A constant presence in my education at NECO has been the need to constantly expand my knowledge to accommodate new aspects of the field of optometry. After foundation courses come those that are more detailed and specific; after we learned basic entrance testing we began to try to master more complex procedures. And now, almost halfway through my second year at NECO, we have begun to discuss what will happen after we graduate from school and begin to practice optometry ourselves.
Last Saturday, the second years attended a seminar and introduction to the Ophthalmic Business Management course we will be taking next semester given by two guest lecturers who have attained a high degree of success in the optometric business world. Our optometric education is well underway, but prior to this we hadn’t had any discussion about the business aspect of our future careers, or the different aspects of choosing a career path and searching for a job. As optometry students, we had assumed previously that a large portion of our future careers was already mapped out for us: we would simply find a job and work there as optometrists. At the seminar, however, we learned that the actual process is a great deal more complex than that. Starting now and continuing into our second and third years, we will be facing more and more decisions about what direction our careers will take once we leave school: whether or not we will complete a residency; which field a residency would be the most valuable in; where we want to practice optometry or might consider practicing optometry in the future; whether we want to specialize in a certain field; whether we want to work in a commercial or private setting; and if we would want to consider opening our own practices. We learned from the seminar that these are all decisions we need to start considering now, even though we still have so much to learn about treating our patients.
With so many different career paths to consider, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. I find myself interested in pediatric optometry, vision therapy, and low vision, but I would like to learn more about all of these fields before I would consider pursuing a residency or position specific to any of them. We were advised at the seminar to begin shadowing optometrists in our hometowns during vacation time, and to attend optometric meetings and seminars in order to network more with optometrists in the cities and states where we are interested in practicing. I have always been interested in working in a private practice setting and potentially starting my own practice one day, and I am realizing how much research I will need to do into both of these areas before I graduate so that I can be better prepared for the challenges I will face later. I’m glad that next semester we will start preparing to enter the business world by taking the Ophthalmic Business Management course, and I hope that what we learn in the course can help me determine the optometric career path that is right for me.
As second years, it is crucial that we begin looking to the future, but it is also important to enjoy the time we spend here at NECO. It’s difficult to strike a balance between studying extremely hard and taking advantage of all of the amazing things that NECO and Boston have to offer, but this is what my semester has been full of. In addition to studying and classes, a few weeks ago I went to a launch party for this year’s Eye Ball, the formal party that is held for NECO students every spring. The party was Great Gatsby-themed, and it was great to see all of my classmates dressed up in 1920’s style to take a well-earned study break. Even during Thanksgiving break, I was able to integrate studying with spending time with my family time by practicing studying my family’s optic nerves with my ophthalmoscope. By working hard and taking advantage of everything my school has to offer, I hope that I can leave NECO prepared for the new challenges I will face as a practicing optometrist.
Thanks to Edna Chiu for the photo!