Posted by on Mar 6, 2013 in Blogs | 0 comments

Drs. Roy and Associates is where my love for optometry started and grew. Back in 2009, I found their job posting on Craigslist for a technician, and I applied for the job to gain some patient exposure while making some extra income. I worked with six amazing optometrists, all ICO alums, who gave me wonderful insight and unique perspectives on the profession. After working as an optometric technician for over a year, I applied to ICO and follow in their optometric footsteps.

Top: taking pictures with 2 of the doctors I work with. From left, Dr. Debra Simon (ICO 2001) and Dr. Cara Ystad (ICO 2005)  Bottom: I am a queen of Optomap. It is a good screening tool for viewing patient's retina without the hassel of dilating pupils. In classes, we discuss the convenience of Optomap but address the necessity of dilated fundus exams that exists for certain patients.

Top: with Debra Simon, OD ’01 (left) and Cara Ystad, OD ’05 (middle)
Bottom: I am a queen of Optomap, a good screening tool for viewing patient’s retina without the hassel of dilating pupils.

I’m lucky to have these optometrists to look up to, and I’ve continued my relationship with the practice, keeping in touch with all of the doctors and staff members. During my first year at ICO, I continued to help them out by traveling to Wisconsin and assisting during busy times. I’m fortunate that now, during second year, I’ve been able to work at the practice even more.

Optometry school is really expensive and money becomes a great stressor for a lot of us. You’re borrowing so much for tuition and essential living expenses that any out-of-the-ordinary financial circumstances are difficult to swallow. When I expressed frustration about this during a phone conversation with one of the practice’s owners, she was generous enough to offer me the opportunity to return to Wisconsin to work for a weekend or two whenever my scheduled allowed. I think I’m one of a very lucky few people who gets to work whenever I can.

Last weekend, with the first week of the spring quarter just starting, I didn’t have too much studying to do so I went up to the Milwaukee area (approximately 90 minutes on Amtrak, $20 one-way) to help out at the practice. I enjoy working, whatever the work is–from being on the line at a cream cheese factory to harvesting more than 100 rat brains–but something about this job is different. The depth of understanding I gain at the practice with each passing quarter at ICO is amazing. I understand things a lot better even when just pre-testing patients. When they say they have headaches, now I know enough to ask them where and how it hurts to predict the possible connection to vision problems. Before ICO, I didn’t even know that optometrists were concerned about patient’s headaches or could do anything about it. Every time I work at the practice, I realize that I am indeed getting one step closer to being an optometrist each day.

Jobs similar to mine exist here in Chicago; local alumni frequently contact the school with opportunities for students. This particular practice just has such a special place in my heart that I can’t leave the job, even though I’m now further than 90 miles away. And, need I mention it again, I can work whenever I can and want–which, considering the schedule at ICO, isn’t very often.

I've gotten to know the majority of CL brands that available and commonly prescribed by optometrists. I often train first time CL wearers and show them that their decision to use CL is not a mistake, even though it can be hard to learn how to handle them.

I’ve gotten to know the majority of CL brands that available and commonly prescribed by optometrists. I often train first time CL wearers and show them that their decision to use CL is not a mistake, even though it can be hard to learn how to handle them.

The practice also has a huge base of contact lens (CL) patients who have been coming to see the same optometrists there for years. Since CL patients are required by law to have an annual eye exam (otherwise they cannot purchase contacts), they make up the majority of our patient base. CL education is something that ICO does not provide until third year, so I try to soak in as much practical information as I can at work so it can be of help when I start learning the fancy theory behind contacts in my third year. This past Saturday, one doctor joked that she cannot wait until I’m able to help out with some of the CL “checks,” which involve looking at the cornea and deciding if a particular material/brand of CL is a good fit for the patient. I responded, “I can’t either!”