Chairs Missing by Joe, resident at the New England College of Optometry

1Jul/13Off

The Summer of Jorge

Well, that was pretty short.  I'm back from my two week vacation and now there is officially less than a week left of my abbreviated school vacation-like summer break.  My wife and I had a great time down in the Carolinas where we visited friends for a week in Wilmington, NC, and then made the drive down to Charleston, SC, for the second week. As a cheaper alternative to Florida (or somewhere else warm), I highly recommend it. Both cities have nice beaches, interesting building architecture, and cool nature reserves to hike. On top of that, everyone down there seems a bit friendlier than people in New England. It's almost unsettling having lived in Boston for four years to have strangers say hello as you walk down the street.

More importantly, both places have a whole lot of interesting places to visit if you are the type of person that likes to do nerdy things while on vacation. While not really a relaxing vacation for us, we spent a good two weeks visiting historical sites and museums learning more about the history of places associated with plantation slavery, the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. It was interesting to see these places through the eyes of a northerner (never having traveled much in the South), and it was also interesting to see the differing takes on the history, depending on the museum or site. The stories definitely varied based on whose ancestors were in charge of telling it. Overall, the trip rekindled an interest in history and politics that I haven't felt in very long time, which is a strange thing to get out of a vacation.

Now that we're back in Boston, I have a little bit of time to catch up on some light reading; book 4 of the Game of Thrones novels so far is better than expected. I've also been able to watch some of the backlog of movies and television I missed out on before graduation. It turns out both the newer Dark Knight movie and the new Arrested Development episodes are legitimately terrible, which is depressing. Our trip made us realize that we haven't really explored the city beyond the usual touristy stuff like the Freedom Trail or the Common. We decided that with the remaining free time left before we move out, that we are going visit some lesser known historical sites and nature areas in and around Boston.

Yesterday we visited Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Watertown, which is the oldest "cemetery" in the US (versus all previous burial sites which were called "graveyards" or something else). It is thus both a historical site and an urban nature preserve, sort of like if you mixed the Arnold Arboretum in JP with the Copp's Hill Burying Ground in the North End. If I still gave tours at the school, I would give it my highest recommendation to visitors staying the weekend. Aside from the hundreds of noteworthy people buried there and the beautiful landscaping, there is an old stone tower near the center of its hilly terrain with panoramic views of the city that are unmatched to anything else I've experienced here. Above and below are a few pictures from our visit.

As we explore Boston one last time as residents, I'm also faced with having to scramble to finish all the various things that need to be done before I start residency. I've come to realize how little time six weeks actually is, especially when there is a ton of stressful loose ends to tie up. I've made good friends with the local notary public to be sure. So far, I've had to complete training, fingerprinting and filling out forms for the VA. Also, for any potential side job down the line, I have to go about obtaining my NPI and start the process of getting a Medicare number and then after that, apply to get malpractice insurance. Above all of this is the whole process of getting licensed, which is most complicated of all.

To become licensed in Massachusetts, one must navigate a Kafkaesque maze of forms to fill out from various websites, pictures to send, and letters and transcripts to have stamped and prepared, and that's all before having to take a twenty five question law exam which covers, in part, the very process I just described. And then, after that, you need to do an extra application to be able to actually write scripts for drops. Currently I await my test date, which is this coming Wednesday, so I am studying like a law student in between writing this post. I also have to be licensed in another state, so that I can have a license that actually allows for me to prescribe oral meds and glaucoma drops at the VA.  I chose Pennsylvania. It was about twenty times easier a process, and I actually already have my license in hand.

But wait. Why would I need this extra license you ask?  Well, the VA is federal property and therefore doctors can practice to the fullest extent of their licensure level, regardless of what state it is located in. Why not orals and eye pressure-lowering glaucoma drops in Massachusetts? It's a long story, which could be its own post really. Massachusetts has not yet been able to pass a bill updating our scope of practice to that of modern levels for optometrists everywhere else in the US and even in parts of Canada (and probably Mexico, too). Thus, we are the only state in the union that cannot treat glaucoma. I guess we had to be last in something. I love being from Massachusetts, and plan to practice here my whole career, but we are not beyond improvement. Again, in a future post I might talk a bit about what tools and organizations we have as optometrists to counter forces lobbying government in opposition to our, and to our patients', interests.

That about does it for this post. Next post is in mid-July, where I will detail my opening days as a resident and maybe about moving away from Boston as well.  See you then!

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