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!!