A Personal Encounter with Students

This week was a sad week for me. It comes around every few months, because that is when some of my students leave, after having spent several months with me at the Martha Eliot Health Center. One of my favorite parts of my job is working with the students and getting to know them. Each student is unique, having come from a certain culture, region, family, and educational background, and they each have different goals in life.

I have met students with such wonderful stories. I once had a student who wanted to open a butcher shop when he retired because he enjoyed slices of fine meat. Another student loved to make pastries, and would have become a pastry chef if she hadn’t become an optometrist. And of course she brought delicious cupcakes to clinic and shared them with us! Professional ballroom dancer, salsa dancer, marathon runner, boba tea fanatic, handyman…these are just some of the personalities I have gotten to meet when they come to my clinic.

I have also shared some interests with my students. When the Twilight book craze was going on (and I guess it still is), I saw my interns reading during lunch. They asked me if I was reading them and I scoffed and said that I didn’t want to read a teen book about vampires. The next day, the first book appeared on my desk, and my intern said, “Dr. Moy, you HAVE to read this.” I suppose if I can assign reading, I should be open to my intern assigning reading to me! I took the book home for a weekend trip, and by the end of my 2nd day, I had devoured Twilight. And yes, I have now read all the books and seen all the movies so far. I also make it no secret that I am a Florida Gators fan. One time I had a student who was a Georgia fan. When the two football teams played each other, there was a bit of trash talking going on. When Florida won, I could tell my student was sad, so I didn’t rub it in…too much.

When I know my students on a personal level, it makes it so much more enjoyable to see them on a daily basis. The most memorable students are the ones who have gotten to know our staff and the patients, and who take ownership of the clinic when they arrive. When we acquired a new Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT) at Martha Eliot, I loved it when my students were just as excited as I was about a new “gadget.”

This week was bittersweet in saying goodbye to some of my students, but I’m also looking forward to getting to know my incoming students. They will be unique in their own way, and I look forward to telling them more about myself as well. Maybe someone else will share my love for Jeremy Lin on the New York Knicks.

Eye Care and Culture on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua


Williams College students providing care on recent Nicaragua trip.

Williams College students providing care on recent Nicaragua trip.

Earlier this year, I participated in a tremendous collaborative effort to provide eye care to over 4,700 people in the developing region of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. In cooperation with Ray Hooker, President and Founder of FADCANIC (Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua), Williams College, and NECO, we have been able to provide this service for the last 10 years. This effort embodies the mission of FADCANIC; “…to nurture, strengthen and develop the process of autonomy of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua from civil society through the qualitative transformation of social, economic, cultural and political relations that benefit the indigenous and ethnic communities of the region.” Williams College, a small liberal arts school in Williamstown, MA, has been funding this effort as part of a winter study course for a selected number of students entitled “Eye Care and Culture on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua” and headed by faculty member Robert Peck.

NECO has been a part of this humanitarian effort since its inception ten years ago. For the last seven years, I have been helping to head the trip and organize all of the eye care related aspects of the trip. Before the trip, I teach the participating Williams College students (on average 12-14) about ocular anatomy, refractive error and rudimentary aspects of ocular disease. The students then go through a training to learn how to take visual acuity and determining the plus lens powers needed for distance and/or near vision.

During the 12-day trip, 3-4 optometrists, all of whom are NECO alumni and/or faculty and oversee the vision screenings and perform comprehensive exams when needed, accompany students. In addition to myself, the other optometrists that participate are local alums of the College. Of note is Dr. Katie Field (Class of ’03), who has been a trip optometrist for the last eight years, providing unsurpassed service.

Seeing patients in Kukra Hill, Nicaragua.

Seeing patients in Kukra Hill, Nicaragua.

To date, a total of 61 Atlantic Coastal communities have been serviced in the last ten years and a total of 28,951 eye exams performed. While almost all of the patients seen receive sunglasses, approximately 20,250 pairs of distance and/or reading glasses have also been dispensed. In addition, the Commonwealth practice of New England Eye (NEE) has been donating lenses and fabrication services for the last 5 years for those patients who have significant refractive errors that can’t be corrected with the over-the-counter reading glasses typically dispensed during the trip. In total, approximately 250 pairs of glasses have been made by NEE and shipped back to the appropriate patients.

While these trips wouldn’t be possible without the leaders of this endeavor, I want to acknowledge the hard work of the participating Williams College students each year. I am proud to be a part of the NECO community and the service they have provided in this endeavor over the last 10 years! Members of the NECO faculty who have participated over the years are myself, Bruce Moore, Catherine Johnson, Nicole Quinn, Stacy Lyons and Jacky Kong. NECO alum who have participated are Drs. Katie Field, Wendy Crusberg, Jenelle Mallios, Yos Priestley, Marcia Thiel, Scott Huffer, Jennifer Hartzell, Angela Langthorne, Layli Toutounchian, Tammy Gray, Irwin Schwom.

For an article highlighting this 10th anniversary trip, visit this link.
For more information on FADCANIC, visit its website.

What You Learn in First Year Is Not Only Optometry

Being the Associate Dean of Students allows me to share in and be a part of all of the experiences you have during your time at NECO, from your first day (orientation) to your last (commencement).

You have had many first days and first years and new ways of learning, forming and maintaining new relationships, and taking on more and more responsibility for yourself, your decisions, and your intellectual, emotional, and social life.

Your first day and first year of optometry school offer you the same opportunities, challenges, and adjustments, only magnified (no pun intended). You will find that there is more volume of work, less free time to study, and that a greater depth of knowledge is required of you. As you study, you are constantly wondering how what you are learning relates to patient care.

You will also enjoy a common bond among all of us in the NECO community. Since you and every one of your classmates have the same career goal, becoming an optometrist, all of your classes relate to optometry. We are all here to support you in achieving the OD degree.

As Dean, I so enjoy getting to know you, especially in the first year because I see so much growth in you, and because I know that each year you continue to grow in response to the opportunities before you.

Here are examples of your growth during first year.

• If you are living on your own for the first time, you truly learn to manage a household. You conquer grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, housecleaning and bill paying.

• You learn how to manage your time. Your priority is to study well, and you find the needed time.

• You adjust the way you study. You conquer exam anxiety. You seek out study partners or request peer tutoring.

• You become active in one of our many student activities.

• You bond with your classmates. You help each other out when needed.

• You realize that asking for help is encouraged. You find that proactively seeking assistance provides great relief and allows you to accomplish your goals. You leave my office happier than you arrived.

• You take good care of yourself. You eat well, sleep well, and exercise.

• You fall in love with Boston and find wonderful places to go with friends.

Being Associate Dean of Students allows me to find a little space within each of your hearts. You each have a big space in mine. On your first day at orientation, you are excited to arrive and I am excited to welcome you. On your last day, commencement, I am proud of you, but the day is bittersweet for me, because I must say farewell as you begin your new life. And when you do contact me as an alum, I am delighted.