Since arriving at ICO in 2012, I’ve tried to improve my study habits and general approach to student life. I was a model of poor health during my first year. My extreme commute and my time-consuming responsibilities as senior editor of OptometryStudents.com took their toll. But I made some adjustments, and now I feel mentally sharper and have more energy. Here are some tips that have helped me be successful in my classes and stay healthy–maybe some of these can work for you, too.
Treat your lectures as if you have an exam on that exact material the next day
Don’t waste your time half-listening in class, “multitasking” by scrolling through Facebook or Snapchat on your phone. Imagine that you’ll be performing the clinical procedure you’re learning about later that day, and the patient’s sight depends on YOU. If you can hang on to every word your professor says, you’ll save tons of time studying later on. (Sorry for not heeding this advice sooner, Dr. Goodfellow!)
It’s such a simple question.
“Where did you grow up?”
It’s something I feel like I get asked every day.
The simple answer is listed on my passport and my birth certificate and slips out of my mouth with ease. We all know our towns, our family home, our childhood bedrooms.
But seemingly without notice, the answer has changed. A paradigm shift has taken place, and I realize now that I actually grew up in the last four years, not in the 20-odd ones that preceded it.
The honest answer now is, “I grew up at ICO.”
The hallowed halls of school were my playground, my nursery, my school house, my detention, and my time-out corner. The RC was where I met some of my lifelong friends, the Lecture Center was where I drew all over my notes, the big room on the second floor of the library was where I ate my body weight in candy as I studied, and the dimly lit Eyepod was where I discovered the intricacies of the ocular tissues.
When I arrived fresh on the scene four years ago, I doubt I could recognize who I’ve become now. I used to be shy and introverted, and now you’d be hard-pressed to get me to shut up. I didn’t know the difference between being a Bears fan and a Packers fan, and I wasn’t entirely sure what the I-90 was. Now I’m ripping on referees with the best of them, and honking on my horn like it’s my job. Oh, and I learned how to be an optometrist. Sidebar.
I never thought I’d have the guts to write this. It’s pretty personal, but I want to hopefully inspire those who have hit similar hard paths, and to remind people to appreciate what they have, and never give up.
How I found optometry
I haven’t always known a lot about optometry. I didn’t consider it as a profession growing up, mostly because I come from a family of bankers and IT professionals. I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare, so I spent most of my life volunteering and talking to healthcare workers to see what I wanted to do. For a long time, I thought I’d be a pharmacist or physiotherapist–it makes me laugh now. The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing in my first year of undergrad, and had no drive to succeed in anything because I had no set goal in mind.
I am not one for cliches. But when I randomly turned in my resume to an optometry office, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t meant to be. I was also on my way to drop off my resume at a local restaurant for a position that would presumably pay better, but I couldn’t find the restaurant. At the interview, I still remember I telling my soon-to-be boss that I wanted to become a pharmacist. But I loved every patient interaction I had at the optometry office, and I fell in love with the profession. My co-worker, Janet, worked for the LensCrafters next door and told me about her mission trip to the Philippines to help give eye exams and glasses to those in need. That’s when I knew I wanted to become an optometrist someday. I wanted to be in a position to help people, to go on those mission trips and give back globally and locally to the best of my abilities.
Preparing myself in undergrad
Once I was back in school, I went to the career office on campus to get more information about my newly chosen profession. We had a folder with a list of careers and schools; I think one measly page was devoted to optometry. I even signed up to talk to a career counselor, who admitted she didn’t know anything about the profession. In fact, when I asked her about the OAT, she talked to me about MCAT, DAT, and even the GMAT instead. I remember being so disappointed to be so thrilled about this career path, only to have virtually no information about how to get on board. Optometry felt almost taboo during undergrad. I remember doing a ton of research online (thank goodness for the advent of the internet), and got a lot of good information about schools in the USA, job rankings, the profession in general. I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through the hard path that I did to find optometry, so I founded the Pre-Optometry Club at the University of Toronto. I wanted to tell everyone about this awesome profession, disperse all the information I collected so others wouldn’t have to accidentally stumble upon optometry like I did as they considered their own career paths. I collaborated with a business student to write the club’s constitution, and even used my own money and artistic skills to create my own membership cards and banner.
As another academic year comes to a close, schedules for the first quarter of third year have been emailed out. Unlike the summer between first and second years, when students have the luxury of going home or taking exotic vacations, this summer will be a working one. My classmates and I will be attending class and we’ll also have three shifts in clinic, a continuation of the Patient Care Program we began this year.
Our two Primary Care shifts will be similar to our experience in this service area thus far, the primary difference being that we’ll no longer be paired with a partner. In addition to working alone, we’ll also be caring for multiple patients during a single shift. During my work in clinic this year, I’ve grown accustomed to discussing tests and patients’ results with my partner. I loved the convenience of having someone scribe while I doctored, or doctor while I scribed. If I had a question about a condition, I always had someone to ask. If I couldn’t find my tiny tonometry probe, there was someone in the same room with one. But my comfort level aside, I’m actually looking forward to going solo. I’ll be forced to rely on myself and truly develop my clinical skills.
A major deciding factor for me in choosing ICO is that clinical experience begins in the very first quarter. In the first year, this experience–all of it in ICO’s clinic, the Illinois Eye Institute–is called the Patient Advocate Program. During first quarter, our PAP experience includes familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the IEI, getting an eye exam and writing a report based on our own experience as a patient.
The eye exams at the IEI probably aren’t like others you’ve had. Before coming to ICO, I’d arrive at the clinic and a technician would perform most of the entrance tests like lensometry, OCT, fundus pictures, keratometry, autorefraction and tonometry. All of these tests would be performed with automated machinery, and they’d be completed in about 20 minutes. I’d then be directed to a waiting area, where I’d sit for 10 minutes or so. Then the doctor would see me for another 20 minutes. I’d be in and out within an hour, and I was never dilated.
Kiddos, spring has sprung!
We’re in the final quarter of optometry school, little ones. And as Commencement approaches, it’s time to learn about contact lenses. These are my last credit hours before the wings are clipped and I fall out of the tree.
First, there is an art to the contact lens.
Yes, it may appear to be a small cast-molded or lathe-cut piece of plastic to every John and Jane on the street–but if you look more closely, between those silicone and hydrogel moieties, it really is magic.
Imagine a life where you had to wear your dorky glasses everyday.
How on earth could 75 percent of romantic comedies gain traction if the tragic ugly duckling didn’t dispose of her gawky frames and wear contacts in order to warrant the attention of the loveable, albeit shallow, leading man?
(And you thought optometry was just about helping people see.)
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.
Let’s get into the thick of things. (Or for the more technical amongst you, the Dk/t of things.) See what I did there? Don’t lie, you laughed.
Below are some tips and tricks I’ve amassed thus far. As always, it’s advisable to take these with a large grain of salt.