3… 2… 1… It’s Summertime!

Completing first year of optometry school… CHECK! Can you believe it? With all that happened in Boston over the last couple of months, the 2012-2013 academic year at NECO has come to a bittersweet end. On the other hand, summer 2013 has come to an exciting start for most of us! After turning in our last final exam, I saw most of the “new OD2” students, with a sense of relief, descending down the stairs in the rotunda and gathering outside along the steps of the school’s entrance sharing the same exact thought: we are ”quarter optometrists.” This past semester was a challenging and stressful one. There were many projects due simultaneously in addition to the preparations for the proficiency and final exams that we had to go through. However, we can all agree on the fact that this was a rewarding year as we learned so much, especially during the second half of the last semester.

As the OD2016s went out to celebrate that night, we all said our goodbyes and shared our plans for the summer break. Some students had a flight back home the very next day and could not wait to spend much needed quality time with their families and their loved ones. Others were thrilled to begin their T-35 research at NECO in order to further expand their knowledge on different vision-related topics. Lastly, there were a few of us who were going to travel to different parts of the world for various reasons, such as vacationing or volunteering. No matter what we had planned for our last full summer, we knew we had to make the best out of it.

As for me, I will be one of the new OD2 students who will be spending this summer abroad, in a country thousands of miles away. Armenia is a small country located in southwest Europe to the east of Turkey with a population of around 3 million. As a student volunteer with the Armenian Volunteer Corps, I will be volunteering at the S. Malayan Ophthalmological Center branch in Gyumri. Gyumri is the country’s second largest city, located about two hours northwest of the capital of Yerevan. It is located in the province of Shirak, which is the region that experienced a massive earthquake in 1988, resulting in the death of over 25,000 people. The earthquake was a setback for this developing region, as it caused major infrastructural damages. Since then, many reconstruction projects have been completed or are still ongoing. In addition, tens of thousands of people were injured as a result of this disaster with a large number of them losing their vision. In response to this catastrophe, many medical clinics were built in the area, including an eye care clinic. At the clinic, I will be assisting optometrists and ophthalmologists by examining patients’ conditions, including those who have low vision and those whose vision losses are preventable.

Over the past month, I have been preparing for my 10 week mission abroad. I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Richard Jamara, a low vision specialist at the New England Eye Institute. Towards the end of the spring semester, my class had a few introductory lectures on low vision in our Optics II and PPO courses. Dr. Jamara shared with us some of the low vision devices that are currently being used by low vision patients, including hand held magnifiers and spectacles. I have learned various ways of refracting these patients and how to prescribe the best optical devices to meet a patient’s daily needs. What I have learned will be put to very good use during my stay in Armenia.

I am looking forward to using my newly learned skills and techniques in a country that has a significant need for eye care. I am very excited that I will apply everything I have learned from NECO this year and that I will be working with many kinds of patients.

I will be writing about my first few weeks of my experience in my next blog… Stay tuned. :)

Gyumri, Armenia

Gyumri, Armenia

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