First thing’s first, an over-due, promised update regarding my Private Practice Club event: Dine Out With Doctors. This was such a fun event. It incorporated networking not only with a current O.D.s, but also allowed different classes of optometry students to mingle a bit. I got to chat with a few first years who I’ve never met before and a third year. It’s interesting to hear how the current OD1’s are handling their course work vs. your own experiences and it’s always fantastic to get any tips possible from upper years.
At the event, we had a list of potential doctors with various specialties that we could choose to meet with and my pick was Dr. Steven Goldstein. He is part of a multi-doctor practice specializing in vision rehabilitation and specialty contact lenses in Maine. Most notably, he and a few other doctors actually started their practice “cold,” meaning they opened the practice themselves and did not take over an existing practice. This is often times seen as a challenge due to the amount of effort needed to develop a strong patient base as well as facilitating and acquiring new equipment.
I chose Dr. Goldstein because my previous boss, an O.D., told me that while optometry school will teach us how to be doctors, it’s crucial to understand the business side of things because that’s what actually keeps you afloat! Dr. Goldstein was a great resource for this as his story is pretty unique. Having started out as a military optometrist, he really had to build his group of multiple practices from the ground up. He spoke of countless hours meeting with his managing partners over how to merge everyone’s specialties and how to relocate their individual practices to create a more efficient and lucrative business. Currently, Dr. Goldstein spends his time primarily at a singular location, but some his partners split their time between 2 or even 3 of the FIVE different locations. That’s right, Dr. Goldstein convinced a few of his fellow peers to band together and open up to what is now an eight doctor optometric business practicing in five locations!
When asked of some key success points, Dr. Goldstein told us that it was very important to the managing partners that there be a central location where everyone could gather together periodically instead of communicating from separate locations. It was also extremely important to have an internet bandwidth the size of Google (exaggerated, but with an internet bill up in the thousands per month, Google seemed fitting) to support the electronic health records of all of their patients while still maintaining efficient and streamlined communication between all 5 locations. Having the same service systems in all locations meant that the staff could work in any of the locations without additional training and all patient health records could be accessed by all the doctors in the event of another doctor being absent. If anyone is interested in checking out Dr. Goldstein’s website, visit http://www.cascobayeye.com.
What I learned: savor every business and financial learning opportunity and ask tons of questions. Academics are important, but we also have to learn how to sustain ourselves in the real world! While some say it’s a different optometric world today than 20 years ago, these experienced doctors have a wealth of information that stems from years of trial and error. I highly recommend that everyone ask their current optometrist how their career started and why they chose their current business format. There’s just so much we don’t know!
With that said, second year is still a killer. Once January got rolling and Boston got over it’s month of history-breaking-snowfall, everyone was back to business! A few extra shots of caffeine per day and a whole lot of junk food later, I survived round 2 of second year midterms and it was a doozy. But wait! Two weeks later, second years had our spring proficiencies, which is basically a skill-based exam of everything you’ve learned in PPO lab this year. What did this mean? It meant countless hours at night in our pre-clinic lab getting our eyes dilated for each other and getting blinded by lights over and over again until everything seemed permanently white. Was it worth it? YES, I passed my proficiency and have now moved on to the FINAL EXAM that’s coming up in a week. That’s right folks, the fun does not stop. While it sounds very crazy, in reality, there is a lot of space given within our schedule for studying and the Pre-Clinic practicing nights. It all comes down to time management.
And of course, after a certain point, the brain always needs a break, so it was important to me that I did not completely shun myself from society and “fun.” I picked up running along the Esplanade again since the weather is now in the 50’s (woohoo!) and after a full day’s studying on the weekends, I’ll go home and watch a movie to unwind. This optometry journey is kind of what you make out of it. Participation in extracurricular activities can be just as rewarding and fun as spending a night in with a movie, it’s important to find that balance between academic success and maintaining personal zen. It’s a crazy semester, but with some luck and a lot of practice and self-control, ALL achievable! A wise, green alien once said, “Do or do not, there is no try,” good luck to anyone out there about to embark on exams, I’m with ya!
Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscope (aka “BIO”) is something I am not magically good at.
2. Purkinje dots are a pain to keep aligned all the time and “lunging” is a position I am not used to being in.
3. If you thought you had perfect eyes, your binocular vision courses will change that.
4. Sometimes, you just have be direct with patient and visuals help a lot. You may have conversations like: “Sir, you like to sleep in your contacts and never clean them? Let me show you a few pictures of bacterial infections and corneal neovascularization.”
5. When New York City freaks out about an impending blizzard, do not freak out with it even though you may have never seen a blizzard in your life.
6. Sledding is a tremendous amount of fun, no matter age or tool used to sled. The saucer shaped sleds are the BEST kind.
7. Snow days are not always a blessing in disguise once you find out your makeup schedule, and therefore, that time spent sledding was not worth it.
8. A pair of child’s size snow boots with velcro straps instead of laces are a solid investment both economically and in laziness.
9. It is never over until the fat lady sings—go Patriots!
10. The retina is a crazy, crazy place. Who knew?
I’ve come into spring semester of 2015 with a, “New year, new me” approach. Graduate school is a time of independence and self-motivation. We started learning new techniques in our “Principles and Practices of Optometry” course (PPO for short) that require a lot more skill and practice. The most recent challenge for me is mastering BIO, a technique used to examine the retina in 3D. Unlike direct O-scope, which we learned in first year, BIO allows doctors to observe the whole retina, from the central optic nerve and the macula to the vessels in the far periphery of the retina. This, however, requires patients to be dilated and doctors to be masters of various stretch positions unbeknownst to us before. It’s actually a great deal of fun and a definite sense of accomplishment when I’m able to not only observe the vortex veins in the periphery of the eye, but to have everything also in focus! Our professors are stressing good posture from the beginning to prevent back pains and injuries later in life, but this lunging and bending to see the far points of the retina mostly just has me in giggles over the way we’re all standing about in yoga positions.
We have also started our clinical component of vision therapy and binocular vision and ocular motility courses so I decided to get a binocular vision workup on myself at our clinic, the New England Eye Institute. I wanted to see everything we’ve been learning in class put to reality.
As a preface, I went in with symptoms of fatigue and mild, temporary blurriness after prolonged periods of near work and then rapidly switching to distance. I’ve had these symptoms since undergraduate school, but never thought much of it other than the fact that I was probably just spending too much time on the computer and other near work (TV, reading etc.) But as a future optometrist, how can I ethically treat others in the future if I’m not proactive about my own visual health?
The end diagnosis was accommodative excess and convergence excess, meaning that my eyes tend to overwork themselves when doing near work and have a hard time relaxing when I switch to looking at distance things—causing my temporary blurred vision. While I already had an inkling that would be the diagnosis, it was awesome to have all the tests done on me and to streamline lecture with real life. Now, I have reading glasses that I wear while doing near work to help my eyes learn to relax. I’ve got a follow up in about a month to see how I’m progressing…wish me luck!
Coming up in February, I’m participating in Private Practice Club’s event: Dine Out With Doctors where we get to have dinner in Boston with a doctor and pick their brains, stay tuned. Also, check out beautiful Boston during the various snow falls we’ve had within the last couple of days!
Before I got into optometry school, I felt like time passed by me slowly. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my black robe and a gold tassel hanging on my head that I realized how fast undergraduate had flown by. However, with every semester that passes at NECO, I feel the sands of time slipping through my hands. Part of me is so relieved after every final to be able to breathe again, but another part of me is just dumbfounded by how fast the semester goes! I’m not sure where I’ll end up after graduation, but one thing’s certain: I really want to enjoy my time in Boston and NECO! Whenever I reflect on what has happened through a semester, only bits and pieces pop through and it makes me nostalgic for all the moments I wasn’t able to truly savor. So for this wrap up of 2014, I hope to share a few small tidbits that have lingered with me this semester.
We had a great guest speaker event given by Mr. Tom Sullivan at the end of October. He is an inspirational speaker in every sense of the word. Having been blind since infancy due to Retinopathy of Prematurity and a former student at Boston’s Perkins School for the Blind, Mr. Sullivan spoke of the trials and tribulations of growing up. He was bullied and making friends was difficult…until someone gave him a chance. A story of how a next door neighbor who saw past his disability and changed his life with the simply gesture of asking to play baseball showed how easy it was to make an impact on a person and the two remain best friends today. It reminded me of how important it was to focus on those close to you, especially through stress and hardship (like studying for 6 midterms/finals in one week, eek!). Through those times, I am grateful for technological advances, such as Skype and G-chat, as I have definitely counted on my family and friends back home for support. But as part of the “Y-generation” many of us are under constant social media and solitary influence that sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the importance of actual inter-personal relationships. Not only is this a crucial skill as future doctors, I believe it’s an important aspect of staying grounded. Through this semester, there have been numerous times that patients have come into clinic for their eye exam, but have ended up sharing so much more of their life. Part of being a future doctor is realizing the trust patients give and the vulnerability they present by allowing us a glimpse into their lives. I already miss my clinic site because it provided an absolute connection to patients that were often lost on me during the busy hours of studying. Listening to Mr. Sullivan speak simply reinforced the importance of maintaining empathy and a simple humanism through everything I do, both as a student and a doctor in the future.
This semester was difficult for me and I stumbled a bit in some aspects, however, I was readily picked up by both my fellow classmates and my gracious professors. The rumors that second year is difficult have rung true for me. It was a challenging semester due to the academic expectations as well as the ongoing battle to further ourselves clinically. The old me would snub at the thought of tutoring or receiving aid because of pride and over-confidence, but it’s truly been one of the best experiences of fall semester. On a graduate school level, it’s not about competing with my fellow classmates or receiving a top grade, but rather about learning and understanding material that is beneficial for the rest of our lives. We are past the stages of memorizing for a grade, only to lose it all after the exam, and we are above holding all-nighters in a grave last minute fight. I was humbled by the dedication of Dr. Hanley (one of my professors for the course: Principles and Practices of Optometry for OD2), who not only held review sessions an hour before class, but also gave her time separately in office hours to help those of us who hungered for more. Principles and Practices of Optometry is one of those classes that you want to have down cold because it’s your future bread and butter.
The amounts of diseases and weird things that can happen to the eyes have truly astounded me this semester! It had me obsessively cleaning my eyelashes as well as ferociously making signs and symptoms disease flashcards. I felt the need to be proactive about my learning this semester because I realized it’s truly to our benefit to have this knowledge, to know this material beyond a grade, and to seek help when we fumble a bit or, even when we’re completely confident, as it never hurts to check your answers. Receiving guidance from professors and upper-year students gave me more confidence in myself as well as made me feel less alone while navigating this increasingly intertwining web of new knowledge. Not to throw in a cheesy Dumbledore quote from Harry Potter to make my point, but… “You will find that help will always be given at Hogwarts (NECO) to those who ask for it.” It’s in these moments that I’m glad I go to a smaller school that is completely focused on optometry, because the attention and care I receive from my professors and classmates is truly unmatched.
As I head into this new semester, I’m looking forward to enhancing my clinical skills at my new clinic site, this time at a private practice, which will be a change! I’m hoping to sneak a few moments for just myself and the great city of Boston, where I can take it its river views and gorgeous skyline. Of course, I’ll have continued group study sessions and weekly reviews with my housemate, where we do simple tasks like looking over pictures from lecture, just to help things really stick in our brains. I know that although second year is a tough one, there are people rooting for me on both sides of the coast. I also know that should I waiver a bit, there is inspiration all around me.
My second year is in full swing now and it’s everything everyone promised it would be AND MORE. The glamorous white coat ceremony in September and a round of midterms and proficiencies through October have taken me through quite the emotional roller coaster thus far and it’s only been 2 months! I’ve needed to dig up and revamp new study strategies and better meal plans! Let’s take a second and rewind to unwind…
For the majority of my classmates and myself, this first semester started out with so much excitement. We started taking new sets of classes that are more optometry centered and vision-related, we got our white coats, (FINALLY!!!) and I genuinely felt like the optometrist I knew I was born to be! My mom was able to make a trip out from California and I took her around to all the major Boston stomping grounds and everything was a grand ol’ time!
The White Coat Ceremony took place in September
At the White Coat Ceremony, President Scott explained, “When you get the white coat, it is a symbol to you and your loved ones that you have earned a higher level of respect in the professional world.” Being able to wear the white coat during our clinic rounds has been an awesome feeling! Although the reality is that many optometrists do not wear white coats in clinical practice, as a student, the coat is a rite of passage. At NECO, it means that you’ve successfully survived first year and are now ready to embark on a new part of your optometric journey with much more responsibility. For me, it made the whole process more “real.” As a first year, you interact with patients during school screenings, but a majority of your time is still spent in laboratory and lecture halls. As a second year, you have weekly 4-5 hour clerkships at various clinical sites where you truly get to interact with patients in an optometric setting. The coat helped signify that transition for me and I think over all we each gained more confidence in ourselves as future doctors.
Vixit and I are excited to wear our White Coats
Second year students begin their clinical clerkship program by working a minimum of 4 hours either in a hospital, clinic, or private practice. This semester I’m at New England Eye-Roslindale every Saturday, about a 30 minute commute from my house. Although it’s a battle every Saturday climbing out of the comforts of my blankets, clinic has truly been amazing. I have rotating preceptors which means I have more exposure to different doctors with different specialties and gain more networking opportunities as well. My schedule is also always busy and all of us at this site get our own exam room, meaning that from the very first day, I was thrust into the world of direct patient care. As a hands-on learner, this was by far the best thing that could’ve happened. Each time I go, I am challenged by not only the patients, but it is also a self-challenge to see how much my clinical skills have improved.
Being in clerkship this semester has made me 50x better at learning in the classroom. It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you are able to bridge lecture material, something you’ve only previously seen in pictures, with patients in the real world. Being able to recognize ocular abnormalities in a clinical setting gave me a far more thorough understanding of the topic compared to any amount of memorizing them as terms on a lecture slide.
Another great aspect of clerkship as a second year is the direct patient interaction. I recall speaking to a patient who had her first eye exam in 2013 even though she was well into her teens and definitely needed vision correction. Along with my preceptor, we were able to open the conversation with her parents and discuss the impact of vision on the patient’s daily life and how corrected vision could improve not only physiological development, but academic success as well. It was a great experience to help a patient move from ignoring necessary follow-up from an eye exam to understanding the impact of medical attention and choosing a pair of glasses . Too often, I get bogged down by the academics of everything while on campus and I forget what we’re training for and it’s these small moments in clinic that breathes fresh air into me and reminds me that this profession can be truly profound and that I am able to have an impact on someone’s life.
About a week after our white coat ceremony we were dragged back to Earth from cloud-nine for midterms. 6 exams in 8 days is never something anyone looks forward to, but it was especially challenging this term. Most of the classes this semester are new material and we can no longer rely on our knowledge from undergrad. The professors are starting to have higher expectations from us. As a student, I still am in the process of meeting that challenge. It was a small beat down, but a good wakeup call to 1. Drink more coffee 2. Start extra, extra early on notes 3. Get active regarding my learning.
A week after midterms ended we had proficiencies: an exam of your clinical skills that’s both graded for accuracy and timing. Personally, I feel that while it’s high-stress to have a preceptor watch over your every move, I do better in a clinical practice setting vs. a scantron exam. I enjoy myself when around patients and find that once I get rolling, my nerves get calmed and I perform better overall. This time around we had our exam on presbyopia evaluations, slit lamp, ophthalmoscopy, and basic entrance testing. It was a good bridge of refining knowledge from last year and building upon them with new skills. I was incredibly nervous during refraction because my patient was also an O.D. and a professor on campus, but she paid me the best compliment and made me almost cry from happiness (and stress). She told me that even in such a high-stress situation, I seemed to enjoy myself and was very natural in my flow and interaction, and that made her feel more comfortable as a patient and more confident in my clinical skills. I can’t speak for all, but when a professor tells me I did a good job in anything, I pretty much fan-girl on the inside. A fan girl gets obsessive about something they like. Some people fan-girl about movie stars and rockers, I, on the other hand, fan-girl about people who are where I want to be in the future.
I believe that this year is going to present many challenges, but I also have faith that with the right balance of clinical skills and bookworm studying, I can survive while still maintaining the majority of my sanity. Second year is everything they promised and more. More tears, more laughter, more studying, but also more skill improvement and more precious moments with patients! So where I lack in sleep now, I’ll recover around Thanksgiving—because learning doesn’t stop for anything second year!
SUMMER TIME PARTYING, HOORAH!
Summer time has been fun, relaxing, and still slightly tiring. No matter how hard I try to spend it leisurely, I find myself spending hours scoping the internet and checking out what’s happening in Boston and its neighboring cities and pouring over the different opportunities to explore. Although there are changes ahead, the summer between your first year and your second year has been notorious for being your “last ounce of freedom” and I plan to spend it well! It’s my great chance to explore and do some cool Boston things (finally!) and since I was fortunate enough to get a few jobs here on campus, I’ll still be making a bit of money to make up for my spending.
My first act of freedom was to re-walk to 2.5 miles of U.S. history along the Freedom Trail here in Boston. If you’re new in town, going to come into town, or are just kind of a history buff, I highly recommend it! It can be completely self-guided because you literally just follow the red paint along paved roads beginning near Boston Commons or you can pay someone to be dressed up in colonial outfits and have an equally exciting experience. I chose the free-route and enjoyed a ridiculously lovely Boston day in the sun and the whole afternoon basically came down to reading about history…and eating. Oysters, cannoli pastries, lobster rolls and “chawdah” around the North End and Faneuil Hall, food trucks in the South Washington District, your adventure is whatever you make of it!
My second act of freedom was an impromptu hike with visiting friends from California up to New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Our goal was the summit of Mt. Washington, but the crazy weather made it impossible (although in the end “technically” possible, what is WITH East Coast weather?!?!?). We camped out in Gorham, a short 9 miles north of Pinkham Notch at the base of Mt. Washington. Many trails were still covered by snow or too slippery for the average Joe so we went the route of Tuckerman Ravine where famed “extreme-skiing/boarding” happens annually.
It was news to me, but apparently pioneered by Harvard graduates, Tuckerman Ravine is one of the few places that offer spring snow sports due to its winter conditions that last sometimes through June. What’s actually CRAZY about the whole ordeal is that these extreme sports enthusiasts must first hike up 2.4 miles, while increasing over 2000ft in elevation, to reach the base of the ravine bowl. From there there will be a change of shoes and switching of gears and it is another God-knows-how-long up to the top of the ravine (because I did not actually hike up) before you can skii/snowboard down the ravine…only to make the hike up again because there are no electronic lifts of any kind.
Hopefully I’ll be able to plan another trip this summer to summit Mt. Washington, but for now here are some pictures of the glory I experienced. It was truly amazing to see such enthusiasts completely in their element and how much respect they have for the mountain that has claimed a few lives over the years as well. Through the school year, my butt is basically permanently molded to the fabrics of our lecture hall chairs, so any chance to breathe some fresh air and get my legs moving is a great day! How do you guys keep active?
From there, my other acts of freedom have been more local and calm. I’ve checked out both famed brewery tours here in Boston, Harpoon ($5 admission with a bar and delicious pretzels) and Sam Adams (Free! But no place to “hangout” pre/post tour). I’ve biked from Brookline to Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, which holds some of the best views of the Boston skyline from atop its hill, and even made a trip out to the Museum of Science.
And while it sounds like a lot has happened during my off time, NECO has been equally busy! I work in about 3-4 different departments here at the college to try and accumulate as much funds as possible and keep my optometry knowledge fresh. I don’t mind the hours because they are flexible and it’s a great time to get to know some of the faculty and students when the school is in its calm.
I got my first glimpse of the class of 2018 at the Housing Fair BBQ this past weekend, where over 70 students of the incoming class came to hunt for the perfect apartment as well as mingle with their future colleagues. It was a strange flashback to my own housing fair last year, with the exception that I ended up running around Boston with my realtor in the rain because the aforementioned whacked out East Coast weather. It felt a little surreal to look at the incoming class and realize how far I’ve come and how the cycle continues long after we’re gone. It makes you think a little bit and actively encourages you to cherish your surroundings and all the colleagues and professors who you only have a limited time with.
Another event I was happy to have participated in was the Massachusetts Special Olympics, where we screened over 100 participants and their family and friends. Led by Dr. Stacy Lyons and Dr. Barry Kran from NECO, the MCPHS optometry program partnered with us to bring vision screening to a new level. I had volunteered for the Special Olympics during undergrad in California, but this was my first experience volunteering as a member of the medical team and it felt great!
We had a lot of participants who had trouble verbalizing what they could see and others who had various levels of tropias and even a few family members who hadn’t been to an eye care professional in over 5 years. Over all, there was a lot of diversity, which gave students a chance to practice different skill levels and alternatives to our usual screening methods. One of the basic concepts I found challenging was simply being able to maintain a patient’s interest. These athletes came from all over the U.S. and had such high energy and were so excited for the weekend’s events that often times they roped you into the excitement and you found yourself taking almost 20 minutes doing procedures that normally would take only 10 minutes. The rewards of working this event were high, though. We got to meet some of our fellow neighbors at MCPHS and got to give back to the community while still challenging and growing in our own scope of practice. I’ll definitely be looking out for this event again next year!
As we roll into June, I’ve still got plenty penciled into my calender. I’m helping out a few clinical labs to keep my optometric knowledge sharp and prepared for second year, but I also have a few Boston events I’m looking forward to, including the infamous July 4th Boston Pops Fireworks, ranked as one of the country’s BEST fireworks! What are your summer plans, friends? If you’ve got good ideas, please share!!
It is two weeks before finals and the end to my first year in optometry school. To say things flew by would be a dramatic understatement! Even now, writing this entry is the only time I’ve really had to just sit down and think about this past year and all that’s happened. While some people like to reflect on how much they’ve grown or matured, I’d like to save that for graduation day…and hopefully by then I will have legitimately grown wiser, matured, and maybe even magically gotten taller! For the wrapping up of my first year, I’d like to first share two experiences I’ve had at school with inspiring professors here at the college.
If you have never had a chance to visit NECO or you will be entering next year for the class of 2018, I am sorry to say that you will not have the pleasure of being taught by Dr. Nancy Carlson. She has popped into my previous entries as the person who provided an awesome zen-meditating video for me to distress, but aside from that, she has just been a great mentor. She is the author of CPOE, which many are familiar with (and if you are entering school, then you will know CPOE soon enough!), but she also has a wealth of knowledge regarding all aspects of life. I was the student aid to the Primary Care department this year and got to know Dr. Carlson a little bit better outside of sitting in lectures alone. I have talked about boys with her, traveling, television shows (she and her husband are watching Breaking Bad currently!), and even about her fat orange tabby cat, Kevin. Other students have told me Dr. Carlson has taught them how to open champagne bottles…I mean the list just goes on. Her health has been tested and her loved ones have been tried and through it all she has come out resilient and a sassy winner!
The point of it all is that she will be terribly missed next year and I wanted to pen it in my entry that she has made an impact on my personal and professional life. It’s an especial privilege when professors take note of students’ welfare and I find that NECO has so many of these teachers. Dr. Carlson has been with NECO through thick and thin for quite some time, and I’m just glad I was able to squeeze in there just in time! Of course, there is a certain level of professionalism and respect that must be adhered to, but to have a personal connection with someone already in the field you are interested in is an amazing networking connection. So whether you are studying or working or doing something entirely different from what you’d like to, just keep an eye out for greatness around you, they come in all forms! Here’s a picture of Dr. Carlson and a few of us first years at Eye Ball just last weekend, everyone looked so snazzy!
The second professor that I feel has made an impact is Mr. Blair Wong, who is an assistant professor here at the college and is one of the optics professors for first year students. He runs the laboratory portion part of the second semester and also gives lectures. What is truly inspiring is that he also has retinitis pigmentosa, a genetically linked visual impairment rendering him legally blind with only a small portion of his central vision left. It would be like if you rolled your hands into a fist, then looked out of your “hand binoculars” for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And that small circle of view will only get smaller as time goes on. However, anyone who has encountered Mr. Wong in class or in the hallway, or even on the street knows that he is one of the most optimistic person. During our class in Principle and Practices of Optometry (PPO for short), Mr. Wong was brought in as a guest speaker to talk to us about what it’s like from a patient’s prospective and it was extremely eye opening. Many times students in a medical profession get lost easily in the academics of it all. We’re so overwhelmed by the hard-science and trying to breathe through our text books and caffeine high that we forget where we’re heading and why we’re in school in the first place. Listening to Mr. Wong’s experiences really reaffirmed why I’m in optometry school currently and that’s to help others. It is possible to be a great doctor even in the event that an actual cure is impossible. To see the optimism and light hearted flare in how he carries his life, I simply wanted to remind all students (and life learners in general!) to take a step back once in a while and reconnect with your goals and witness the courage and inspiration around all of us. I think that’s what will take us through these next 3 years.
To further prove my point, I wanted to throw in a tidbit about my 118th Boston Marathon Monday experience! Now I’m what I like to self-refer to as “athletically inactive.” As in I could get off this library chair and go run a few miles or rage through a cycling class at the YMCA (which is free for students, by the way!) and feel not like death, but most days I get a bit lazy about the whole thing. I’ve run 2 half marathons before and both have been excellent motivators for getting into a daily routine and the energy that you get by being around others is pretty enthralling stuff. Nothing is more motivating than signing up for something and having to give someone money! But what I witnessed during the 118th Boston Marathon this year was simply unreal. It was the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and whatever other great sports events all rolled into one, with one great exception: these were EVERYDAY PEOPLE. Looking at the qualifying statistics to for the Boston Marathon is simply mind blowing. For my age group, 18-35 years old, the qualifying time for 26.2 miles is just about at 3 hours. To give you a comparison, my 13.1 mile run was at 2hours and 15 minutes, so in 45 more minutes, these athletes run a whole other 13.1 miles. That’s crazy!
I love that Boston almost shuts down entirely that weekend to simply support its city and the people in it. Very few people have work on Marathon Monday and even NECO was closed. The streets were filled with people cheering, BBQing, making signs, and having a general blast! This year seemed to be just a bit more special due to the suffering of the bombing last year and Boston took full advantage to appreciate its comeback. People ran for their families, for Boston, for their own pride and it was completely exhilarating! I’m motivated now to try and make a more consciously healthy life style by running along the Esplanade by the Charles River and enjoying the sunshine while it lasts! For the end of my first year, I just want to reflect on all the inspiration that I’ve been privileged enough to have witnessed. There are so many other stories and daily snippets that I would like to share, but these 3 stick out the most. I’ve throw in a few pictures just so you can share in the fun, even though I know you all have made your own fun memories for the year already. Stay lucid through finals, guys
P.S. My title is to come full circle from my entry on feeling like a cow among a herd in the beginning and slowly finding a patch of my own Boston grass a year later. Just thought it may need clarification…
It’s been two weeks since spring break and approximately one week since the first day of spring and yet no sign of spring has shown itself here in Boston! In fact, the only noteworthy events we’ve had thus far is an over-hyped snow storm that consisted of 1 hour of floating dots that melted before they touched the ground and a whole weekend of rain. I think often the weather is congruent with how people feel; after all, you hardly see a bright and sunny Monday, right?
That was my one interjection of complaint coming from my inner, whiny Californian. Onto optometry related events! Vision Expo East happened in New York this past weekend, but I did not have the good fortunate of going, sadly. Although to be fair, most of it was my own mind of trying to save money since I just traveled to New Jersey during Spring Break, but a part of me still wished I was in on the excitement. Word on the street was that it was a lot of Luxottica glamour, freebies of reusable grocery bags, and fun raffles where one of my classmates even won a pair of free sunglasses! And if any of you are unfamiliar, Luxottica is the mecca that owns such brands as Ray Ban, Prada, Gucci, etc. They are the Google/Apple of the eye wear world…owning virtually all the top selling brands you see celebrities wear and their booth at Expo was reported as being pretty impressive! Having gone to Vision Expo West in Las Vegas last summer, I thought it would be relatively similar so I decided to skip New York this time in favor of catching up on school work, but it definitely had me reflecting a bit! I went to Vision Expo West as an optician before and I had the opportunity to attend talks on topics such as office management and practice set up while the actual convention offered a peek into the latest technology available along with the latest fashion trends and new contact lens materials for optimal patient comfort. Vision Expo isn’t just about learning, though. Many companies will host events that include free food or a limited open-bar, and the location itself usually has tons of things going on. So if you’re ever around Las Vegas during the summer time, Vision Expo West offers the smart decision of mixing knowledge with a little bit of fun! And if you happen to be on the other coast, definitely keep an EYE out (ha!) for Vision Expo East in the spring.
On a more reflective note, I wanted to do a follow up to my note-taking strategy because I know everyone has been waiting with baited breath! I can honestly say that taking a midterm in neuroanatomy and and then anatomy a day apart from each other was probably on my top 10 list of most stressful things I’ve ever done in my short-lived life so far…and I don’t doubt it will be the last. Each semester has one week of midterms and one week of finals where you will cry and laugh and get a little delirious, but it’s about coming through to the other side with your sanity! One of the most awesome things that Dr. Nancy Carlson (life-talk and optometry doctor guru!) told me was to listen to meditation music 10 minutes before an exam. It sounds a bit silly because pictures of sitting on a mat cross-legged and humming to yourself come to mind, but in reality, I just play a 7 minute you-tube video on my phone whenever I start to get overwhelmed or if I can’t fall asleep because I’m too cracked-out on caffeine from earlier in the day. It allows me to take 3 steps back and forget the detailed crazy detailed exam that’s coming my way and allow me to just realize how cool the material really is. Both professors are excellent teachers and their wisdom is pretty evident just in how they carry themselves during lecture. However, my test taking anxiety is evident and I’m always in some sort of a panic mode no matter how prepared I feel. The music just lets me breathe for a second before my sympathetic system kicks in (fight or flight, anyone?). And while I still made a few stupid errors, I know that without having developed a new study strategy and seeking some life-advice, my sanity would probably be lost in the abyss by now. So if you’re ever struggling a bit or find yourself falling behind in your notes, it never hurts to take a step back and reevaluate your learning style. Often we get stuck in a habit that by definition is hard to change, but perhaps graduate school needs you to push a bit further than before…so push back!
On a less academic note, I recently discovered Dine Out Boston! It’s the equivalent of “restaurant week” that happens across cities all over America and it’s a blessed, glorious event! I’m a foodie by nature and this magical opportunity allowed me to eat some of the yummier foods that don’t fit in my normal budget. I had a full 3-course seafood meal that included plate of garlic seasoned clams, pan seared tuna and chocolate lava cake for $33 in the North End and a deliciously refreshing 3-course baked salmon French cuisine lunch down on Newbury St. for $20. If you’ve got these events near you, utilize it! Often times students are either stuck in a pasta-rut (like me! 88 cents for a box of pasta is just too good of a deal) or spend like mad men because hey, what’s some change on top of our already overwhelming debt, right? BUT Dine Out Boston gives the perfect compromise of delicious luxury at a guilt-free price. It’s important to find time for studying, but it’s even more important to find good foodie people who can help feed your soul (and stomach!). In this day and age, apps like Yelp, Alfred, and Walk Score can get you to good eating in no time. I’d like to think that I will always be hungry for knowledge and good eats…hope you guys are the same.
CLICK HERE TO TAKE 8 MINUTES OUT OF YOUR DAY AND JUST…RELAX!! (Note: No copyright infringement intended, nothing belongs to me, just trying to sharing the good vibes.)
After surviving my first semester of optometry school, I feel like I’ve definitely learned a few things and have come up with some improvements to my new life in Boston! This is a completely personal feeling, so if you got straight As before, definitely don’t change your methods on account of me. A lot of people make resolutions after the New Year, such as finding the time to work out at the gym more or finally finishing that book collecting dust on the shelf…but my resolution? Take better notes to study more efficiently! Actually this was a resolution made after the New Year and after I discovered that my laptop has Microsoft One Note. One of the things that I’ve realized in optometry school is the pace and the amount of detail that is expected of you far exceeds what we were handed in undergrad and I, therefore, must also adapt accordingly. The simple fact is the process of typing is just faster than hand writing. Though there’s still some kinks to sort through and some figuring out of the unknown buttons, One Note does an awesome job of allowing me to move at almost the same speed as the professors speak so I don’t miss a beat. And before all the techies students freak out, I do realize there’s definitely other ways and programs that do similar things, but this is what I’ve got without having to download or shell out more moolah! So if you object to One Note, then I’m going to need something to trade in its place-preferably at no cost.
Why am I making note taking such a big deal anyway, you ask? First off, know that I’m a visual learner. I learn by charts, diagrams, and pictures with labels (I’m also pretty into self-made acronyms). And the unfortunate thing about being a visual learner is that I like hand-writing all my notes and study guides because they become imprinted in my brain as I color code and draw out my diagrams—but it’s so very very time consuming! In undergrad, the level of material seemed easier, not due to the material itself, but rather the physical amount of detail requested was simply less. However, graduate school’s charm is truly in the details. And rightly so, of course; no one wants an optometrist that does not understand where all the blood vessels of the eye are and how they’re connected to the rest of the body or giving the wrong prescription eye drops. The fact that the retina is the only place doctors are able to see into the human body without surgical means makes our need for details especially important. And because of all these details, a visual learner such as myself, found it very difficult to make proper notes while learning and memorizing efficiently. I knew about 2/3 of the material very well, but found myself frequently running out of time to study effectively for the final 1/3 of the material because I did not have time to make my hand-written, color-coded, acronym filled stacks of notes! With computer programs, I’m not only able to type notes, but make things into my own words on the spot in lecture, and then include the professor’s visual aids alongside them. My hope is that this new method of studying will be more efficient come testing time and my sanity will be a little calmer. So if you use One Note and have awesome tips for me, please shoot me a comment or find me in person as I definitely want to learn all the cool trade secrets!
On a clinical note, we have started retinoscopy (finding the approximate Rx of a patient’s eyes) this semester in lecture, which means that when I go out on screenings, my preceptors are also encouraging us to try it out on patients. This is both exciting and pretty nerve racking because we’re expected to take everything we’ve learned from lecture notes and laboratory practice on our classmates and a fake schematic eye and now apply them to REAL people. I had a screening last Friday with Dr. Brianna Krajnyak working with 6 and 12 year old children and it was pretty exciting when my findings were on par with hers. On the one hand my accuracy was roughly about 3/5 patients when I concurred with my preceptor’s findings, but on the other hand, I’m actually pretty proud that I got 3/5 patients on average! It’s a cool feeling to know that we’re all on our way to being refractive error gurus soon and I definitely appreciate the help and real-life practice during screenings. It’s pretty nice to work with kids as they don’t really judge your work or question your methods like adults sometimes can which enables you to just really work out your personal kinks with less stress. By my next blog, hopefully I’ll have risen to spherical stereoscopy black belt! (Or maybe not…astigmatism will surely be a whole other learning curve).
Aside from my resolution to learn more efficiently, I’ve also decided to start a “3 Things I’m Thankful For” event for personal reflection. It’s just me jotting down 3 things I’m thankful for that day before I sleep. A simple, but hopefully meaningful, resolution. I find that on top of being in a new environment, grad school can quickly overwhelm a person with its academic requirements and it becomes very easy to miss the small things in life. I remember walking to Boston Commons after finals to look at the Christmas tree they had set up and I thought to myself, “Man, how crazy is it that you are about 3000 miles away from California, from everything you know to be comfortable, and standing in front of this giant Christmas tree in one of the most historical sites of the country.” Often times we forget these little parts about living and about seeing. Four years down the road, I think I would like to look back and not feel like Boston simply passed me by, I’d like to be able to read on what I appreciated that day about my school, my city, my T-ride home, or even being thankful for the maintenance staff for filling in the gaps of my wall so mice don’t get in. Learning comes in all forms for sure and while optometry is the center of it all, I want to know I didn’t completely lose my peripheral vision. Ha! Did you all catch that eye “punny?” Welcome to spring semester everyone!!
As the cold sets in and people start walking around in ridiculously puffy outfits, I’m beginning to miss the West Coast. Boston does a great job of getting into the festive spirit with Christmas lights lining Newbury Street and Commonwealth Avenue and NECO itself isn’t too shabby either with its fall pumpkins laid out in the rotunda and student council events such as, “Christmas movie and cookie decorating” night. Sometimes when I leave the school at night after a long day, I can smell burning firewood from somewhere in the Back Bay neighborhood and a swarm of nostalgia washes over me as I walk towards the T-stop to head home. It’s in those small little Boston moments that I miss my family, my California friends and mundane things like driving a car. Every year for as long as I can remember, I have been able to drive home to my mom and allow her to cook me an overwhelming amount of food not suitable for the healthy diet of two women and have her scold me about staying out too late with friends (I typically get the call around 11pm). This is the first year that we spent apart and I really missed all the little family moments that typically go hand-in-hand with family reunions.
However, I wanted to say that my new NECO family really made the holidays as best as it could be! A group of us that were orphaned here in Boston got together for a “Friendsgiving” potluck and it was wonderful and delicious and fattening to say the least. Long gone are the days of minuscule plates of cookies and chips! We feast in style at graduate school potlucks! The night was filled with fun conversation, weird moments that will morph into lasting memories, and a plethora of food consumed entirely to its core. We had two turkeys, one that was the real bird and the other made delicately by fruit…both amazingly scrumptious! It’s at these events that I continue to be amazed by the different skills and hobbies that my classmates have aside from our mutual aspirations to become optometrists. It’s really fascinating to know one person that does ballroom dancing, another that’s an avid ping-pong player since childhood, multiple bilingual (and even trilingual!) people, and even a few yarn-enthusiasts! I appreciate that NECO has provided a melting pot of students that are each well-rounded in their own way, but all still reaching towards the same goal. So even though there are over 130 of us, I think OD 2017 is pretty amazing in our own right!
On a clinical note, this month I got to step out to my first SVOSH club (Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) screening with Dr. Kristin White in Waltham, MA. It was the week after our screening proficiencies and I went into the event with my head held high and beaming with confidence. However, serving the under-served proved to be very different than performing tasks on your healthy and knowledgeable classmates. As most of my previous screenings were with squirmy young children, I was certain that working with adults would be easier, but it definitely had its own challenges and it was humbling to be brought into “reality.” Some of these low income families had not had an eye exam or even a basic health check in years and some spoke very little English and had minimal medical history to provide. We were able to set up a basic screening process and refer a few patients to a local optometrist for a full evaluation. It was a really great feeling to be able to contribute to the community outside of our school-assigned screenings and working with Dr. White and two other upper year students was an excellent learning experience for me.
I have many other classmates that have participated in other screening and volunteering activities through other clubs and have all really enjoyed their experience. I respect that for such a compact school, NECO and its respective student clubs plan events involving the surrounding community to encourage not only early exposure, but also to try and make an impact. I look forward to finals being over (and hoping I survive the process) and my visit home with my family and friends and the eventual time we return to NECO and get our hands “dirty” next semester! I’m throwing in a few pictures from Friendsgiving and my week as a dog sitter to the cutest pup, and likely OD 2017 mascot, Watson
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!! As October draws to an end, it’s a great feeling to be able to tell you all that I survived my first round of midterms of graduate school and I am still alive to tell the tale. It’s a very particular sense of accomplishment to be on campus at 8am and then leave campus at midnight without having gone anywhere else but the library. I’m not one of those able to study at home. I find myself constantly hungry, developing a sudden disgust for how disorganized my room is, or catching a severe case of the “nnasap” (AKA, need-nap-as-soon-as-possible). So if you are like me, heading to campus is the right decision. NECO during exams was truly a festive period. Students were able to study virtually anywhere on campus; it’s as if the whole school was at my disposal. It wasn’t unusual to find someone crammed into a corner table that you never knew existed or find a few people having a study-food party in one of the conference rooms. On top of that, Paulo, our amazing cafeteria man, provided free coffee and tea the whole week of exams as well as fresh fruit and baked goods! On a side note for how suave Paulo truly is, on my birthday, not only was my coffee on the house, but I got a kiss on the hand with a birthday greeting in Portuguese…when was the last time someone kissed your hand? And no, I will not tell you how old I am because a lady never divulges that information.
Now, I say October was the month that could not decide because aside from the days that were spent endlessly at NECO studying (to the point of befriending the janitorial staff during closing time), the studying was balanced by this incredibly exciting time to be a Boston resident. This week we won our first World Series at home since 1918, nearly 100 years ago. The beard nation is in uproar! After the tragedy earlier this year, it felt like Boston really needed a good hug…in the form of thousands of people flooding the streets in celebration of the big win. There were even people at the Boston Marathon finish line chanting, “Boston strong!” In the two months I’ve been here, I’ve grown to really love the people in this city. There’s a familiar sense of family that spreads from NECO all throughout the city. My stress level varies like the colors on the leaves here; there are days where I am overwhelmed between class assignments, quizzes, and papers to write, but NECO will find a way to revive my spirit a few days later with a fun event or Boston will reward my hard work with a free movie screening. This is honestly the best place to be young!
On an optometric note, the Performance Vision Club at NECO invited the Boston Red Sox ophthalmologist, Dr. Dan Laby, to talk to us this week and it just reinforced why I am on the career path I’m on. It was doubly exciting to witness a profession in the field that was a part of the great Boston win the night before. I felt as if I was meeting a celebrity! He spoke of his interest in improving athlete performance through different vision therapy techniques and corrective lenses instead of jumping straight to corrective surgery and that definitely sparked my interest. I often felt that there was a stigma to use surgery as a means to correct many medical issues relating to health when it was definitely necessary. Dr. Laby explained some helpful examples of athletes using corrective contact lenses to improve their visual acuity from a standard 20/20 to a 20/12.5 while an athlete who received corrective surgery might only achieve 20/15 at best. It was inspiring to meet someone successful in the field speak of his trials and tribulations and it reinforced how vast and ever-expanding eye care is as a profession. And above all else, how health care is linked together. A professional athlete’s vision health and performance is based on more than a simple eye exam. A team of sports psychologists, ophthalmologists, and optometrists all contribute toward the accuracy of a baseball player’s swing, the subtle changes in a pitcher’s throw, or how well they focus under the pressure of a few million watchful eyes. Even if I don’t get to serve on a star-studded baseball team later in my career, I know that these same pressures apply to the everyday patient. As a future optometrist, it will be my duty to watch for strabismus and good tracking in children so that their academics are not affected by vision, the same as it will be my job to keep a watchful eye on adult patients as they begin developing cataracts. I’m grateful for NECO’s vast connections throughout the Boston area and that we’re able to bring speakers, such as Dr. Laby, to speak at events to help students understand how optometry can have an immediate impact on someone’s life. It’s a good time to be a Bostonian and a NECO student!