Busy, Busy, Busy

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Apr 092014
 

It feels like it’s been forever since my last post.  The end of February and the month of March have been busy to say the least, but nothing to complain about.  We survived midterms, and surprisingly did not have any significant snowstorms to disturb our tests!  Spring break was a nice time to relax after our exams, but as soon as school started back up, we were in full gear (and I kind of regret not preparing more during break)!  Proficiencies, our last PPO proficiencies, started last week, and you could just feel the stress when you walked into lab.  Everyone in the first week did very well, and the second half of the class is scheduled to go this week.  As a class, we are excited to get these tests behind us, but at the same time we are all excited to show our preceptors all of the things that we have learned in our first two years at NECO.  Right now, while practicing, it kind of seems like we are taking everything for granted, as we just go through the techniques like they are second nature.  A year ago, I didn’t even know what a slit lamp was, never mind how to use it to look into a patient’s eyes!  We have come so far in the last two years, and sometimes it is really hard to believe.  This semester’s proficiency includes using the slit lamp to look at the cornea, gonioscopy to look at the patient’s angle, tonometry to read the pressure within the patient’s eye, and viewing the fundus with both a 90D lens and a BIO.  When we were first introduced to these techniques, no one knew how we would ever be able to master them, but as we are currently practicing in pre-clinic, they are becoming more second nature as we speak.  With that said, we are all still intimidated by BIO, as it is one of those skills that you aquire only with a lot of practice.  When you do get a good view of the patient’s fundus, it is very rewarding, but it requires a lot of practice to get a good view consistently.

Aside from proficiencies, we have a lot of other things going on this Spring.  The week following PPO proficiencies, we have our contact lens proficiencies, and the following week we have our PPO final exam.  Right now, everyone is very stressed, but we are taking it one day at a time, and we know that we will get through it.  We were introduced to the selection process for fourth year rotation sites, and even though that in itself is quite stressful, it has been kind of fun looking up all of the different sites and trying to decide where I might want to go!  There are sites all over the US, and I think I want to use this as an opportunity to travel and see some new places that I have not seen before.  Some of the sites that I am interested in are in very neat parts of the country (and they are located in warm areas, which I will not complain about after this year’s winter).  We are required to do one rotation in Boston at a community health clinic, one at a VA hospital, one specialty rotation and one elective.  We are given the option to choose for the last three categories, and we will be placed in any one of the Boston community health clinics.  I have had a fun time looking at all of the locations in the last three categories and it is almost overwhelming to see how many choices we have.  I am very interested in doing one of my rotations at the Naval Base in Norfolk, VA.  I did a community analysis project on the Navy last year for our vision health care class, and I had such a fun time talking with Navy optometrists and became really interested in what they do.  This past weekend, all of the preceptors from fourth year rotation sites came to NECO for a preceptor conference, and I got to meet with the preceptor from the Naval base.  After hearing about all of the neat things she has done in her career, including traveling around the world, and preparing sailors for deployments and specific career related activities, I was hooked.  The clinic that she currently works at sounds like it will provide a great opportunity to learn more about the optometry field, and I think I will gain a lot if I get the chance to do one of my rotations there! As for the other rotations, I am still trying to decide if I want to travel or if I want to stay local.  There are a lot of sites in Florida which may be nice, and many of them specialize in different areas, which would be an awesome experience for me to be involved in.  Hopefully by the time I post my next blog, I will have a better idea of where I may want to go, and I will write all about it!

Turkey Time!

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Dec 062013
 

It has been a productive month. With proficiencies over and behind us, this month has flown by, and finals are quickly approaching. Before we are able to get too stressed about finals, we were given a much needed break for Thanksgiving! With the 5 day break, many people went back home with their families to celebrate the holiday, and of course, eat lots of turkey and pumpkin pie! I went back to Rochester, NY, and spent the holiday with my family. Luckily, I wasn’t too badly affected by the snowstorm, and my flight was only delayed for about an hour! It was so nice to have a home cooked meal and to enjoy some much needed dessert! I remember last year when I came home, we had just gotten all of our new equipment and everyone insisted on bringing it home with them. Besides the hassle at the airport (and being that person that had to have a bag search because their optometry equipment looked too suspicious), my entire family assumed that I knew how to use all of the equipment, when in all honesty, all I knew how to do was look at the eyes with the o’scope and take a pretty iffy guess to see if the reflections looked similar. If they didn’t look similar, well…I wasn’t too sure what that meant at the time, but I still was able to impress my family (or at least I thought I was quite impressive). This year was a little different, and may have resulted from the overwhelming amount of notes I brought home that allowed no room for anything else in my bag. I would have loved to have brought home my equipment and practice my skills (now that I know how to properly use my retinoscope and o’scope), but I didn’t have any room in my bags! Instead of testing out all of my equipment and playing with all of it, this year was spent studying for pharmacology and PPO. And let me tell you, it is very hard trying to study in a house with a 2 year old and lots of people talking!

Even though not as much studying was done over break, it was a much needed relaxing break from school. On Thanksgiving morning, my sister and I braved the cold weather and participated in the local “Turkey Trot,” which was a 4 mile run, ending in a local park. The day before, a pretty big snow storm had come through, so needless to say, I could not see any grass and it was a bit cold outside! I had told myself that I would make sure to train for this run while in Boston, but of course, it is cold in Boston, too, and I would often find myself deciding it was too cold to run! The morning of the race, it was a whopping 19 degrees out, and there was a nice “refreshing” breeze from Lake Ontario. Nothing like a nice, cool breeze to cool you down! My sister and I met up with some friends and we definitely contemplated whether we wanted to go through with the long run or if we should just take the turn on the race course and run the short course instead. We conquered our fears and decided to run the whole course and it was a nice feeling when we finished! When we crossed the finish line, we turned to each other and said, “Now I can have 2 pieces of pie?!”

For Thanksgiving dinner, I was in charge of making a vegetable tray. Instead of going with a traditional, boring veggie tray, I decided to get creative. I made a veggie tray in the shape of a turkey and, of course, the turkey was wearing glasses (made out of celery)! I couldn’t celebrate an entire Thanksgiving without incorporating my NECO side ! The turkey tray was a hit and everyone loved the glasses (see, wearing glasses is in style again)! I think I will have to make a special veggie tray for Christmas now, maybe one shaped like reindeer (and of course, they will have glasses on too)!

Boston Strong!

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Nov 042013
 

To say the City of Boston has been filled with excitement this week would be an understatement.  With the World Series in our back yard, the cool, crisp weather rolling in, and midterms being over (for us NECO kids), everyone has been in a great mood.  I will admit it, I am not a Red Sox fan, but with the possibility of getting a day off of school if they win, I won’t complain!

As I am sitting here writing this post, I can hear the cheers from Game 6 (I live very close to Fenway Park)!  My roommate and I went outside to check things out, and it is crazy out there!  People are swarming around the stadium, watching the TVs that are just inside the gate.  Police are everywhere and the roads are all starting to get blocked off.  It is just really neat to be right in the middle of all of this.  I may complain that it is hard to get my work done, as I can hear cheers whenever someone has a hit or someone makes a good play, but the more I think about it, I am living a part of history right now.  I was reading the news this morning and this is the first time since 1918 that the Red Sox could win the World Series in Boston (and in 1918, Babe Ruth was on the team).  As much as I do not like the Red Sox, that is still pretty cool.  Tickets were selling for absurd amounts; one was sold for $12,000 for a seat behind home plate!

Aside from all of the sports excitement in the city, it has been a pretty exciting time at NECO.  Midterms finished last week and you can just tell that the level of stress has decreased significantly.  It always seems like midterms week will never end, but once it is over, everyone feels relieved and it is always a nice time to sit back and relax and enjoy the city of Boston.  After midterms ended, a bunch of us went out to lunch at a local restaurant here and just enjoyed each other’s company while not having any exams to worry about.  We were rewarded with a nice long weekend off (Columbus Day just happened to land on that following Monday), so many of us took advantage of this and did some pretty fun things that weekend.  I took a mini vacation to Virginia and visited some family, while my roommate and some other classmates took in some of the New England fall sites and went apple picking!  When I came back to the city, I got to try some of the apples, and I must say that New England has some nice tasting apples, and they make a mean apple pie!

As the excitement of finishing and surviving midterms week began to wear off, the stress levels started to increase again as all of the second year students started practicing for their fall proficiency exams.  As second years, our expectations were increased a lot compared to our first year proficiencies, so everyone feels like the pressure is on.  Proficiencies are a little different this year, as they are spread across a two week time span and some students are doctors the first week, and some are doctors during the second week.  Another twist that was thrown in this year is that we perform the tests on actual patients, not just our fellow classmates.  I personally liked this twist, as it gave me more incentive to really practice and prepare to perform all of the tests we have been learning on someone who does not have a background in optometry.  When we practice on our classmates, sometimes we tend to help each other out, and we almost know what to expect as patients (we know that the 20/20 line should come into focus after so many changes of lenses, but when we are doing these tests in clinic, the patient does not know what to expect).  This is what we will have to know how to do for clinic, so I found it really helpful and very rewarding once proficiency day came along, and things went well!  After all of this practicing, I feel a lot more confident in my clinical skills, and I am excited to go to clinic this week to try everything out!

 

 

This past week has been pretty exciting for OD2016!  On Saturday, we had our white coat ceremony at the Back Bay Events Center.  All of us have been looking forward to this since our first day of school last year.  Even though it wasn’t quite graduation, the white coat ceremony still felt like a big deal (and sort of felt like graduation for us…until we realized we had midterms to study for when we got home).  The ceremony was very nice, and it was a way for us to celebrate how far we have come, both as individuals and as a class.  Dr. Carlson spoke to us about her experiences with us in PPO1 and we were presented our white coats by Dr. Hanley and Dr. Harper.  Closing remarks were given by Dr. Fisch and Dean McGinley, and our first official class photo was taken!  It was really neat to see all of us in our white coats and we all feel really professional now.  After the ceremony, there was brunch and we were able to mingle with family and friends.  As many of us were really stressed going into Saturday morning (worrying about studying and midterms), getting our white coats made all of the stress go away.  For me, I had a wonderful time at the ceremony.  I really enjoyed seeing everyone with their white coats and it was great to see everyone’s families there showing their support.  I was fortunate enough to have my parents and my fiancé come into Boston for the weekend and it was really nice being able to share this special day with them.  As things began to dwindle down (people were becoming full from the amazing food), my family and I left and spent the rest of the day exploring the city.  As stressed as I was about studying for midterms, it was really relaxing to just see the city on such a beautiful day.  I have been so busy with school that I have not been able to see much of the city this semester, so when my parents asked if I wanted to go to Quincy Market, I could not really say no!

As all weekends do, this weekend went by way too quickly.  As Monday rolled around, the usual midterms stress came with it.  School has been staying open late and the library has been filled every night.  I am not one to really use the library to study (I seem to get distracted way too easily), but I can say that my study desk at home has seen a lot of action this week!  Midterms start on Saturday, and as much as we want them to be over, many of us are not ready for them to begin.  As second years now, we are slowly starting to figure out why last year’s second years seemed so stressed out…there is a lot of stuff to know! As interesting and fun as it is, sometimes I wish I had a slow down button so I could have more time to study!

Sep 242013
 

School has officially begun…which means the relaxation and rest that summer brought is now over.  As sad as that may be, it is good to get back into the school routine!  So far, second year has been good.  Getting up every morning at 8AM isn’t all that flattering, but having the privilege of going to clinic once a week makes up for it.  As a second year, I go to a clinical site associated with the school for four hours each Thursday.  I was assigned Roslindale Eye Clinic, which is associated with New England Eye Institute.  There are two other second year students there on Thursdays with me, and we are each assigned to one doctor.  I am working with the pediatric doctor, and so far I am loving it!  From day one, I was able to set up in the room and perform entrance tests and refraction on the patients!  At first I was really nervous.  This would be my first time seeing patients (other than during screenings during first year) and I just didn’t want to make a fool out of myself.  All three doctors at Roslindale were great, and allowed us each to observe a patient exam before throwing us out there on our own.  The first patient was there for a follow up visit.  The entire exam went very smoothly (and her glasses that were prescribed to her at her last exam were helping her eyesight significantly). Seeing this patient calmed my nerves a great deal, so I was more than ready to see the next patient who came in.

When I brought the next patient back to the exam room, I initially froze and my nerves came back.  I started with a simple case history, and once I got through that, I was fine!  I completed entrance tests and got through subjective refraction.  I was really excited when the patient could read the 20/20 line after I had finished my refraction, because it was a sign that I was doing something right!  The doctor came in shortly after that. I had not been paying attention to the time while I was performing the exam and I took a little bit longer than I should have!  I also performed my first dilation. My first thought was “I have only done this once, and it was in lab last year!”  I knew that to boost my confidence, I would just have to do it, so I confirmed with the doctor what drops, and how many, to use, and I brought the patient back to the exam room.  Luckily for me, the patient was probably the best patient for putting eye drops in, not flinching or resisting at all!

After my first day, clinic has gone smoothly ever since!  Each day holds a new and exciting case, and I have learned so much in just the three weeks that I have been working there!  This past week, we started learning about common ocular findings associated with various conditions, and at clinic, I was able to apply what I learned when I saw it on the patient.

In addition to learning about ocular conditions, PPO has proven to be very exciting these past couple of weeks, as we have started to use the slit lamp.  For any optometry student, the slit lamp is like the machine of all machines.  Comprised of just a simple microscope and beam of light, it allows the optometrist to get an up close and personal view of the patient’s eyes, including some of the structures that can’t be observed by just looking at someone.  After seeing videos and pictures taken from a slit lamp, all of us second years were really eager to learn how to use the slit lamp on our own.  During lab, we each had a chance to look at another student’s eyes behind the lamp and take a peak at some of the various structures in the eye.  The first time sitting behind the slit lamp felt like the first time behind the wheel of a car: very overwhelming and somewhat terrifying!  Figuring out how to maneuver all of the parts, and creating a smooth flow that would not jerk the patient’s head and chin around was very difficult.  After a few minutes, my comfort level increased and I was able to see the patient’s eye through the microscope, and it was one of the coolest things I have seen so far!  From looking at the cells of the cornea to the physiological sutures of the lens fibers, I was beyond amazed.  It is so different looking at an actual patient than it is just looking at pictures in books and on the internet, and I was super excited!

For now, I will be practicing my slit lamp skills quite frequently, but I will be enjoying every minute of it.  I am hoping to use the slit lamp at clinic soon, and I can’t wait to use all of the new things I have learned in an actual patient exam!

Aug 192013
 

I enjoyed some rest and relaxation these past few weeks, as I have been getting ready to head back to Boston!  My last day working at the clinic in Florida seemed like it came too fast, but it was a great experience being able to volunteer there this summer.  As I have mentioned in my previous entries, I was given the opportunity to observe a variety of conditions and procedures that I have never seen before.  Aside from seeing all of these new things, I feel as though I gained a lot just from interacting with the patients.  They always told us in class that interacting with the patient is always the most important aspect of being a doctor, and experiencing this, this summer, has really proven to me how true this is.  An eye condition may appear to the doctor one way, but once the patient’s symptoms are factored in and their personal input is considered, the overall “case” quickly becomes unique.  This aspect of being an optometrist is very important to me, and I am really excited to interact with more patients during clinic this school year!

This brings me into what I have been doing these past couple of weeks.  At the end of July, my fiancé received his Naval Flight Officer wings after completing flight school.  I was able to attend the ceremony, which was held in the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL.  I had never been to a ceremony like this before, so I didn’t know what exactly to expect.  It was held in one of the museum’s hangars, which also was home to many aircraft, including one of the Blue Angels.  A speech was given by the Air Boss of the Navy, Vice Admiral David Buss.  He is responsible for overseeing all aviation activity in the Navy, so it was really cool having him at the ceremony.  (I also was excited when he pulled out his speech along with his reading glasses…it made me happy to know that an optometrist had helped him out!)  After my fiancé received his wings, he received orders to be stationed in Virginia Beach, where he will be flying F/A-18 Superhornets.  With this in mind, and the fact that I haven’t started school yet, I was put in charge of helping him move.  We drove from Pensacola to Virginia Beach over a two day stretch and stopped in Charlotte, NC, for the night.  The drive was very beautiful, and I enjoyed every bit of it, as I had never been to any of the areas we passed through.  When we arrived in Virginia Beach, we had the daunting responsibility of finding him a place to live.  He did not want to find a place on the internet while still in Florida, so the day after getting to Virginia Beach, we visited a few apartment complexes in hopes of finding him a home.  The second apartment was a success and made me wish that Boston living was not so expensive!

This past week I have been hanging out in Virginia Beach and enjoying the last couple days of summer.  I am really excited to go back to Boston to start another year of school and I have already begun to receive emails regarding classes and clinic assignments for the upcoming semester!  I will be doing my second year clerkship at the Roslindale clinic, and my first day cannot come soon enough!  I have gone shopping multiple times for clinic attire (which I do not mind doing at all!) and have started re-reading some of my books from last year to refresh my memory on some of the clinical procedures that I may have to perform.  In addition to preparing for clinic, I have been preparing for adjusting back into the Boston lifestyle.  I’ve made a list of events to attend and things to see in the city this year, including going to Fenway.  I will admit it, I am a Yankees fan, and yes, I am going to be moving even closer to Fenway Park this year.  I am really excited for the Yankees to come to town (even if they are a few games behind the Red Sox right now).  I’ve been told I am crazy to wear Yankees apparel around, but I was surprised at how many people I saw wearing Yankees shirts last year in the city (so I have told myself that I will be okay!).  Fenway is still an awesome place (even if it is home to the Red Sox), and I am excited to live there this year and take in all of the awesome sights that Boston has to offer!

Where is W?

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Jul 262013
 

July has been a pretty productive month so far!  Volunteering at the eye clinic here in Florida has been great and has proven to keep me busy and on my toes!  I saw numerous eye conditions this month, many of which I have never seen before.  One patient in particular was a young male who has keratoconus.  Keratoconus is an eye condition involving the cornea.  Unlike the normal round shape of the cornea, patients with keratoconus have a cone shaped cornea.  I remembered learning about this in one of my first year classes, but this was the first time I had seen a patient with this condition in a clinical setting.  Many patients with this condition are prescribed hard contact lenses, which allow the structure of the cornea to maintain a more rounded shape and help to prevent the cornea from progressing in steepness.  These lenses are also prescribed to help correct the patient’s refractive error.

While the doctors at this clinic had a few pairs of trial lenses, they did not have a lens that was steep enough to fit this patient’s eye.  In order to find a lens that would create a comfortable fit, the doctors had to order a trial fitting set, which contained various hard lenses with different radii of curvature.  Each lens therefore was designed to fit a specifically shaped cornea with a specific steepness.  When the fitting kit finally arrived (they are very expensive and the doctors at this clinic had to borrow it from another clinic), the patient was asked to try a variety of lenses, each with a different shape, to see which one was the most comfortable.  Due to these lenses typically being larger (to compensate for the steepness in its design), finding a comfortable fit is not very easy.  The doctors at the clinic told me that many patients who wear these lenses later present with sores and sites of irritation on their eyelids, resulting from the edges of the lenses rubbing against the skin.  After a few hours of trying on lenses, the patient and doctors came to an agreement on one of the lenses.  The lens was ordered and the patient was eventually fitted with the lens.  This was an excellent learning experience for me, as I have learned about this condition, but never had seen it before.  Being able to interact with the patient and hear about how this condition has affected him as well as his vision gave me great insight into how some of the smallest structures in the eye can result in big changes in a person’s life.

Aside from working in the clinic this month, I took a little vacation and traveled back to Rochester, New York, to visit my family.  Of course it felt like everyone and anyone asked me questions about their eyes, and I had to pull the “I haven’t had that course yet” excuse!  A few days before I went home, my sister had taken my 22-month old niece to the optometrist for an exam, as she was presenting with symptoms of pink eye (conjunctivitis).  While at the optometrist, I was told my niece was very talkative and when asked to recite the letters on the chart, she did very well.  She has just started to learn her letters and apparently has a new found obsession with the letter “w” (which she calls “dubee”).  As we all know, in traditional Snellen eye charts, only 10 letters are used (C, D, E, F, L, N, O, P, T, Z).  This was not okay with my niece because she could not find “dubee!”  She was very distraught over this observation and proceeded to look all over the room for “dubee” while saying “uh oh, dubee, oh no!”  After leaving the exam room and finally finding a “W” to ease her worries, she was prescribed an antibiotic eye drop.  I came home right in the nick of time to be deemed the one who was to administer these drops at home, and boy was that fun (actually it was really difficult, but between my sister and myself, we were able to use the birds and planes in the sky as a distraction for her to look up while we snuck the eye drops in!).  This story and experience of helping with the eye drops has made me extremely excited for the pediatrics courses I will be taking over the next couple of years at NECO!  You never know how the patient (especially children) will react and that type of challenge (and finding ways to overcome it) is just what I am looking forward to!

 

Where has this summer gone?  As I sit here and write this blog, I ask myself, what have I done with my time this past month?  At first, I have the embarrassing thought of “I have done absolutely nothing!”  But after I think about it for a few seconds, I reassure myself that I have been quite productive.

After school was finished for the year, I traveled down to Pensacola, FL, where I have been volunteering in an optometry office.  This has been a great experience so far, as I have had the chance to see many things that I have never seen before!  During first year, I was able to see patients during screenings.  The patients were usually not much older than 8 or 9 years old.   Thus, my first time seeing a patient in this office, I was not really sure what to expect.  Many of the patients here are elderly, and have various ocular conditions.  Part of my responsibility is to help “work up” these patients by completing entrance tests and other tests including OCT, visual fields, and fundus photos.  I learned about these tests in school, but never had the chance to actually perform them.  When I heard that I would be able to do these tests, I was really excited.

One of the first patients that I performed a visual field test on was an elderly man with glaucoma.  While in lab, I only performed visual fields on fellow students and fortunately had never come across any field defects.  Looking at this patient’s previous tests, I knew that I could expect some loss in his peripheral field of view.  I knew that this loss was not a good sign, but I was eager to see what his test results would be to see if I could pinpoint any patterns that I learned while in class.  After dialing all of his information into the machine, I had to calculate the lens to put in front of his eye so that he could see the lights during the test.  I never had to put a lens in place in a visual field machine before, and I learned very quickly that it was not as easy as it looked.  I put the lens in the holder multiple times, and each time when I asked the patient to put his head forward, the lens would fall out and I would have to do it all again.  Luckily, the patient was really friendly and he just kept making jokes about the lens situation!  I finally was able to get the lens in place and was able to start the test.  As the test progressed, I could see field loss become evident and it looked very similar to what I had predicted.  It was a very rewarding experience to understand what I was looking at and to have a good idea of what to be looking out for while reading the test results.  After working this patient up, I presented him to the doctor and she confirmed that his glaucomatous field loss was progressing.

In addition to performing entrance tests on patients, I had the opportunity to observe a LASEK surgery at the ophthalmologist’s office located next door to the practice I work in.  I was not expecting to see a LASEK surgery that day, but when asked if I wanted to observe, there was no hesitation.  The ophthalmologist just received a grant that enabled him to use a brand new machine to perform the procedure and I was allowed to observe his last procedure of the day.  I didn’t really know what to expect, as again, I only learned briefly about the procedure in class, but had never seen it performed in person.  After being suited up in scrubs and a face mask, I went into the OR and was introduced to all of the instruments being used.  I didn’t realize that LASEK involved multiple machines and lasers, so it was really cool to see everything performed all at once.  First, the doctors calculated the patient’s Rx as well as the thickness of the cornea.  This was to ensure that the flaps being cut and the layer being reduced would not result in the eye being too thin and unhealthy.  After the calculations were complete, the first laser (I was not completely sure if this was an actual laser or if they just called it one) was used to cut the flap, and it did so by using bubbles that created a “Velcro” like surface.  This roughened surfaced allowed the flap to be easily lifted by the surgeon.  After the flap was removed, the laser was put into place, and the procedure was performed.  It took a total of 13 seconds per eye, an astonishingly small number that I did not expect!  I found it really intriguing to see how the setup of the room and machines was crucial for the procedure to be performed safely and smoothly.  The surgeon sat in a chair with wheels on the bottom to allow him to move from machine to machine, and the patient was in a supine position in a moveable chair that was controlled by the surgeon.  When the surgeon needed to use a machine, he would just wheel over to it and position the patient’s chair to where he needed it.  Everything went so smoothly and I was surprised at how quickly the entire procedure lasted.

So far, summer has been great!  It has been awesome to apply things from school to what I am seeing in the clinic.  Can’t wait for more great experiences to come, and I will be sure to write about them next month!

 

As the recovery period from finals is beginning to slow down, and things are starting to return to normal, I can’t help but wonder, “Wow, how is my first year of Optometry school already done with?”  It seems like just yesterday I was moving into my new apartment, finding myself caught up in all of the hustle and bustle of college move in day.  The U-Haul trucks were lining the streets and people were covering the sidewalks (and were accompanied by mattresses, couches, and all sorts of other furniture that eager students were hoping to cram into their small, city apartments).  It was my first time living in a large city and, to be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

The first day of school was unlike any other “first day” I had experienced.  Everyone was so nice and helpful and we all joked that we felt like we were in Hogwarts from Harry Potter.  We were the innocent “first years” who had no idea where we were and we were overwhelmed by just trying to find our way to our classroom.  Each stairway seemed like a new obstacle (and we were convinced that they would start moving at any moment), with excitement hiding behind each door.  It took me about two full weeks to finally navigate my way through the school without getting lost more than twice a day!

As I look back and reflect on that first day, I realize how much I have learned and have grown since then.  I didn’t know that there were so many opportunities in the eye care field and I had no idea how complicated, yet interesting, the eye really is!  Coming into optometry school with a background in engineering, I was nervous that I would struggle with some of the natural science courses required to learn about the eye.  I had never taken a formal anatomy class and my background in cell biology consisted of one small introductory course.  As soon as the first lecture was over for both of those classes, though, I realized that I was in the right place, and that the professors and fellow students at NECO would make learning anything a possibility.  After week one of classes was over, things began to fly by.  Before I knew it, midterms were here and then a short few weeks later, finals for the first semester were over and I was on Christmas vacation!

After Christmas vacation, second semester jumped into action as fast as first semester did, and it was over with even faster.  Some weeks seemed to go by slowly, with everyone stressing over lab practices and proficiencies, but before we knew it, we were stressing over finals and then celebrating the completion of year one.  I don’t know how it went by so quickly, but I am so happy with how it went.  Before starting optometry school, I would tell people that optometrists were the people who looked at your eyes and gave you glasses or contacts.  Now, if someone were to ask me that same question, I would probably have them sit down as I explained all of the different aspects of optometry to them.  Optometry is not just about prescribing glasses.  And if I had to say what the most important thing that I learned this year was, it would be that optometrists have a very important role in overall healthcare.  From being the first person to possibly detect micro-vascular diseases in a patient, to ruling in or out a potentially life threatening neurological disorder, I have concluded that optometry is one of the coolest and most interesting careers out there.  What is cooler than looking at the only nerve (on a daily basis) in the human body visible without incision?

The list goes on and on.  I have learned so much, but I know there is still so much more to be learned.  This summer I am volunteering in an optometry office in Florida and even though I have only been there for one day, I feel that all of my training from first year has really paid off.  I thought that I would be following/shadowing the techs and doctors during my first week, but as soon as I arrived, they told me to jump right in!  I have been able to start working with patients and to complete their entrance tests right away.  Because I saw many patients during screenings and other opportunities offered to me during my first year, I am very comfortable doing this.  As the summer keeps rolling by, I am sure I will have many more opportunities to work with and learn from these patients as well as the doctors in the office.

 

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