Health & Wellness

6 LIFE HACKS FROM A FOURTH-YEAR STUDENT TO ENJOY YOUR UNI YEARS

Have you ever met someone who always has time, never denies an invitation and is always up for trying something fun or doing something spontaneous? I have a feeling these people are getting more and more rare. I find it so sad that most people (including myself) are stuck in their strict schedule, thinking it’s just a phase. We think it’s always going to be better/easier/quieter later, but of course that is never the case. Life never slows down, new challenges are always ahead and we always postpone our happiness. For the most part, I think us students are particularly prone to thinking that way. You’ve probably heard many of your friends say that once they graduate, life is going to be greater and easier, or maybe you’ve even said so yourself... There’s nothing wrong with being excited about the future and dreaming ahead, but what I do think is wrongful is thinking that right now is not a perfectly enjoyable moment to live as well. Don’t get me wrong, studies are hard. I mean they are mucho hard when you’ve already downed your third coffee of the day and you still have 1,000 slides to study for your exam the next day. The thing is, we have to take charge of our own happiness and find ways to enjoy the present. Here’s my take on this very important issue: 

 

First of all, don’t wait to until you’re exhausted to take a break! 

If you plan your breaks, they’re going to be way more satisfying and soothing. Procrastination is always tempting, but have you ever tried premeditated procrastination? It’s a whole other game, I swear! The real satisfaction and benefits of taking some time off comes when your rest is planned. 

 

Say yes to spontaneity sometimes! 

I know I just told you to plan your breaks, but every good advice has a bit of contradictionWith everything that is planned nowadays, up to appointments to see your friends, it is good to keep our minds sharp and our adventurousness on our toes with unexpected activities. I suggest you try to do something spontaneous at least once a week. That way you’re allowing yourself to feel the liberty and flexibility of not having to follow a precise plan. 

 

Mindfulness and meditation 

That one is already understood. I won’t elaborate much because you’ve probably heard a lot about it, but just know that if you’re dealing with anxiety, the art of living in the present can really become your best friend. 

 

Journaling about what you’re thankful for 

I have yet to try this one, but apparently taking five minutes every morning to write down three things you are thankful for will trick your mind into thinking that you are the luckiest person alive and therefore make you happier in general. It won’t keep bad days from happening, but it will make you more positive in the long run. Looks promising! 

 

Don’t neglect personal growth  

We all have some personal stuff we want to work on, but we often don’t take the appropriate time to do it. Whether you want to work on your self-confidence or improve your communication skills, try to work on these goals on a weekly basis. Even though personal growth takes time and effort, it is always an excellent investment of time. Investing in yourself should never be procrastinated. 

 

Notice, notice, notice! 

Make sure you are aware when of when you’re having a good time! Take two seconds to fully realize that you are living your best life RIGHT NOW! If you do this often, you’re going to trick your mind into thinking you’re the happiest person ever.  

 

That’s all my advice for now. I hope you find a technique or two that works for you. I am not a professional in the wellness field, but I am a student with the absolute certainty that every step in life is neither better nor worse than the next, it is simply meant to be enjoyed as much as we can.  

 

From an already nostalgic fourth year student at University of Montreal, 

 Catherine Poitras 

Advice Column

OPTOMETRY SCHOOL IN A REMOTE LEARNING WORLD

In your very hands lies the potential to change lives. From assessing vision, to diagnosing medical conditions, we facilitate patient’s ownership of the eye’s health.  We do it for them. To see the spark alight within their own eyes as they see the world through new eyes.  Optometry is essential to the management of our overall health and as we go through school, we’ve picked up some pearls to successfully navigate optometry school. 

 

Take the time to stop and smell the roses.  It is often expressed that optometry school is difficult, and that rings true with each passing year.  And with all of that work, it is easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the ride.The key is balance.  Balance between the arduous efforts and peaceful moments.  Practicing self-care and seeking community provides the relief necessary to carry on through the long hours.  Burnout is very real, and school is a marathon, not a sprint.   

 

Study smarter, not just harder.  In this new world of COVID, enter remote learning with online modules, Zoom meetings and presentations.  We’re physically apart, but able to meet on an online platform to draw more near to each other.  Collaboration with peers serves to reinforce materials for all involved.  Some individuals are more confident and comfortable in certain topics, and in group effort synergy is found. Remember to seek your peers in this time of physical separation. 

 

Find your preferred note-taking method: digital or paper? A worthy tool to utilize would be a tablet or eye-pad (see what I did there?)  Paper notes can become unwieldy over time and cumbersome to navigate as they accumulate.  Digital notes typically have a smaller footprint and can be much faster with recalling information.  The control and freedom granted by the digital note medium is quite remarkable.  Notes take on a new life with applications galore to cater to the individual’s tastes and needs for their note taking desires.  With all that being said, some may find more success with paper notes, and with proper preparation, these can be just as if not more fruitful.   

 

Organization will set you free.  With an endless flow of emails, deadlines, and exams to keep up with, calendars help stick to an organized plan to the upcoming excitement that each new day brings. An appropriate schedule will help you keep yourself focused and on track to help you better organize the coming weeks of class and be mindful and aware.  Paper planners are still a useful tool for on the go, free form notation. 

 

Become involved with organizations at your school.These clubs have been faced with a new challenge of connecting with students in this new world.  Membership or leadership is an excellent tool to facilitate connections with peers of similar interest.  There are clubs that have specific interests, such as low vision or private practice, which may not be as enticing to some, but provide excellent resources for students to explore these to further develop interests or discover new ones. Connecting with practicing optometrists can be more difficult alone, and organizations help bridge that gap and do so in a familiar setting. 

 

Connect with your upperclassman.  As tough as current struggles may seem, remember that others have shared your experience, and you are not alone.  Seeking counsel with those further in the journey as they can share what has worked for them.   

 

And most importantly of all: do not forget your “why.”  Why are you here?  Understanding and being mindful of your purpose is just as important as the day to day.  We cannot lose our vision for the future and reassurance of our work.  We have to remind ourselves of our purpose as we carry on in this journey.  I believe that, “smooth seas don’t make good sailors.” Easy is convenient.  But it’s within the struggle we find our strength and learn who we are and what we’re capable of.  Realize the challenge, know you’re not alone, and face it head on.  We’re all excited for you to join us.

 

Advocacy

WHERE DO I START?

If there’s one fact that I’ve heard time and again since entering optometry school, it’s this: optometry is a legislated profession. As a student, being asked to be an advocate for our profession can be a daunting request! Thankfully, there are plenty of easy ways that optometry students can get involved in advocacy today. 

 

Get involved with the AOA and AOSA: The AOA and AOSA are here to serve optometrists and optometry students by advocating for the profession and the patients they serve. Aside from career resources, being a member provides access to advocacy-related news, webinars and in-person events. AOA on Capitol Hill is an excellent advocacy opportunity that is right around the corner! When there’s a call for action in the profession, the AOA will give you the tools and information you need to be a strong and educated advocate. 

 

Get involved with your local and state affiliates: Our schools often make this one very easy for us! Participate in events hosted by these organizations to learn more about why advocacy matters, and what exactly we’re advocating for at the moment. These are the conversations that may end up affecting you the most, and it’s never too early to start listening and learning. 

 

Don’t be afraid to talk to your legislators: This may seem intimidating, but it’s easier than you think and can be very meaningful! Last fall, students at the Michigan College of Optometry experienced Capitol Day hosted by the Michigan Optometric Association in Lansing. Students who participated had the opportunity meet with their senators. If you’re wondering about what you might talk about, one easy topic of conversation is the scope of practice. Current thirdyear and AOSA member James Carpenter recalls his experience, stating “I really enjoyed going in and talking with our legislators. It’s the kind of experience that really opens your eyes to the importance of having a professional organization to help keep politicians informed on our issues.” 

 

Keep yourself up to date on current optometric events. This might sound like a no-brainer, but you may need to take a couple steps to make this task a little easier for yourself. A good place to start is subscribing to email updates and following social media accounts of professional organizations like the AOA, state affiliates, local affiliates or reputable pages like OptometryStudents.com. And you don’t have to limit your sources to just your home state! Learning about the scope of optometry in other states can help give you a better sense of where the profession stands on a national level. 

 

Promote the profession. You don’t have to be on the floor of Congress to call yourself an advocate! Educating patients on the importance of eye exams with their doctors of optometry is an important form of advocacy that we can easily do on a regular basis.  

 

Advocacy is so important to our profession, and hopefully these tips help inspire you to call yourself an advocate as well. 

 

 

Student Success & Residency

A TIMELINE TO BOARDS

“This is the most important test you’ll take in your career.” These words that have been spoken to me time and again always bring a sense of anxiety and stress. However, it’s always been a “future Meredith” problem to address, and I was fine letting her deal with that burden. The semesters have quickly sped by and now as a freshly minted third-year optometry student, I’m tasked with boards Part I, II, and III preparation. I initially had no idea where to begin, and since I have not taken or prepared for boards yet, I have sought the guidance of many current 4th fourth-years and recent graduates to summarize a timeline approach for boards preparation. Students should initially visit the NBEO website to learn what is expected on Part I, II, and III of boards. Specific registration dates will also be provided via the NBEO website.  

 

 

Student Success & Residency

WAS MY RESIDENCY REALLY WORTH IT?

Deciding whether to do a residency came down to one burning question: Would I regret not doing one? I exhausted every resource, talked to every person I could and even asked my mom what I should do. At the end of the day, I knew that I would regret a decision not to pursue a residency … so I finalized my rankings and hit submit. I have not regretted that decision for one second. My residency has given me my current job in a practice setting in which I love; and I’m indebted to my residency experience for that. 

For whatever reason, the applicant pool of potential residents has decreased year after year, and I don’t understand why. Optometry is becoming a more medical profession and the residency experience puts you in the throes of said contemporary model. We as doctors of optometry are not simply refractionists, we are medical providers and I wanted to be the most prepared medical provider I could be. What I learned over the course of one year is leaps and bounds more than I would have learned over the course of my first few years in practice straight from optometry school. As they say, “residency is five years of experience in one.” I believe that. Without my experience as a resident, I don’t think I would be nearly as prepared as I am to see patients on a day to day basis. 

Yes, you can certainly graduate optometry school and go directly into practice. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I was told during one of my residency interviews that doing a residency can only open more doors for you. Certain jobs you seek after graduation (i.e., some optometry schools, VAs, or even OD/MD practices) place a preference on residency trained doctors. When the time came, I didn’t want me not doing a residency to determine whether I got the job I wanted. I wanted to leave no stone unturned and pursuing the extra year of training has allowed me to be where I am today. I am confident that my decision to pursue a residency has made me a better doctor, and that’s all I can be grateful for. 

If you’re interested, I can give you some quick guidelines and important dates. First, start asking for letters of recommendation now from your professors and your attendings. If you’re on rotations or even if you haven’t started yet, think of who would be an asset in writing a letter of recommendation for you. Start putting together your CV if you haven’t already and have more than one person proofread it. On Oct. 7, 2020, the ORMatch opens and you can register for the service and eventually submit residency rankings. There’s a fee of $350 to register ; it’s not a small amount by any means, but if you’re on the fence I would at least try your best to at least register and keep the option open because the recommended deadline to register is Dec. 31, 2020. Then on March 19, 2021, you have to submit your final rankings and about 10 days after, your match results are emailed to you. If you go to natmatch.com/ormatch/schedule.html you can find a more specific list of dates so you can ensure you’re on time for everything. 

Lastly, I think the most important thing you can do is talk to people. Talk to professors and students in classes above you who did and did not do a residency to find out why. See what each individual says so that when the time comes, you are making a decision with as many resources exhausted. You can view the ASCO Residency Directory and reach out to programs to inquire about what they offer and even get in contact with current and past residents for their input. If you’re zeroing in on a list of places to pursue a residency, ask as many people who trained there as residents what they did and did not like about their program. Ask about the extra work involved, as most programs require publishable papers and some formal presentations. Get a firm grasp on each site as you narrow down and solidify your rankings. And most importantly, do not rank a site you wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled to go to. The scramble isn’t a death sentence if you don’t match plenty of my colleagues ended up in the scramble and loved where they ended up. At the end of the day, things work out how they are supposed to! 

To end, I don’t know if anyone has ever done a residency and regretted it. All I can speak of is my own experience, and I truly feel that choosing to pursue a residency has prepared me for the “real world.” Honestly, who could regret that? Not me.  

Pictured: Co-residents Brittney Schieber, OD and Hyder J. Almosawy, OD at the Providence VA Medical Center
Student Experience

First Year Experience

There are many words I could use to describe my experience as a first-year optometry student. None of them seem to do my time at Midwestern University justice.

Coming from my undergraduate studies at Northern Arizona University, I felt an immense shift in the atmosphere when I transitioned to optometry school. Instead of the classes I had at Northern Arizona University, which sometimes had upward of 100 students or more, at my optometry school all my classes had the exact same 56 students. My optometry class of 2023 consists of 56 students, whom I spend every school hour with. This amount of interaction allows us to be as close as family. It starts off as vague familiarity and creeps up on you until suddenly you know everything going on in their life and find yourself video calling their family.

The class size and classmates were not the only transition worth noting. There were also the studies that were a sizable difference from undergraduate schooling. Starting off fresh from my undergraduate major in biomedical science, I thought that having a large science background could help me achieve a better foundation for my classes at Midwestern University. During orientation I found out that many of my classmates came from very different backgrounds. Many had kids and some were much older than I am. It was interesting to hear how long some people had been out of schooling and some, like me, who only had a summer off. Talking to my classmates at the very beginning made me feel uneasy about their solid amount of experience and knowledge in the optometry field. Because many of my classmates had been technicians or opticians, I suddenly felt as if I were out of my league coming into optometry school knowing next to nothing. I felt immensely underprepared and was afraid that I wouldn’t be up to par with my classmates. Even listening to our first lecture, I was having trouble trying to puzzle out what the cornea was. Luckily the faculty at Midwestern University is exceptional and can provide an amazing educational atmosphere. Many of the doctors at Midwestern are younger and make their teachings more relatable.

It was so nice to be around people who take this seriously and want to help people.

Immediately after school started, I was finally feeling like I was on the path to becoming an optometrist. The first time I felt like I was going to become a doctor was in my methods class. Practicing on each other and performing eye health tests was the first time I could envision myself doing this in the future. It was so nice to be around people who take this seriously and want to help people. I am so thankful I was able to experience my first year of optometry school, and I can’t wait to see what else will come.