“If You Hold It This Way, It’s Much Clearer. See?”

“If you hold it this way, it’s much clearer. See?” I smile when I see the look on my student’s face as she pulls the lens into focus correctly. It’s what all teachers live for, the “Ah-ha!” moment when the clinical skill and the classroom knowledge finally blend together. She straightens in her chair, feeling more confident now in her diagnosis for her elderly male patient. Together, we discuss with him our findings and concerns, and I listen as she instructs him on our plan for his future care.

It wasn’t long ago that I was the student, excitedly trying instruments and practicing my newly learned skills. I remember holding a lens and seeing the optic nerve in three dimensions for the first time. It was amazing! I could see the contour of the surface, the blood vessels, the changes in coloration of the structures inside the eye. I remember my first full eye exam on a patient, a sweet woman who was enthralled by the thoroughness of my exam (my instructor was not as enthralled with the time it took me to perform such an exam!). I remember classes and tests and board exams. But my favorite memories are those times when the knowledge finally clicked, when I had my own “Ah-ha!” moments and I was able to really see and understand what was happening in my patient’s eyes. It’s an incredible experience, because it is then that you realize that all the hours spent studying and practicing were all worth it. This is what I love about my job as a NECO instructor. Helping my students “see” for the first time, and (hopefully!) remember forever.

I feel lucky to have found a profession and a career that I feel so passionately about. I never expected to enjoy myself so much at my job! I work with second and third year optometry students at a community health center in the outskirts of Boston, and together we tackle challenging cases and manage a diverse array of problems. I have great colleagues at NECO and in the community of Boston. We often get together and talk about eye diseases and teaching and our craziest case of the day. And when I’ve over-loaded myself on optometry (which happens often), I try to relax with some mindless reality TV or watching the Red Sox (only when they’re playing well, of course!). But by morning, as always, I’m ready to do it all over again.