment

I’ve been at ICO for more than three months now. It’s been busy to say the least. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but here’s what a typical weekday is like for me. Keep in mind that this may vary slightly depending on the person:

First thing in the morning (aka waking up up 15-60 minutes before class/test)-4 p.m.

  • brush teeth
  • get dressed
  • (skip) breakfast
  • go to class
  • doze off in class
  • skip class to sleep
  • lunch
  • more class

4-6 p.m.

  • study in the library or study lounge
  • work out (sometimes)
  • dinner

8 p.m. and beyond

  • study some more OR
  • get fed up with studying and:
  • go downtown
  • OR browse the internet
  • go back to studying
  • ponder the meaning of existence
  • decompress with reading or more philosophical pondering

So yeah, that’s optom life.

But I’m not here to impress you my dedication or work ethic; everyone here learns all that stuff within the first two weeks of school. Don’t worry–if you’ve been accepted into ICO or any other professional school, you’ll make it to the end. Never doubt what you are capable of or let the pressure get to you…

I’ll probably write something about that later. This post is going in a different direction.

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Infant Eye Exams

Infant Eye Exams

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Blogs | 2 comments

In our Vision Science class during first year, Dr. Pang and Dr. Allison stopped by and perform eye exams on our professor’s three young grandchildren.

For a baby, the eye exam starts the moment the doctor walks into the room: The clinician pays close attention to the baby, watching the child as they look at the doctor, look at their parents, shift their gaze around the room, etc. Even at three months of age, a baby should be able to track an object up to 10 inches from them; if not, there may be an indication of a neurological deficiency. The best time to do an infant eye exam is first thing in the morning, when the baby is wide awake, fed and ready for their day.

Visual attention is an important cue and the baby should be able to follow an object or person moving around the room. In our class, the babies were six months and six weeks of age, and I can imagine that their attention was difficult to monitor with all the faces in the class looking at them. Watching the baby track an object, such as a bottle or rattle, is very important. Because a baby is a non-verbal patient at this point, the parents will become the key source of information and will usually notice if something seems not quite right; most commonly they’ll notice either an eye turn, or that the eyes aren’t tracking objects well.

Teller acuity cards, www.stereooptical.com

Teller acuity cards, www.stereooptical.com

How a baby’s vision quality is assessed
The traditional procedures for determining visual acuity can’t be used on a baby for obvious reasons–they can’t exactly tell you which one is better? One or two? An interesting way the profession has gotten around this is through the use of Teller acuity cards. The card has two sections: One section has a striped pattern, known as gratings, that varies from card to card; the other section is a uniform gray. Between the sections is a peephole that the clinician can use to view the baby’s response to the card, while keeping their face hidden. If the baby spends more time looking at the gratings than the uniform gray, that means they can visually detect the pattern presented to them.

Once it’s determined the baby is looking at the gratings, the clinician will move on to a finer grating, to determine the limits of acuity. As soon as the baby chooses to look at the uniform gray instead of the gratings, we know it has gone beyond the limits of their detection. A similar technique for measuring acuity in infants is using LEA paddles, which work the same way as the Teller cards; the difference is that Teller cards hide your face. A baby will always choose to look at a face over anything else because it is much more interesting to them–it’s one of the obstacles in doing infant eye exams.

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New York Minute

New York Minute

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Blogs | 2 comments

Everyone says that the hardest aspects of third year are summer quarter and retina. But for me, fall quarter (which just wrapped up) was an endless struggle to stay afloat. I remembered summer quarter fondly and I wanted nothing more than to get away. Two weeks ago was fall break–there were no classes to attend, but we still have clinic. When I completed my clinic shifts, I boarded an early flight to the East Coast, where I met up with one of my brothers for a mini-vacation. And it was great. We drove into New York City and spent a couple of precious days sight-seeing and touring the great metropolis. It was my first time in New York, and what struck me was just how expansive and endless Manhattan is. Upon returning to Chicago, I couldn’t help but realize how tiny my own city seemed in comparison.


The Woolworth Building on 5th Avenue facing Central Park and the legendary Plaza Hotel


Left:  The never ending skyscraper strewn avenue. Right: …filled with endless yellow NYC taxis

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A First Year’s Reality Check

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blogs | 2 comments

We are half way through the first quarter of our first year of optometry school. This was also the end of the first of many weeks consisting of three exams. I can honestly say I never thought I could see myself getting through a week of three exams let alone the two we had last week and the three (or is it four?) that we have next week.

Have you had your breakdown yet? I’m not talking about the quick little panic you had on your way to an exam or even the night you thought you wouldn’t get through all of your anatomy competency objectives. I’m talking about that moment you find yourself realizing what you have on your shoulders, in your mind, ahead of you, and behind you.

We have accomplished so much already. It’s five weeks in and we have taken seven exams, two pop quizzes, five homework assignments, and a lab quiz; written one paper, three forums, and a couple hundred note cards; entered chief complaints and case histories; gone through at least one set of highlighters; and answered way too many clicker questions. The list could go on. We have done A LOT. I am overwhelmed as my mind replays it all.

There are exams we as individuals scored higher than anticipated, and then there are the ones we did worse than we either wanted or expected. We have found our favorite classes, professors, and labs. We have studied hard for some tests and been overconfident for others.

We have been learning a lot over the past few weeks. Yes—we have learned about the many branches of the vertebral and basilar arteries to the brain; we have learned about fatty acid synthesis; and we have learned how to take extremely subjective exams, thinking through questions instead of just memorizing information for direct recall. More importantly, we have learned how to manage, balance, and survive. Now we must learn to continue—to press on—to not give up.

That brings us back to the original question: Have you had your breakdown yet? Next week we have one lab practical, two exams, and a lab quiz. We have open lab time slots we’ve signed up for in order to learn the Visual Field test. We have a lot in front of us. We have more on our plate than ever before. It is exhausting to think about. Your eyes tear up, and your burden seems to increase in weight. There’s your breakdown—reality. This is not going to be easy. If it were—why would you be here? We have all chosen to be students at the Illinois College of Optometry because there are people at this school who believe we have what it takes—that we CAN keep going. We are the Class of 2018, and we will move forward with grace, humility, and determination.

So you’ve had your breakdown—whether it was last week, this week, or next week, you will come to the realization that this isn’t about the perfect score or the stupid mistake you made on an exam. It is about growth. It is about our experiences in the lecture hall, in the labs, on exams, and with our future colleagues. These experiences will transform us into the best optometrists—and THAT is what this crazy journey is all about.


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