Taking a Step Forward in My Optometric Education

It’s been over a month since my last blog post, during which I studied for and took my final exams, experienced the gorgeous decorations and festive atmosphere of the holidays at NECO, travelled home to Buffalo, New York, for winter vacation, and resumed classes for the spring semester. This semester feels markedly different from my others at NECO for two reasons: second year by reputation is the most difficult of optometry school, but the second semester is comparatively much more challenging than the first; and in addition to the added challenges in the classroom, my classmates and I are being introduced more and more to the different dimensions of optometry we will face as clinicians.

This semester’s challenging nature is due to the fact that we are taking seven classes instead of our usual five, and that many of them have complex laboratory components. In addition to continuing our education about different optometric procedures and conditions in Principles and Practices of Optometry (PPO), we are continuing and applying our previous study of neuroanatomy in Neural Basis of Vision and extending our knowledge of binocular vision by learning about various disorders in Binocular and Accommodative Anomalies. We are also learning about different applications of optometric knowledge in the workplace and outside of the clinic in Environmental Optometry and Visual Assessment, and taking a step outside of the eye to learn about systemic disorders and treatment in Clinical Medicine.

Our coursework in general tends to build on previous courses so that we can reinforce our knowledge and expand upon it, but this semester we are learning about two areas of optometry that we haven’t had much experience with yet in our Contact Lens and Ophthalmic Business Management classes. Although we briefly learned about different types of contact lenses and solutions in our first year, as well as how to insert and remove both hard and soft lenses in patients, this is our first opportunity to focus on the topic and learn about the different types of lenses, when to prescribe them, how to fit them, and the various difficulties encountered in doing so. In lab, we will be fitting hard and soft lenses on each other for direct experience working with the different types of lenses. Since fitting and prescribing contact lenses is a large component of practicing optometry, I’m very glad that we’re getting the chance to learn about them in a very thorough and hands-on way. It’s also helpful as an introduction to contact lenses as a potential specialty or residency option.

Beyond the classroom, my classmates and I, like last semester, have clerkship assignments that take place once a week at various optometric practices around Boston. We received different assignments for the spring semester, and although I learned a great deal from my clerkship assignment last semester, I am excited about the challenges of my new clerkship assignment, which focuses on contact lenses. Having the opportunity to observe contact lens fitting and specific issues in clinic will help to reinforce the concepts I learn about in class and contact lens lab. Since I’m entering the second semester of my clerkship experience, I will be able to perform more procedures on patients and learn to hone my techniques and clinical skills. Although balancing seven classes and my clerkship assignment will be challenging, by the end of the semester I feel like I will have increased my knowledge about different aspects of optometry exponentially. I’m looking forward to learning and experiencing more as the semester progresses!