18. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: PhD

A very intelligent postdoc (a postdoc is a PhD graduate’s research position working in a lab after graduation) I once knew at my undergrad always had interesting and thought-provoking questions for us to discuss over lunch. One that stands out in my memory is the question, “If your life was a sitcom, what would be the main three rooms that your life is filmed in?” If you think of a familiar TV sitcom, like Seinfeld, their main filming locations were Jerry’s apartment, the Cafe, and probably the streets of New York City. What are your three main filming sets that could concisely encompass your life right now?

In undergrad, my world could have been summarized in my dorm room, the lecture auditoriums with 300 other students, and the docks behind the Student Union where you could watch turtles and ducks and meet up with friends. Life seemed to have more hours in the day at UCF. It was always hot or rainy and everywhere you went on campus you saw unfamiliar faces. The campus was so big you could meet new people everyday.

Then in my first two years at NECO, life was concentrated in the classroom “LH2” with about 100 students, preclinic 1 (where we have labs and spend hours practicing techniques for homework), and Starbucks. Life included many, many hours of lecture, learning how to exam the eyes, and paying rent at Starbucks in the form of a coffee so I could use their wifi and have a place to study.

As a third year optometry student and having selected my lab for my PhD work next year, my film sets now include the patient exam room at clinic where I am interning, the fish lab at Boston University, and the streets of Boston with all the walking I do. We still have plenty of class time at NECO in third year, but the importance of clinic has shifted my focus more onto the patient exams and learning how to be a doctor.

I had a particularly rewarding day in clinic recently. Every optometrist has the job of ruling out (or catching) the presence of something called a “retinal detachment” and this is why getting your eyes dilated is so important. It is just what it sounds like, the thin neural retina can peel away from the back of the eye which serves as the central retina’s source of nourishment. Not only are the optics of your eye a mess (and vision poor) if your retinal is peeling off, but your delicate neurons are being deprived of oxygen when the retina is not against the back of the eye. Permanent vision loss can and will result if the detachment is not treated quickly. The detached retina would be deprived of oxygen for too long, never to regain the same function it once had if you did not get help immediately.

A retinal detachment can manifest as any change in vision. Some people see flashes of light, some see floating dots, but any change is something to tell your eye doctor about. My patient answered my question, “Have you had any changes in your vision?” by describing an arc of light in the right eye that had been seen at least once a day for the last month. We immediately knew to dilate the patient’s eyes and carefully check the retina for any tears, holes, or a true retinal detachment. Luckily the patient only had the beginning stage of a detachment and we could make a referral immediately (same day) to a retinal specialist to decide on a treatment. It was so rewarding to help catch this abnormal retina before the patient had a loss of vision.

By next year when I am a full time student at BU I am sure my life’s film sets will be different once again. I like this mental exercise because it’s like a concise journal of where you’ve been and how different your life is today.