I’ve known for some time that this was going to be a big year, but it has loomed so large for the past four years that it has taken on an almost mythical property. It’s been the answer to so many questions from friends, relatives, colleagues, teachers. 2014: the year when I graduate from optometry school, become a doctor, get married, start my career and my family. Four long years ago it seemed nigh unattainable, but time has marched on since then, as it has a way of doing. And now, at long last, it is finally here.
January is almost half over, which means my penultimate clinical rotation is over halfway done. Each rotation is three months long, and thanks to some generous time off for the holidays, this rotation feels as though it is flying by. With only a little over a month to go at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, it seems my time here has been too brief. I was initially apprehensive about the prospect of working with a different optometrist overseeing me each day of the week, but it has turned out to be a highly beneficial experience, as each one offers a unique perspective when discussing clinical education and patient care.
The notion that over half of my patients on a given day may not speak any English was likewise daunting, but thanks to my own modest Spanish skills, and the far more proficient interpreters that work with us, I have become accustomed to performing complete exams in other languages. It’s been a challenge, but I am proud that my Spanish has come along to the point where if I greet patients en español, my accent isn’t so terrible that they just stare blankly at me. On the contrary, I have gotten myself into trouble greeting patients in that fashion since some then assume a level of fluency that I sadly do not possess. Luckily, one of the first phrases that came back to me when I started conversing with Spanish-speaking patients was “Mi espanol no esta muy bueno, yo hablo un muy muy pocito, lo siento”, which roughly translates to “My Spanish is not very good, I only speak very little, I’m sorry”. It’s come in handy.
As my final rotation approaches, I have also submitted my preferences for Special Populations, which typically consists of several different practices in and around Boston that offer a range of specialized care settings. Since we are given the option to designate which modalities we would prefer to gain experience in, I opted for Low Vision, Pediatrics, and Contact Lenses. Now, designating these is no guarantee of anything, but I would be very happy if I could work at Perkins School for the Blind at least a few days a week. Perkins is a highly specialized setting where people of all ages with visual impairment come for treatment, diagnosis, and therapy. The patients all have a wide range of needs and goals, and the doctors work with a multidisciplinary team to try to meet the patients’ functional goals. Ultimately this allows them to accomplish the things they want to accomplish, such as activities of daily living, with a greater degree of independence. It is a rare opportunity to get to work in such a unique clinical setting, and to top it all off, it is only five minutes down the street from me, which means I may be able to avoid a half hour to hour-long commute for at least one of my rotations. I won’t know where I’ll end up for another few weeks, but I will be sure to give an update when I do know.
As I alluded to before, this year is set to be a pretty big year for me. I’m 2/3 of the way done with my national boards, 3/4 of the way finished with my clinical rotations, and 7/8 of the way done with optometry school. I’m also three years into my engagement to my wonderful fiancée, whose support and love have just as much to do with me getting through four years of school as anything I’ve done. In only four short months, I will be graduating, just days after turning 27, and then a month and a half later, I will be getting married. So I expect I may be just a bit busy in the next month… or six.
I am very happy that all of these big events in my life are finally within reach, but it is a bit difficult to process that all of these changes will become a reality. I’ve known for five years now that I wanted to be an optometrist, and I’ve known for about eight years (pretty much since meeting her) that I wanted to marry my soon-to-be wife. For these possibilities to stop looming in the future and finally become the present is simultaneously exciting and surreal. Once these major life events are in the past, and I am both a husband and a doctor, I suppose new goals and challenges will take their place in my future. I still aspire to attain a residency after graduation and in doing so, set myself up for a job teaching future optometrists one day. So while I may be achieving the goals I set for myself many years ago, it looks like I’ve already got a few new ones waiting in the wings to take their place. Someday, some year, I might just have to give myself a break. But that year probably won’t be 2014.
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