Through the Looking Glass…and What Tom Found There

Post Graduation Pontification

The Optometric Oath

With full deliberation I freely and solemnly pledge that: I will practice the art and science of optometry faithfully and conscientiously, and to the fullest scope of my competence. I will uphold and honorably promote by example and action the highest standards, ethics and ideals of my chosen profession and the honor of the degree, Doctor of Optometry, which has been granted me.

I WILL provide professional care for those who seek my services, with concern, with compassion and with due regard for their human rights and dignity.

I WILL place the treatment of those who seek my care above personal gain and strive to see that none shall lack for proper care.

I WILL hold as privileged and inviolable all information entrusted to me in confidence by my patients.

I WILL advise my patients fully and honestly of all which may serve to restore, maintain or enhance their vision and general health.

I WILL strive continuously to broaden my knowledge and skills so that my patients may benefit from all new and efficacious means to enhance the care of human vision.

I WILL share information cordially and unselfishly with my fellow optometrists and other professionals for the benefit of patients and the advancement of human knowledge and welfare. I will do my utmost to serve my community, my country and humankind as a citizen as well as an optometrist.

I HEREBY commit myself to be steadfast in the performance of this my solemn oath and obligation.

On  May 18th, I took the Optometric Oath as part of my graduation ceremony from the New England College of Optometry. My classmates and I stood before the assembled friends, family, faculty and staff and pledged to do our utmost to provide the highest quality eye care that we are trained to do. In addition to our obligation to provide this care, we too must hold ourselves to high standards of morality and ethics. It was a very powerful moment, over one hundred voices in unison reciting this oath, an audible tribute to the change that was transpiring. In the course of those two hours, we were elevated from students to doctors.

For the first few days after my graduation, it didn’t really sink in that I wasn’t just between one clinical rotation and the next. It felt like any day now, I was going to go back and resume what had been my life for the past year as a student. I would see patients, check in with my preceptor, coordinate patient care with them, and educate the patients about our decisions. Days passed, and I was still on vacation. No preceptors to check in with. No patients to see.

But as I get closer to my residency, I remember that there isn’t the same sort of safety net either. It is both exhilarating and terrifying to know that as a doctor now, I am responsible for my patients, and while there will still be a degree of oversight at the VA hospital where I will be completing my residency, it isn’t the same as being a student. I have taken an oath, and I plan to keep it.

I have been using my ample free time between the completion of my clinical rotations and the beginning of my residency to take a step back and assess my life as both a person and a professional. It is certainly a time of many great transitions, as I go from student to doctor, fiancée to husband, unemployed to resident. It is often difficult to see the bigger picture when you are busy getting through the day to day of finishing up as an optometry student, lining up a job or residency, applying for state and national licensure, and to top it off, hurtling towards your own impending wedding. Now I am lucky to be afforded the time to take stock, slow down, and look at the parts of the whole.

On top of all my pontification about the nature of man and what it means to have graduated, I now find myself inundated with paperwork. You would not believe just how much paperwork is involved with applying for licensure to be both a professional, and to be a spouse. Copies of every transcript imaginable must be requested, and these may only be submitted either in person, by snail mail, or if you happen to own a fabled FACSIMILE machine, you can use your second telephone landline to send copies of these forms in. On the wedding front, I pride myself on being an involved fiancée, much as I would love to sit back and let my wife-to-be handle all of the nitty gritty details. If only I had known how many nitty, gritty, itty, bitty details there would be. As a man with a month off until the start of my residency, I am her new favorite person, able to run any errand, fax any paperwork, and write marriage documents in a single bound.*

*That sounded better in my head than when I reread it… But I’m going to go with it.

If I have learned anything during my month long sojourn, it is that when possible, take the time to reflect on what you are doing, where you are, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. I think it is safe to say I matured a great deal during my time in optometry school, and have learned what I need to be successful; again both as a professional and as an individual. The unfortunate truth is that the demands of being a student can make this self-reflection rather difficult, but I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from a little introspection now and then. It really helps put things in perspective, and gives me a greater focus on what is important going forward.

By the time I get around to writing my next blog post, I will be back into a regular routine, hopefully settling in as a new resident in ocular disease and primary care at the VA Hospital in Brockton. I may or may not be married, too, depending on when this post gets published. So, I will be taking the time I have left before then to continue my quest of self-improvement, which has so far amounted to eating better, running daily, reading for pleasure, and cooking new and interesting things. I may even try to get to the beach one of these days…

Cheers. Here’s hoping to see all of you  here one day too.

Thomas Andrea, OD

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