Thoughts on How to Survive Midterms at NECO

Midterm week at NECO is always a challenge. In college, my professors gave several exams throughout the semester with each course culminating in a final exam taken in one difficult week. At NECO, because our coursework is so intensive, we have structured exam weeks for both midterms and finals that are alike in difficulty, although in a few courses the final exams are cumulative for the midterm material as well. I took my midterm for Neural Basis of Vision this morning, a week ahead of time, so during midterm week we will have five exams instead of six.

In my first year, I found it challenging to adjust to the structure of the courses at NECO until I discovered that the key to handling exam weeks here is to develop your own strategy and stick to it consistently. Find a place where you study most effectively; determine whether you like to study alone, with classmates, or a combination of the two; figure out whether you concentrate best in absolute silence or with mellow background noise. Make a to-do list or a studying calendar to remind yourself not to spend all your time on one subject. Set goals and make sure that you accomplish them, because your study time can be limited by classes, labs, and other obligations like practicing techniques in clinic. Reward yourself when you accomplish your study goals, and make sure you take breaks to rest both your brain and your eyes.

I developed study strategies for myself previously in high school and modified them for studying in college, but I found that I needed to rework my tactics yet again when I started at NECO. I learned that despite being an honor student throughout my academic career, unfamiliar and difficult coursework can still pose a challenge, and it’s important not to underestimate how much you need to study for each class. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that it is impossible to leave all of your studying to the weeks leading up to exams. It is important when you are learning such challenging material that you will need to be able to retain for the rest of your career that you study consistently and reinforce what you learn in lecture with time studying on your own.

I think it’s also crucial to take advantage of the different resources NECO has to offer when it comes time to prepare for exams. There are a variety of different study spaces in NECO’s gorgeous Beacon Street building, and our NECO ID cards also give us access to different campus libraries around Boston if we need a change of scenery. Professors are always willing to answer questions about course material, and between recordings of lectures, PowerPoint notes, and notes from the school notetakers, course material is presented in a variety of different formats so that you can study for one subject in several different ways. The most important resource, I’ve found, is your classmates—not only to study with, but as a support system. Since NECO is a small school, there is a sense of community that follows you from your first day as a first year student throughout your time here. Although exam weeks are when I am the most stressed, they are also when I have been able to really get to know my classmates by studying together, encouraging each other and supporting each other. It’s important to remind each other that all of your hard work studying for exams is an investment in your future, and that your motivation stems from a passion for becoming an optometrist.

Good luck to everyone on midterms and have a wonderful spring break!

Reflections on a Snow Day

IMG_0192This week NECO had its first snow day of the year due to the arrival of winter storm Nemo in Boston. This was the first time I’ve been able to see the city completely covered in snow since I moved here, due to our mild winter last year and the small amount of snowfall we’ve received prior to Nemo. Since I am originally from Buffalo and spent my undergraduate winters in Ithaca, New York, I’m used to several feet of snow being present for most of the winter. This snowstorm reminded me of the snow days I used to experience as a child, although to a lesser extent; once in Buffalo we lost power for ten days due to an October snowstorm, and in high school we had school cancelled for a week when we had seven feet of snowfall. I was glad for the chance today to take a study break and explore the snow-covered streets of Boston in my snow boots. I wasn’t the only one; I was reminded of Boston’s immense student population as I saw gaggles of students like myself walking the snowy streets this morning to throw snowballs at each other and admire how gorgeous the brownstones look covered in snow.

Because we work so hard at NECO, a snow day was extremely welcome; for the entire weekend, the school is closed, and we are unable to practice procedures in the labs or work on our biweekly homework assignments for PPO lab. A weekend away from NECO gave me the opportunity to not only catch up on my studying, but reflect on my progress from a clinical standpoint. This semester is proving to be a challenge in more ways than one. In addition to a larger amount of coursework, we have also been learning more complex procedures in PPO lab that we are starting to integrate into our clerkship experiences as we become more adept at practicing on each other. In particular, this semester, we are focusing on four different procedures, each requiring a great deal of practice: tonometry, gonioscopy, and the examination of the posterior segment of the eye using 90D/78D lenses and binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy, or BIO. These techniques can be difficult for beginners, and as I am practicing them I have also been learning about how to communicate reassurance to patients who may be more nervous about procedures that require contact with their eyes or bright lights.

Tonometry, a method of measuring intraocular pressure, is a crucial aspect of evaluating a patient’s risk for glaucoma and ocular hypertension. It can be challenging because it requires a very light touch and a great deal of patient reassurance, since many patients tend to flinch or blink frequently when the tonometer tip approaches their eye. We learned last semester that gonioscopy allows us to evaluate the structures of the anterior chamber angle of the eye and determine whether it is open or potentially occludable, and this semester we are learning to use our gonioscopy lenses to examine the eye’s posterior pole, equatorial region, and peripheral retina as well. Gonioscopy is used more rarely in clinic, but allows us to evaluate a patient’s risk of angle closure without dilation. It comes with its own set of patient challenges; despite being completely painless, gonioscopy can make patients nervous due to the fact that a large lens is being applied directly to their eye. Many of my classmates were apprehensive about having the procedure performed on them during lab. We soon discovered that since our eyes are numb during the procedure and the lens cushioned with solution, the only real associated discomfort is a feeling of dryness in the eye not being examined. In addition to being good practice, learning by performing procedures on each other allows us to understand the procedures from a patient’s perspective so that we are better able to empathize with them in clinic.

More recently, we have learned how to use our 90D/78D lenses with the slit lamp to examine the optic nerve and macular region; I was able to perform the procedure in clinic on a patient for the first time this week. Previously,
IMG_0194we had been using our direct ophthalmoscopes to examine the optic nerve, but the 90/78D lenses give a more detailed and stereoscopic view that aids in diagnosis of macular and optic nerve head abnormalities. We are also beginning to practice with the BIO, which is challenging to use at first due to the necessity of very specific positioning of both the patient and lens in order to obtain a clear view of the retina. As opposed to the other procedures we have learned, which have patients in an upright and seated position, we are practicing BIO on patients who are lying down. We also need to learn to perform this quickly and efficiently, because the light from the BIO lamp can be very bright and irritating for patients.

As I practice more advanced procedures, I try to remind myself to think about them not only from an optometrist’s perspective but also from a patient’s. It is important to remember that we as students need to develop our communication skills alongside our technical skills, and to integrate both of these when working with patients in clinic.


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!

Taking Advantage of the Present While Looking to the Future


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!

A Sense of Community at NECO

Midterms ended a week ago, and proficiency exams start tomorrow for second years. Reflecting on how my class has studied for midterms as well as proficiencies, I realized that I’ve really been inspired by the close-knit nature of the NECO community, and extremely impressed with how the college comes together in a network of support.

In high school and even college, there was a constant undercurrent of competition that soured preparing for a test or receiving a grade; you were pushed not only to do well, but to do better than everyone else in order to get into a more competitive college or graduate school. Here, rather than unearthing a sense of competitiveness, the threat of midterm week instead evokes an even tighter feel of community at NECO. As exams approach, instead of sequestering ourselves and surrounding ourselves with nothing but our own notes, we study together, asking each other questions about the material and exposing areas where we are weakest. Exams can be stressful, but instead of bringing out the worst in people, they tend to bring out our willingness to learn with our fellow future optometrists instead of by ourselves.

By quizzing each other and studying in groups, we are able to share different study techniques and better understand the material by analyzing it from several different perspectives. We are also able to encourage and motivate each other when the material we need to learn seems daunting. One of my favorite memories from midterms this year was when my study group took a yoga break to refresh ourselves, and when we learned the “Gangnam Style” dance to help us stay awake. Being an optometry student is about more than learning the material in our classes; it involves learning how we learn best and how we can retain what we learn in class for the long term.

This week is also the beginning of our first round of second year proficiencies. In our first year at NECO, we had two proficiency exams. The first dealt only with entrance tests, or simple optometric tests done at the beginning of routine comprehensive examinations. The second included entrance testing in addition to contact lens insertion and removal, as well as retinoscopy and refraction, or determining a prescription for the patient. This semester, we will be responsible again for entrance tests, but in significantly less time than we have had previously; direct ophthalmoscopy, which involves examining the optic nerve and back of the eye; and a full refraction, including add determination, on an adult patient. Similar to exams, preparing for proficiencies brings out the camaraderie among NECO students–we practice together, pass along tips on different techniques, and learn from each other how to improve our clinical skills.

One of the most amazing things about studying at NECO is how much I am able to learn here, using different strategies than I used in college or high school. When I study with my classmates, it feels like we are future colleagues rather than students, and that we can share any knowledge we have gained from studying or from our clinical experiences without having competitive attitudes toward one another. We all want to become successful optometrists, but we want to do that together as a class rather than merely as individuals.

Second Year Classes and Clinic

It’s fall in Boston, and with fall comes gorgeous changing leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween…and midterms. Although it feels as though second year has barely started, we are only two weeks away from midterms and four from our second year proficiency exams. The year so far has been filled with classes and clinic, both of which demand a great deal from us as students and clinicians because of the direct impact they will have on our future careers.

This semester, we are taking a third semester of Optics and Principles and Practices of Optometry, or PPO, and three new classes: Immunology, General Pharmacology, and Binocular Vision and Ocular Motility, or BVOM, as we call it. Our coursework this year has a great deal of direct application to our future as optometrists; by expanding on what we learned last year, we are able to cover more complex aspects of optometry that even a year ago we would not have been able to understand. In PPO, we have moved on from learning about basic optometric testing to learning about different procedures with the slit lamp, and from learning about eye disorders based more on visual acuity, the pupils, and strabismus to abnormalities and disorders that have to do with ocular health, such as dry eye, eyelid abnormalities, and disorders of the cornea. We have moved on from studying retinoscopy and refraction to being proficient with both, and are becoming more apt at testing with a near add or for binocular vision disorders. In BVOM, we’re expanding on concepts we discussed in our first year class Theories and Methods of Vision Training and learning a lot of more in-depth information about how and why we are able to see binocularly, and what abnormalities can result from the way our visual system works. In Pharmacology, we are learning about different types and mechanisms of action of various systemic medications that our future patients will be taking so that we can better understand their medical history as an entire person, not simply a pair of eyes. Overall, our classes this year have increased in terms of complexity, and it is inspirational to think about the fact that what we learn in class will have a direct impact on the way we treat our patients.

As a second year, I have also started a clinical rotation. One afternoon a week, I am able to go to an optometry practice and work with other NECO students and an optometrist to treat patients. The type of learning I am able to do in clinic is very different from how I learn in class; in clinic, we learn direct applications of optometric principles, as well as different ways to interact with patients. At my clinic site, I am able to perform tests that I learned last year on actual patients and collaborate with third year students and my preceptor to understand  patients’ individual situations and how they will be treated based on their unique set of circumstances. Not only am I learning more about procedures by performing and observing them in clinic, I am learning how to perform tests like retinal imaging and what to do if my patient speaks a language other than English. I am also able to see a much greater variety of eye disorders than I do when going on screenings or practicing procedures on my classmates, like different types of cataracts, dry eye, and presbyopia.

It’s very interesting to be learning both as a student and a clinician in my second year of optometry school, and I anticipate being able to learn more information more effectively because of it. One of the main reasons I chose to attend NECO was its clinical education program’s stellar reputation, and I am glad to be benefiting from it so early on in my education.

On Starting My Second Year and Receiving My White Coat


I’ve had three weeks of classes so far in my second year at NECO, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I began to fully comprehend the scope of how far my class has come, and how far we still have to go in our education here.

Yesterday was my class’s white coat ceremony, which we’ve been hearing about since we first started at NECO. Although we participated in vision screenings and observed optometrists last year, this year is when we truly begin our clinical education in Boston. In addition to taking classes in Immunology, General Pharmacology, Optics, PPO, and Binocular Vision and Ocular Motility this semester, we’ve started participating in clerkships at optometry practices around the city. After three weeks of classes and clinic, I’ve started to realize that what I’ve heard about second year being the most difficult is true. The increased level of difficulty in our classes is apparent, as are the more complex procedures, like slit lamp examinations, that we’ve started to learn in PPO lab. This year, we are taking on more responsibility not only as students, but as clinicians; at the beginning of the year, both of these challenges seemed not only exciting, but also intimidating.

For a NECO student, receiving a white coat is symbolic and resonates in several ways. It is a testament to surviving our first year of school, of being able to accommodate the increased workload of graduate school and shoulder the responsibility of becoming a future clinician. It also denotes our transition from students to clinicians who are able to perform procedures with greater independence and confidence. It is a sign that we are closer to becoming optometrists, and that although it sometimes feels as though our optometric education is still beginning, we have learned more in our time at NECO than we initially thought possible.

At the white coat ceremony, thinking about everything I learned last year and how much I still have to learn about optometry, I felt extremely proud of myself and my classmates for working so hard and pushing ourselves to keep learning and expanding our skills as future optometrists. Beyond that, however, I felt inspired. With my white coat came the comprehension that I am on a path toward something I have dreamed about accomplishing for years, that I am going to be faced with new concepts and procedures that may intimidate me at first, but that my classmates and I are ready and capable to face the challenges that come our way. Becoming an optometrist was never supposed to be easy, but receiving my white coat reminded me that it is difficult for a reason–because at NECO, we learn to be the best optometrist that we can possibly become. We push ourselves to constantly learn more, study more, and practice more, and it can be easy to lose sight of our motivations, thinking about short-term goals like exams and proficiencies. Because what we should be concerned with above all else, what I remind myself about every day, is why we made the decision to pursue this career in the first place. For me, it was the desire to make a direct positive impact on the lives of others as a health care provider, to change someone’s life by improving their vision and eye health. When my class is faced with challenges this year and beyond in our continuing education at NECO and in clinics, I hope that we will be able to look at our white coats and remember the feeling of inspiration that they bring, and be reminded of our passion for helping others that brought us to the field in the first place.

At the ceremony, Dr. Scott, the president of the college, spoke about the significance of receiving our white coats and the sense of pride and excitement we should feel at our transition into clinicians. He told us that later that night, we might want to get out of bed and try our white coat on in front of the mirror to recapture the inspiration we felt at the ceremony. I hope that even years from now, I can look at my white coat and remember what it was like to be a student here, what it felt like to be consumed with excitement and be able to recapture that feeling, that inspiration, that first made me want to become an optometrist.

Thank you to Anna Lam for the photos!


Reflections on Working at NEE and Starting My Second Year

I’ve had a really amazing first summer in Boston; I’ve been able to relax, see the city, and visit my hometown, while still gaining some valuable work experience. As I mentioned in my previous posts, I’ve been working at New England Eye over the summer, specifically for the On-Sight Mobile Clinic. Mainly, I’ve been working in the office, performing tasks such as recording the results of eye exams, sending the results of children’s eye exams to their parents, analyzing data from hundreds of eye exams the van has performed, and calling patients to ask them about their eye health. But in the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to go on the On-Sight van to both pediatric and adult sites.

During the year, the van mainly travels to schools and Head Start programs on pediatric days, but during the summer it stops at daycare centers and day camps as well. I was able to perform vision testing on four- and five-year-olds at a day camp when I went on the pediatric van, and was introduced to some of the challenges inherent in performing eye exams on younger children. My previous clinical experiences through NECO have all been vision screenings at schools, which enabled me to work with children from ages three to thirteen, but usually the children are older and interested enough in what we are doing to cooperate well with the procedures. I learned that this can be very different with children that are not only younger, but are not as receptive to having their eyes checked once they realize that someone is going to put drops into their eyes.

I was able to check the children’s visual acuity, stereopsis, eye movements, and pupils, and perform cover tests, realizing that it is much easier to do so when you can keep the child entertained. One of the nice things about working on the On-Sight van was that they have a program that projects a VA chart onto a screen, with letter size decreasing as you control it with a remote, and when you aren’t checking VA you can play short movies for the children to focus on when you need them to look at a distance target. However, the difficulty starts when you try to bring eye drops into the equation. I learned from my preceptor that it’s much easier to get drops into a child’s eyes if they don’t know they’re coming; it’s important to be quick and decisive, before the child has time to get apprehensive or feel a slight sting from the first drop. If a child is smart and sees you with the eyedropper, or has heard about getting eye drops from his or her friends, then he or she is extremely resistant to the idea. I also learned that children tend to have very short memories when it comes to eye exams; a minute or so after getting the eye drops and being assured that they did a very good job, the children are perfectly happy to go watch Rio in the waiting area of the van. In addition to several children who tested normally, I was able to see one patient who had a large alternating tropia and appeared to also have divergence excess, since the tropia was larger at distance than near. It was really great getting more experience working with children; I hope that in clinic this year I’ll be able to work more with kids as well.

When I went on the adult van, we travelled to a facility for adults with neurodegenerative disorders like MS and ALS. I was able to observe fourth-year NECO students performing eye exams on the patients there, and also observe patients receiving OCT scans. I learned that optic disc atrophy is common in these patients, and in addition to seeing this on the OCT scans, I examined a few of the patients with an ophthalmoscope to see this for myself. My experience on the adult van showed me that although there are challenges to working with patients who aren’t as mobile, it is still extremely possible and rewarding.

Working at New England Eye this summer enabled me to get experience working with many different aspects of the vision care process: seeing patients, following up with patients and their parents, ordering glasses and mailing them out to patients, and analyzing data from the hundreds of eye exams that the van has performed. It gave me a deeper understanding of how an eye clinic is structured and is able to function, and I will be able to apply that information to my clinical work this year and later in my career.

Looking ahead, I’m excited about starting my second year at NECO, but also apprehensive—I’ve been told by nearly every upperclassman that I’ve talked to that second year is the most difficult. Once you reach your third year, I’ve been told, it gets a bit easier because you have fewer classes and start devoting about half of your time to clinic. Despite the difficulty, I’m really looking forward to starting second year, for several reasons. Completing my first year means completing my foundational coursework for optometry, like anatomy, physiology, and cell biology, and also my beginning coursework in vision and optometric care. This year, I will be able to complete more specialized coursework in areas like binocular vision and ocular disease, and learn how to perform more complex procedures on patients, like slit lamp examinations and BIO, or binocular indirect ophthalmoscope examinations. I’m also really looking forward to starting clinic; we have our white coat ceremony in September, after which we begin working in clinic sites around Boston and practicing on patients other than each other and children at vision screenings. I’ll be writing more about second year in a few weeks; until then, I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer!

The Best of Summer in Boston

DSCF1466There are so many things I love about living in Boston. It’s a big city, but it really never feels like one–its small neighborhoods and walkability keeps it from feeling oppressively large like New York. It’s beautiful; buildings aren’t just thrown together haphazardly, but, especially in Back Bay, they retain a great deal of elegance. Depending on where you are, you can get a taste of brownstones, tall buildings, or green space, so that you feel like there are multiple cities within the city to explore. You don’t feel deprived of nature; a walk along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, through the Public Gardens, or along the Esplanade will satisfy any craving you might have for the outdoors. One of the best things about being at NECO is that we live in such an amazing city, but I’ve found in the past few months that some of the best parts of Boston are best experienced in the summer.

A few weeks ago, I was able to see my first Red Sox game at Fenway; actually, it was my first ever MLB game. I’m from Buffalo, and I never knew I could be so interested in watching a baseball game–compared to how fast-paced hockey is, it didn’t seem like watching a baseball game could be anywhere near as exciting. But I enjoyed watching baseball so much more when I was actually there, because I felt so close to the action. What I really enjoyed about the game, however, was the feeling of tradition that is inherent in Fenway–being able to sit in the famous Green Monster, singing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning, hearing the vendors call out what foods they were selling.

I’d also been looking forward to seeing fireworks for the Fourth of July from the Esplanade this year, but I almost wasn’t able to see them at all. After wandering the Esplanade prior to the start of the fireworks, I heard an announcement that people were urged to evacuate the Esplanade due to an incoming thunderstorm and that the fireworks would be delayed. We could see the lightning across the river, and it combined with faraway fireworks to create an incredibly beautiful display. After watching the lightning for awhile, however, my friends and I decided to take shelter somewhere while we waited to see how long the fireworks were delayed. Luckily, we started back toward the Esplanade early to try and find a good spot, and found the the fireworks were starting just as it started to pour. I ended up watching the fireworks on the Mass Ave bridge, getting completely soaked, but it was worth it–the fireworks were the best I’d ever seen.

I was also able to try something this summer that I’d been looking forward to for awhile–kayaking on the Charles River. I love kayaking, and the views of Boston and Cambridge that you get from the river are really spectacular. I love that in the summer, you can spend a day in Boston kayaking and walking the Esplanade, or walking from Back Bay to Faneuil Hall and the North End, and enjoy going somewhere just as much as actually being there. But what’s really special about Boston is that even after experiencing so much of what the city has to offer, you realize that there are so many things you still haven’t done. I still really want to find a nearby beach, and to see a Shakespeare play on the Boston Common.

Until next time, when I’ll talk about what I’ve been doing in my summer jobs!


Vision Screenings at the Special Olympics

During these past few weeks, I have mainly been working and attempting to coordinate and pack for my move into a new apartment. I’ve also had opportunities to explore more of Boston and experience a few crucial aspects of summer here. However, I’m going to wait to fill you in on all of these things until my next post.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the most powerful vision screening experience I have been involved in thus far. NECO students in Boston for the summer were given the opportunity to participate in vision screenings at the Massachusetts Special Olympics, held at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge. I’ve been trying to take advantage of any screening opportunities I hear about this summer, and I felt that the chance to volunteer at the Special Olympics was particularly important. I actually knew very little about the event prior to my participation; I hadn’t anticipated the Special Olympics to take place on such a large scale, or to have the concept of healthy living to be so integrated into the festivities.

When I arrived in Cambridge, I immediately recognized how intricately the events had been planned and how many different athletic activities were represented, from weightlifting to gymnastics to volleyball to track and field. In addition to the various sports that were represented, the Special Olympics also had been working on a “Healthy Athletes” initiative that we optometry students were able to be part of; dental students were present as well to perform dental screenings, and people were handing out salads and healthy crackers for athletes and volunteers.

Since I have only completed one year of optometry school so far, I haven’t yet learned about the different eye disorders associated with certain kinds of developmental disabilities; for example, that, as we discussed during the screenings, Down’s Syndrome can often be associated with ocular problems such as refractive error, astigmatism, weak accommodation, nystagmus, and eye infections. Participating in screenings at the Special Olympics gave me the chance to learn that there is a higher prevalence of eye disorders among the athletes of the Special Olympics in general and consequently a high demand for eye care.

After helping to organize our tent for the vision screenings, we divided into pairs to screen the athletes. We were able to see a wide variety of visual disorders, like nystagmus, strabismus, and high refractive error, but the most significant part of the screenings wasn’t the added clinical knowledge—it was getting the opportunity to speak with the athletes. The first athlete I screened was running in several track events later in the day, and when I asked if he thought he would win, he replied that since he had won all of his events last year, he absolutely expected to win them again today. I spoke to another athlete who had won a silver medal in swimming that morning and was anticipating another medal from his next race. I talked to a few more athletes who were also running track, another swimmer, and a few volleyball players, and I was extremely impressed with the positive outlook they all had on their participation in the Special Olympics. Many of them expected to win, or had already won medals earlier in the day, but even those who had suffered a loss were extremely proud of their accomplishments and glad to be a part of the event.

I found my screening experience at the Special Olympics to be not only a learning opportunity, but a source of inspiration. I am continually learning about different eye disorders and the needs of differing populations, but I am also learning more about how to interact with patients and how knowing more about their lives and interests can make me a better and more relatable clinician. I would highly recommend the screening experience to any NECO students who will be in Boston next summer or who have a Special Olympics that takes place in their hometown, and I am very grateful that I was able to be a part of such an inspirational event.