Happy (Almost) 2nd Anniversary!

It’s been almost two years since our first bloggers started writing about what it’s like, from a personal perspective, to learn, live, and work at NECO. Joe, a third year at the time, wrote about working for the admissions office, boards anxiety, and about not being quite sure about this whole blogging thing. You can read his first post here. Michael and Surbhi, who who were both in Alaska on rotation at the time, were among the first to sign on as NECO bloggers, too. Then Emily, a first year, followed. Kudos to all four for being brave enough to agree to do this! At the time, NECO didn’t have a big social media presence and hadn’t used student bloggers at all. All four weren’t exactly sure what blogging would feel like, but they thought it was a cool idea. They braved the unknown and were our guinea pigs. (Don’t worry, no actual guinea pigs were harmed in this experiment.)

After that, Dave, a second year followed. And then the faculty and staff got in on blogging, too. In total, in almost two years, we’ve had 12 students bloggers and 12 guest bloggers. They’ve shared their thoughts and a portion of their lives with us. We had Dr. Harb blogging from Nicaragua while on a humanitarian mission there and Talish writing about returning to Armenia over the summer, also to provide care to those in need. Dave shared his thoughts on what it’s like to turn from a student into a doctor. Surbhi and Mike gave us a taste of their Alaskan experience. We’ve been privy to Joe’s journey from third year to residency, and to Angela‘s NECO experience from the very beginning, starting with her acceptance to NECO. These are just a few of the stories NECO bloggers have shared with us, all unique.

I’m really proud of all the bloggers — students and staff. It takes guts to put yourself out there and requires a leap of faith, an assumption that what you have to say matters. They’ve all done good work and have kept things personal, which is what makes a blog worth reading in the first place. I really do believe that when you speak from the heart, people pay attention. They perk up. They listen. And there’s certainly proof that our bloggers are being listened to and what they say matters. The traffic to our blogs and NECO424, our social media dashboard, has soared and continues to grow. The blogs are having an impact on prospective students, too. In a recent survey conducted by yours truly, 45% of the incoming 1st year class said that reading the student blogs influenced their decision to ultimately choose NECO.

The positive impact of our bloggers goes beyond the prospective student, though. The blogs give our alumni and clinical preceptors a way to connect with our current students and to see what they’re going through: the ups, the downs, the triumphs, and the doubts. It lets us all witness their individual journeys as doctors, yes, but also as people. Maybe reading a post makes an alum smile, makes her reflect back to the friendships she forged here on Beacon Street. Or maybe it helps a preceptor understand the stress a student feels come spring of their third year (#boardsanxiety). Lots of connections are made and they’re different from reader to reader. What’s important, though, is that the connection is made and that we all get a little slice of life at NECO, a life that’s pretty darned special.

 

Blog #4: All Good Things Come to an End

Talish, eye clinic, ArmeniaHello again, everyone!

I cannot believe it is almost the end of August. It has been one week since I returned from my 10 week internship in Armenia. It was a huge kind of a shock for me to step into America again and immediately feel the differences from the place that I had left behind. But nevertheless, I am thrilled to be back with so many great memories and stories to share with my family and friends… minus the jet lag! :)

My final two weeks in Armenia were very bittersweet for me, since I had to wrap up my work at the eye clinic in Armenian clinicGyumri. It was hard for me to say goodbye to the doctors, nurses, and the patients who I had deeply connected with during my work there. In the clinic, I was able to observe patients’ eyes through the slit lamp and ophthalmoscope, as well as giving away the donated eye drops to them. In addition, I took the time to make an educational poster for the patients waiting in the hallway. The poster contained descriptions of various common eye conditions in Armenian including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, age related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. There is also an anatomy of the eye diagram in the center of the poster.

Once I left Gyumri, I spent my last five days in the capital, Yerevan, where I was able to visit the S. Malayan Ophthalmological Center. Currently, the center has over 200 specialists and 7 different vision departments including trauma, pediatric, and glaucoma. While I was there, I was able to observe the contact lens specialists and see how they performed contact lens fittings. The fittings are very similar to the contact lens fittings optometrists do in the US. I was also able to observe how they make RGP hard contact lenses with an optical technician. It was an interesting experience for me because he was using old Soviet style devices to make the lenses. Each pair of hard lenses costs about 25,000 dram, which is about $60. The doctors prescribe hard lenses to those patients with severe astigmatism and keratoconus. Most of the patients end up ordering soft lenses since it is cheaper and more comfortable.

After observing at the Malayan Center, I visited a non-profit organization called the Armenian Eye Care Project (AECP). AECP was founded in 1992 by an Armenian American ophthalmologist, Dr. Roger Ohanesian, whose mission it was to eliminate avoidable blindness and to provide eye care for all Armenians in need. Throughout the year, a group of doctors volunteer and travel in a mobile eye truck and perform eye surgeries on people in different regions of the country. I have been invited to work with them in the near future. I look forward to applying what I learn at NECO to help them out during my next trip to Armenia.

Overall, my 10 week experience in Armenia was very fulfilling. Not only was I able to work somewhere related to my field, but also I was able to do other projects and make friends with other volunteers from around the world. I am privileged to have been given this amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to going back to do more great things!

I also have to thank NECO, especially Dr. Jamara, for all the help and donations that they provided for me on this journey. I am so grateful to be studying at a wonderful institution that gives back to various communities in need, whether in America or abroad. And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed my series of blogs this summer. I wish all of you a great start to the new school year! Best of luck… Cheers! :)

Blog #3: Many Smiles and Boxes of Chocolates

Barev dzez (“Greetings” in Armenian) from Gyumri, everyone! :)

It is very hard to believe that my internship here is coming to an end soon. However, I know I will leave this country with so many great memories, experiences, and new friends. Since my last blog, I have not only worked at the S. Malayan Eye Clinic, but I have also taught English lessons to young Armenian students and  conducted Zumba dance classes. Recently, I have taught dance to young children in wheel chairs with other volunteers which was a very touching experience for me.  These amazing children will actually be performing their dance routines that they have learned this week. I am looking forward to their performances. 

At the clinic, I have been seeing more patients with eye problems and sometimes on my own, since our optometrist is on vacation for three weeks. Of course, I ask them to return to see the doctor if their condition is something other than simple treatment. One interesting experience I had recently was assisting the ophthalmologist in a cataract surgery. Participating in the surgery was such an unexpected experience, and one I feel privileged to have taken part in. A lot of patients I have seen lately at our site have had severe eye infections due to the dust and dirt in the air here. A few of the patients even have fallen on the sidewalk because the roads and sidewalks are not well maintained in some areas and rocky in some others. It really frustrates me to see that these patients hurt their eyes in ways that could be easily prevented. In many cases, we prescribe different antibiotic eye drops such as Tobrex to treat their infections. Sometimes we also have to prescribe three different types of drugs to a patient, but many of them cannot afford to buy all three drugs at once since they can be expensive.

So, to make the lives of the patients less difficult, I thought it would be best if I communicated with a couple of optometrists back at NECO to donate some eye drops to Gyumri.  Thanks to Dr. Richard Jamara, we received eight different kinds of antibiotic eye medications. When I brought the package to my clinic, the ophthalmologist was very appreciative and put them right into use. I had an interesting conversation with him last week during a coffee break. He explained to me that many of the patients at the clinic would go to the local pharmacy and would only buy two out of the three medications they were prescribed since they could not afford the third medication. Now, with the help of NECO, we are lessening the burden of the cost of eye care medication; many thanks NECO. 

To show their appreciation, many patients bring us boxes of chocolate, something I only see during the holiday season in the states. It is so fulfilling to see them leave the clinic satisfied that their eye problem was addressed. They never cease to thank us for our help. I am honored to work with these people who have taught me so much about kindness and gratitude.

You will see the last blog of my trip in a few weeks. Until then, enjoy your summer! :)

Estesootyoon (“until we meet again” in Armenian)

Greetings from Armenia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time sure does fly. It has been four weeks since I arrived here in Gyumri, a city located in the northwestern region of Armenia that recently has been designated a cultural capital of the old Soviet Republic. The weather here is a lot cooler than Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan, since Gyumri is situated at a higher elevation. So far, I have been able to meet and talk to many citizens who have been very kind and grateful for having young American volunteers helping out within the region. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to visit various historical sites within the city and have been able to see some of the ruins from the 1988 Spitak Earthquake. Unfortunately, the population has been slowly decreasing due to fewer work opportunities and is currently about 145,000. Despite the difficult challenges that the Gyumri people have faced within the past 30 years, their strong spirit is still felt.

During the weekdays, I spend my volunteer time at the S. Malayan Eye clinic where I get to see about 15 to 20 patients each day. It is an enlightening experience for me to witness the afflictions that I do not typically see in eye clinics back in the states. Here, patients do not come for annual eye examinations. The majority come in with eye infections since there is a lot of dust and dirt in the air. I have also seen patients with pink eye, corneal edemas, uveitis, amblyopia and other types of eye conditions/diseases. It was interesting to see that only four patients out of the many I have seen so far had perfect 20/20 vision. About 80-85% of the patients that have severe vision loss are from diabetic retinopathy  or advanced stage glaucoma.

There are two doctors that work at the clinic: one optometrist and one ophthalmologist. Once every week, the ophthalmologist performs eye surgeries, including cataract, pterygium removal, and iridectomy for advanced stage glaucoma. Even though I speak Armenian fluently, I was having a hard time communicating with the doctors when I started my internship since I was not familiar with Armenian medical terms. It was a challenge for me because I wanted to learn more about the patients’ conditions and to be able to explain what I learned during my first year of optometry school. However, since then, I have improved my communication with the patients and doctors.

During our coffee breaks, we have had many great conversations about the differences in eye care between Armenia and the United States. One time, the ophthalmologist asked me if I had learned to perform surgeries yet. I had to explain to him that in the United States, ophthalmologists are responsible for performing eye surgeries and that optometrists are the primary eye care providers who refer patients to the ophthalmologist. Similar to America, the optometrist here does the refraction and prescribes medication to the patients. However, optometrists in Armenia inject steroids and other drugs underneath the eye to protect the retina. In America, ophthalmologists tend to work with injections more, especially before a surgery. In addition, there is no medical insurance here in Gyumri and in most of Armenia. Every six months, patients of the clinic need to pay 8000 dram, which is about twenty dollars. This may count as a type of insurance unique to this area.

Overall, my experience here has been great. The patients are generally thankful. When I brought sunglasses as well as prescription glasses to donate to each patient after their check up, they were very grateful. Some of them did not even want to take the donation because they felt bad not paying for it, but I explained to them that my school back in Boston donated them to the clinic. They thank NECO with the bottom of their hearts for all the help.

I will share more of my experiences with the patients in my next blog. So stay tuned. :)

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

Real Job ™

My job description includes fulfilling administrative tasks, uploading content to Moodle, and assisting other admins. I didn’t realize that means standing behind a video camera and yelling at President Scott to “Keep dancing!”

I joined the NECO community as an administrative assistant in the last week of August, and it was a completely new role for me. Last year, I served in a service-based inter-generational literacy program that paired K-3 students with retired adult reading mentors from their communities. For between nine and ten hours each day, I was at a local elementary school and at a local Boys & Girls Club. My job was to make sure the students were skipping fun activities with their friends to meet, as planned, with their older adult coaches. (Spoiler alert: it’s impossible.) It was also one of the most rewarding years of my life. Some of the mostly black volunteer mentors had marched with MLK or participated as Freedom Riders. One was thrown bodily out of a Black Panther conference because he had straight hair. One eighty-eight year-old woman’s grandfather had served in the Civil War. The AMERICAN Civil War.

I spent my days scheduling, chasing after, disciplining, comforting, re-scheduling, making faces at, and calling the parents of the 70+ student participants and their friends. And I experienced the best feeling there is to feel: building a relationship with a struggling child and harnessing that connection to help them learn.

But the year came to an end, and I wasn’t sorry. I learned more than I could have possibly expected, but I was ready to put on my big girl pants and make a sustainable, living wage. I bade the hard-core non-profit sector good-bye and gritted my teeth. It was time to find a Real Job ™.

Unfortunately, some young idealists think that a Real Job is synonymous with selling out. That people who work in the Real World are pasty automatons with an existentially unsatisfying existence. After an exhausting year of unsustainable service, I had a left-over version of that feeling. I was also completely broke.

Then a friend from Brandeis told me about the job opening at NECO. I knew nothing about optometry, and, full disclosure, hated eyeballs. (Seven months on the job, and I still think they are gross.) Still, I was intrigued by the samaritan nature of the profession and the kinds of students that would pursue it. Not to mention the regular salary.

During the interview, I was drawn further by the fact that I would be working alongside creative people. People that not only seemed happy to be alive but interesting, funny, and imaginative. My supervisor, Catherine, is a writer and avid reader. Steven is an artist. Me and my bachelor’s degree in music would fit right in.

I quickly learned that NECO is a warm place. Not only am I able to recognize most students; they are always a pleasure to interact with. The tight-knit nature of working at a small college makes it easy to communicate with other departments. This college has given me many opportunities that I did not expect to have, like taking an active role in the developing NECO social media platform and organizing a staff video for skit night. (That’s where the yelling at President Scott comes in.)

The people themselves are phenomenal. I love walking on the fourth floor to dueling blasts of bluegrass and intense electronic music, emitted from the offices of Dr. Mertz and Dr. Gutner, respectively. Catherine always lets me know when she bakes cookies because she knows how excited I get. My fellow admins give me all the validation I need and plenty of great book recommendations. And I always enjoy commiserating with my largely politically like-minded co-workers whenever the occasion presents itself.

But mostly, I am floored by this staff and faculty that are willing to put themselves out there and participate. Who know my name and interests and are always willing to help. And are so close to the student body and clearly devoted to helping them succeed. It makes me proud to work here.

Sometimes I miss the underfunded, highly idealistic non-profit sector. There is no bonding experience like sharing one big office with fifteen like-minded people. But then I look at my gorgeous view of the Charles in an office of my very own. I can use all the paperclips I want and not get into trouble. That’s another huge perk.

Nicaragua Travel Journal, January 2013

Nica Day 1

Buenos noche,

I arrived safely in Managua yesterday afternoon and as usual was met with some delay by customs allowing me to enter the country with my equipment. While I was waiting for them to approve our passage, a group of US southerners were passing smoothly through inspections with their 10 rifles!!! Only in Nicaragua.

Today was a packed day of touring. We showed the students the Masaya Volcano, which had a mini eruption in April, so we all had to wear hardhats. We also saw the crater lake and town of Catarina, the public market at Masaya, and old downtown Managua. Pics of the day below.

Tomorrow we leave early am to start the drive across the country and begin clinics! Off to drink some flor de cana with the crew.

Nica Day 2
Today we travelled by road across the country to El Rama to start our clinics. The road had several traffic jams (see pic of the day). We started our first clinic and saw 500 people in about 4 hours. The students did an awesome job on their first clinic day. Moreover, I am now a star as I was interviewed for the radio station. In the end, we worked in the pitch dark with flashlights. Tomorrow we are off to several communities around the area.

Nica Day 3

Hola-

I am sitting in my hotel despite the power being out in my town (thank god for generators). Although I did just take a cold shower in the dark. I should have known today would be an adventure. …

This morning I took a small group of students to a small hillside plush community named Kissilala (true story). It was deluging rain this morning and the road is horrible. Needless to say we needed to travel in an appropriate vehicle. That vehicle was the back of a pick up with a leaky tarp (see pic of the day). We arrived at our clinic (porch of a family’s home) completely drenched. Don’t let that fool you, the day was great. The community was gorgeous as were its people. The woman of the house made us a great lunch, which included homemade arepas and cheese. I believe throughout the several communities we serviced we saw approximately another 500 people.

Nica Day 4

After spending the night without power, we awoke to a full day of clinic (see pic of the day). We had no time to breathe, pee, or sit down! We saw approximately 800 people today and practically ran out of our supply. People were so appreciative, giving kisses and wanting to take pictures. I am now sitting on the porch of our hotel listening to the crazy birds here and watching the sunset. Tomorrow we leave at 5am for the bumpiest ride ever- 3 hours worth!!! I am expecting a few pullovers for vomit breaks. Couldn’t get better.

Nica day 5,6 and 7

Sorry I have been incommunicado for the last three days, no internet. Let’s see..,, where did I leave off.

Day 5 – went on the 4 hour road trip on the best road ever ( see pic of the day). No vomit breaks thank god! Saw patients…

Day 6- arrived in Pearl Lagoon, one of my most favorite places (see next pic of the day). Saw patients….


Day 7-took a great panga ride (see next pic) and arrived in Bluefields today and saw a record 850 patients in one day!

It’s been raining tons here and I feel like my feet are always wet, only to be relieved by a cold shower. Power is out now, water was out yesterday. Sounds like a bad trip but I am enjoying the people I am with and having a good time.

See you tomorrow- off to eat some pescado d’entero- if the restaurant has power ;). Just saw myself on the news getting interviewed.

Nica Day Final

My final day was a gem. Started with an early morning swim in the sea. We had a short clinic session and ran out of everything. We saw a record total of 5000 patients!!! Unbelievable. I spent the afternoon on the beach (see pic of the day) and arranged a beautiful lunch with a great view. Finished with a show of the sunset. Corn Island is a majestic island….. and has the best ceviche!

Tomorrow morning I start on a full day of travel to frigid Boston….. can’t wait. All in all it was a fantastic and fulfilling trip and a great way to start the year.

For more information about my trips to Nicaragua, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life on the Wire

Living on the wire is an IT state of being. Connectivity, being connected and making sure packets are flowing is our way of life. These are the best of times for technology. It does not matter if you are going to school, going to work or going to play, communication and staying in touch with your favorite content has never been so attainable. In my last five years at NECO, I see that not only is the technology changing, but that technology is changing students, faculty and staff. This is a great time to be in my field because everyone is using it and it is has become a major part of everyone’s life.

Alright, I will admit it is kind of a drag at social events, having to always answer a lot of tech questions. Comes with the job, they say. When I first started at NECO, I was amazed at how little technology was being used. Flash forward five years and it is everywhere. This must be a great time to be a student, as you have all this information at your fingertips, which you can access from multiple devices, from anywhere and at any time.

One my proudest achievements during my time as director is being able to give students true email and collaboration tools though Google Apps for Education. Before Google mail, students had small, unusable mail accounts with a clunky interface. We have flipped that on its head by offering the power of Google to all NECO staff and faculty, but most importantly, the student body. It is these kinds of modifications that are for the greater good, making real change, and why this job is the best one I have ever had.

I was being interviewed during an audit once and was asked, “What is the best part of working at NECO?” I had always worked in a corporate environment and this was my first job in the education sector, so my answer was pretty easy. I had always worked at companies that either made some kind of widget or even just moved invoices around, buying from one vendor and selling it to someone else at a markup. I told the auditor, “We make doctors and doctors help people. What IT job can be better than that?” I still love September when the rotunda fills again with the doctors of tomorrow and I know that in our small way as a department, we are making the world a better place, one OD at a time.

As long as I am here, we are going to push the envelope. We never want to rest on our laurels or think we have everything covered. The new normal in IT is to be in a constant state of change, as the IT Department has turned a corner at NECO. Rather than having a “can’t or won’t do it” attitude, we ask how we can make it better for the students, faculty and staff. The challenges still remain, but each success builds on another. We are always ready to try the newest things, push the limit of our capabilities and stay unafraid of change as long as the goal is the greater good. As long as there is a wire, we are going to ride it and hope to pull you along.

Welcome!

During Labor Day weekend, all of Boston is charged with excitement as students arrive, unpack and begin nesting for the upcoming academic year. For many in our incoming first-year OD class, it’s their first opportunity to fend for themselves, having to shop, cook and adjust to all the other activities required for independent living. In addition, they are often in awe of the overwhelming number of activities and the vibrant student life that the city offers.

Our returning students have already arrived, settled in, and have started renewing relationships and swapping stories about their summer adventures. Although the College slows down somewhat during July and August to accommodate faculty and staff vacations, there has been constant activity in the classrooms and the pre-clinic generated by the third-year OD, ASIP and AODP programs. And of course, our final-year clinics continue at full throttle all year long.

You’ll notice that the Beacon Street building is in pristine shape with new rugs, fresh paint and a number of less visible upgrades that are easier to perform when there are fewer occupants to disrupt. The ID system has been simplified and provides us all with more secure access to the building. Everything is in place for the academic year.

We all want you to be successful. You will be expected to work hard and, sometimes, very hard. So please take advantage of the support, both formal and informal, that exists at the College. The Student Affairs Office is highly attuned to the daily activities of each class and attempts to anticipate and solve potential problems. Dr. Fisch and I meet with student leaders on a regular basis to discuss ways to improve the quality of your education and experience here. Your classmates and those students who have preceded you are an invaluable resource in helping you with technical and clinical issues.

So, enjoy the transition to the crisp fall weather, take advantage of being in Boston and New England, and prepare for a year of personal/professional growth and accomplishments.

What Are You Doing This Summer?

Thinking about summer conjures up thoughts of sunning, swimming, tanning, surfing.  Or perhaps you think of hiking, camping, trekking.  Maybe you will journey to distant lands and soak up new cultures and learn a new language.

Your summer plans as a prospective optometry student differ from those of an incoming student of the Class of 2016.

As a prospective optometry student, summer vacation provides a great opportunity to really investigate the field.  What is a day like for an optometrist in private practice?  How does it differ for an optometrist practicing in a community health center or in a hospital?  What is a day like for a doctor specializing in low vision?  How about a Veterans Administration setting, vision therapy practice, contact lens specialty, or MD/OD practice?

Spending one day per week of summer vacation shadowing optometrists in each of these specialties also gives you opportunities to pursue other summer activities.  Best of all, you would begin to get a brief but true-life exposure to the realities of different modes of practice.  You would begin the start of your own network of potential employers.

How would you find optometrists willing to welcome you into their practices for the day?  Your state optometric association can be one avenue to explore.  Your own OD or MD may be another.  You will also find that many ODs have a referral network of specialists for their own patients, and this list may suggest other ODs for you to contact.

If, in the process of exploration, you decide you would like to pursue optometry as your career and are not yet ready to begin the admissions process, think about applying for a full-time job in an optometrist’s office.  Whether technician, front desk or other position, once again you strengthen your commitment to the profession and increase your knowledge base.

As an incoming student, hopefully you have a full-time summer job with an OD who you may have met during your prospective optometry days.  Now you are looking at your summer job as a prelude to your first year of optometry school.  You observe how patients are greeted.  You see how many appointments per day are booked.  When invited, you observe the doctor during the patient exam.  You wonder why each test is done, why each patient may have different tests, what the results actually mean.  You may be given the chance to actually do some tests under the doctor’s supervision.  It seems to be so easy for the doctor to decide what is to be done; it seems each test is done so gracefully and it seems so easy for the doctor to educate the patient.  It begins to sink in:  in 4 years, this will be ME.  How will I transform into this knowing, experienced, compassionate OD?

Summer vacations provide opportunities for quiet reflection on who you are now and who you will become.  The value of this is impossible to assess: learning more about your career cannot be measured in salary.  Take the opportunity to turn your summer into a priceless experience of career exploration.