Tag: optometry

Be Inspired and Be Humbled, Always.

by on Jan.09, 2015, under Uncategorized

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.

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Summer Time Working, Huzzah! Wait, Working?

by on Jun.12, 2014, under Uncategorized


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!

bunker hill monument

Bunker Hill Monument

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.

Tuckerman's Ravine

Tuckerman’s Ravine

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.

Base of Tuckerman's

Base of Tuckerman’s

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.

Boston Hike

Boston Hike

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!



Special Olympics

Special Olympics

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!!

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The First Year Cow Gets Her Own Patch of Grass Soon

by on May.12, 2014, under Uncategorized

Boston Marathon 2014

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!


NECO Eye Ball 2014

NECO Eye Ball 2014

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.

Marathon Monday

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 :)

Smiling Angela


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…

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My First Two Weeks: A Cow Among the Excited Herd!

by on Sep.18, 2013, under Uncategorized

This Monday officially rounds off the first two weeks of OD1 for our class of 2017. It’s all kind of a blur thinking back, but my one sentence of summary would be: It’s strange to be an adult and still feel this young on the academic totem pole. Everyone at NECO is nothing but extra friendly towards us, which is awesome! Not to mention, it really deters the feelings of being the “newbie” that I know I am. And that’s something that I have counted on since my interview day at NECO. Since the school is relatively small, it was really important to me that the environment be homey. I wanted to go somewhere that embraced the students as family and that is supportive rather than competitive…and NECO has proven to provide exactly that!

The first few weeks have consisted of orientation, a few provided lunches (yay, free food!), becoming CPR certified, and settling into lecture and beginning labs. Because we all have the same lecture classes together (and therefore the same destination as one another), it often feels very much like herding lost cattle. Many of us are just getting acquainted with the campus, so it becomes a game of “following the leader.” If you look like you know where you’re going… well, there was probably at least five other people following you then. In a way, these first “herding days” were a good experience and I feel one that is critical to bond as OD1s, and in another way, I was very much reminded of how much there is to learn beyond the academics of optometry. Coming to NECO from the West Coast makes everything a learning experience. Aside from the obvious studying, I’m learning my bike path to/from school (and how to avoid getting hit by cars that seemingly follow no traffic rules!), how the Boston T works, and where all the secret hallways are within NECO. I found it deliciously pleasant that almost every office I walked into on campus had a bowl of candy waiting for me and all the staff and professors have tried really hard to make the OD1s feel welcome.

At the annual welcome back BBQ, I met more upper years than names I can remember, but they were all silly, engaging, and seemed genuinely happy to be hanging out with us. Getting to know all 135+/- of my fellow classmates might prove to be almost as challenging as memorizing the bones of the human skull (OK, the skull definitely wins), but I take comfort in knowing that there are so many fellow colleagues that will walk this program with me. When I put in library hours, I almost always find a classmate already there and when there are events, such as the amazing FREE Mix Fest concert this past weekend, (featuring Backstreet Boys, Gavin Degraw, and Of Monsters and Men!!), I found plenty of friends to join in on the fun. Hopefully along with the studious, there will be many more fun Boston events to attend!

On top of that, by some scheduling miracle, both of my housemates and I have the exact same schedule this semester. That means every single lab, every lecture are all exactly the same! We’re not sure how this happened, but we promised each other that in an effort to avoid getting overly attached to each other, we’d try to branch out by sitting with different people during our labs and lectures. And by doing so, I was able to become friends with so many others, so I’m grateful for my charismatic housemates. It’s a running joke that we’ll probably want to hurt each other by the end of the semester, especially because we met as strangers, but we have gotten along surprisingly well so far. So thank the graduate Gods for giving me Tammy and Yan. :)

It’s only been two weeks and the true highs and lows are still to come, but I’m looking forward to it all! Aside from feeling like I have not seen a lot of sunshine lately (library hours, labs hours, and lecture hours add up to a lot of time indoors!), I have no regrets about graduate school, about my chosen profession, and definitely not about choosing NECO. I can’t wait to cry, laugh, and be tired beyond belief with my classmates for the next four years. If you ever see me lurking around NECO, please say hello! (Or give me candy/ coffee…much appreciated in advance).

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Reflections of a Melting Popsicle!

by on Jul.02, 2013, under Uncategorized

As I sit here at 11pm at night, in 86 degree weather writing this blog entry, all that comes to mind is ice cream, shaved ice, and taking an actual ice bath. There’s a gripping heat-wave that’s currently rearing its ugly face on the West Coast, and my money-pinching side is rebelling against turning on the air conditioning ( after all, it has been on for the better part of the day just trying to keep the apartment at a cool 85 degrees). It hit my town approximately last Thursday and seems to have decided to extend its stay indefinitely. My phone is constantly on a weather update and it tells me that for the rest of the week, I am to face above 100 degree weather, to which I cry “Weather party-foul!” I’ve been trying to train for a half marathon race on July 13th called the Davis Moo-nlight Race (it’s a night run and UC Davis is known for its cows, hence the silly pun title) and the seemingly inevitable possibility of a heat stroke proves more daunting with each passing day as I am having difficulty running outdoors for training. For all you social media gurus out there, I say #californiaweatherproblems, #runnerproblems, and #firstworldproblems. Kidding aside, though, if any of you guys are keeping up the active life in this heat wave, I really commend you! Don’t forget to keep a bottle of icy water by your side and stay safe out there!

Since sitting here in the heat, I’m reminded of what one of my friends once told me about the Boston weather and how besides the fact that it gets extremely cold in the winter, there is also a REAL summer! As a Californian, I think I’ve got an extremely skewed perception of what a year round weather should look like. Any variation that extends beyond a 15 degree change from 75°F and I will feel uncomfortable. The rumors about Californians are true; we’re very delicate and whine a lot about the weather. I admit it! As the move for NECO inches closer and closer, I’ve recently added Boston, MA, to the weather category on my iPhone. It makes me feel that I am always in contact with Boston and helps bridge the 3,000 miles between the two coasts. Currently, my phone tells me that it’s 72 degrees in Boston at about 3am in the morning and there’s a chance of lightning. That tells me that Boston isn’t fairing much better and, honestly, it’s kind of nice to know that my current and my future are all experiencing similar things, even if we’re only talking about the weather.

There are so many changes coming up that my head is spinning a bit. I’ve been working at my current optometry office for two years and in three weeks, I will be leaving this second family of mine to prepare for my next adventure. I have laughed and learned with them and I am absolutely positive that I would not have been able to attend optometry school without their help. Last week, my office officially hired my replacement and the newbie has been shadowing me as I try to teach her everything I leanred in 2 years, in a mere 3 weeks. As I go through the basics of glasses adjustments, lens materials, and the meaning behind each pre-testing machine, I can see the newbie’s head spinning. In the process of training her, I have realized all that I have learned regarding the field of optometry in the last two years and I almost can’t believe it myself! Conducting visual fields, taking retinal photos and non-contact tonometry are all standard pretesting procedures, but on top of that, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge regarding the optical aspects of running a clinic. Words like digital freeform progressive lenses, various levels of anti-reflective coatings, and the mess of sorting through insurances have all, unbeknownst to me, become second nature. And all I want the world to know is that I am grateful for the learning opportunities that I have encountered and the people that have come in and out of my life through this period. I’m excited for the next chapter, but sad to turn this current page…I guess that’s why they say growing up is hard. Anyway, if you’re thinking about optometry, or any health field, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the process and fully taking in all aspects of the field. This way you’ll learn the good, the bad, and if you’re lucky, meet some great people along the way who are willing to help guide you through the hardships of the future. Also know, dear readers, that no matter where you are, if you’re stuck in a heat-wave, or this is your normal summer weather… that I am with you and melting, too! Stayed tune for my travels to Taiwan in my next entry!
P.S. I am attaching a screen shot of my weather outlook for your viewing pleasure :)


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