Optometry Externship In Bush, Alaska

After three crazy years of trying to balance classes, clinic, labs, and life, everyone in my class at Southern College of Optometry (SCO) was looking forward to our fourth-year clinical rotations. At SCO, we select two sites one institutional and one private in addition to our in-house rotation. In the summer of my second year, I was introduced to an institutional site in Bethel, Alaska: the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC). This site is an Indian Health Service located in the heart of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the southwest Alaskan tundra. After researching all night when I should have been studying for pathology or pharmacology, I began counting down the days until I could begin my journey in the Last Frontier.  

When SCO closed secondary to the pandemic, my first thought was: Would this carry over into the summer? Fortunately, I was still able to fly north to work at the hospital, and I am extremely thankful both SCO and YKHC Optometry granted me this incredible opportunity.

Helping at-risk populations and those in need of eye care has always been a burning passion of mine, and this past summer in Bush, Alaska, re-fueled that love. 

 So, what is optometry like in an area surrounded by water that is only accessible by plane, boat, or snow machine in the winter? I was wondering the same thing about four months ago. 

The YKHC provides comprehensive care— medical, dental, optometric, auditory, and more—to the village of Bethel as well as the 58 surrounding villages in the Delta. The region is about the size of Oregon and contains over 23,000 people. There are five sub-regional clinics in the area, and each village has its own clinic that houses traveling workers, such as nurses, dentists, and optometrists. The YKHC opened a brand-new hospital last year, including an eye clinic with an in-house optical, a technology room with a fundus camera, OCT, visual field, an anterior segment camera, and over 10 exam lanes for patient care. 

In the summer, optometry does not travel out to villages as frequently because most people are fishing or at fish camp smoking and preparing their fish. Due to this, more patients travel to the YKHC to receive eye care. Usually, there are a plethora of flights bringing people into Bethel, but flights were very limited this summer as a result of the pandemic. Most of our patients took a boat from their villages, some traveling several hours both ways to receive care. To offset this, YKHC Optometry traveled to eleven villages between May and August; I was fortunate enough to partake in two of these village trips. 

For my first trip, we traveled via plane to Akiak, and on my second trip, we took my preceptor’s family’s boat upriver to Kwethluk. The populations of these villages were just under 400 and about 750 people, respectively. Our housing was located at the back of each clinic as there was a room with bunk beds and a kitchen, as well as a private bathroom with a shower. Both trips were similar in that it was me with one other extern and one staff doctor providing care to as many people as we could in one week. Case history, chair skills, and ocular health examination took place in a nurse’s exam room, and we performed refraction in the dental room. Between the two clinics, we saw a total of 136 people. Most of the patients were either young children or elderly people who were either unable or uncomfortable to travel to Bethel due to the circumstances. There were a few patients we had to refer to Bethel for specialty testing or emergency follow up care at the hospital.  

To protect ourselves and our patients, all of us providers had to be tested for COVID-19 before traveling to the villages. In the clinic, masks were required at all times, and if a patient did not have one, face shields were provided. Tonopen was performed to check IOPs, and between patients, we completely sanitized our rooms, including chairs, equipment, and anything the patient had contact with during the exam. Patients were scheduled in 15minute increments to cut down on the number of people in the waiting room at a time. When choosing glasses, there were only a few options, and each frame was disinfected afterward. Additionally, a janitor cleaned the entire facility twice a day, including our housing quarters in the back of the clinics. 

 My experiences this summer in Bethel, Akiak, and Kwethluk were unforgettable, despite the impact from the pandemic. I could not have asked for a better rotation as my preceptors, fellow externs, and patients all greatly contributed to my growth as a fourth-year clinician. Alaska has a special place in my heart that I will cherish as I wrap up my optometric education and begin my dream career. 


Autumn Killop (SCO) with Danielle Dyke AZCOPT(left), and Dr. Krystle Peñaflor (right)

 

 

Why Advocacy?

Advocacy: not exactly the first word that came into our minds when we decided to become doctors of optometry. Most of us decided on optometry because we wanted to help people, not argue with them. Yet, why are we constantly talking about advocacy, and why is it that we must advocate so much, when it feels like our colleagues in other health professions do not have to? Well, the truth is, they do. It is easy to look out at the world and think that our own circumstances are unique, and in some ways they are. However, when it comes to advocacy, every profession must advocate for themselves in some way. Some health professions must advocate that they are the specific medical specialty that should be doing a procedure within their own communities. Others, such as optometry, must advocate to help create/change laws that more accurately reflect our capabilities as doctors. This is why we advocatebecause at the end of the day, no one knows what a doctor of optometry can do better than a doctor of optometry 

Then why is it that so many of us feel such distain for the word? Well, I think that one of the main reasons is that a lot of people have a distaste for politics in general, and a word like advocacy makes most of us think of politics. That is not all that being an advocate means though. The Oxford English Dictionary defines advocacy as, public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”  Advocating for our profession means that we show it our support, but that does not necessarily mean you have to be involved in the political world. While yes, it would be amazing if everyone had the desire to go out and lobby for our profession, that is just not in some people’s comfort zone/skill sets and that is fine! Being an advocate for optometry can manifest in other ways. Staying up to date on the current issues facing our profession, voting for people who support our cause, or even just discussing some of the issues we face with your friends and family can all have positive impacts for our profession.  

However, if you are on the fence about becoming even more involved with advocacy, let me assure you that there are many opportunities out there for you! The AOSA and AOA do an outstanding job with educating and providing us with opportunities to present our profession to people in a positive light.For example, in September I was a part of the Virtual AOA on Capitol Hill event where we as students got to meet with politicians and staffers to discuss some of our concerns within the field. At first, I was nervous and thought that I would screw up or say something wrong, but the AOSA did a remarkable job briefing us and providing us the information that we needed to competently speak to these representatives. Another really interesting takeaway I got out of this event was just seeing how much politicians and people in general value and respect our opinions as future doctors of optometry. I know it is hard to believe when most of us are so young, but we worked very hard to get where we are, and people know and respect that.

I hope that if you can take anything away from this, it is that every one of us is important to the future of optometry, and if we want it to continue to be the best it can be, we all have to be good advocates and show people what we’re capable of.  

 

Optometry: Opening The Door To Disease Prevention

It is well known that chronic disease is a driving force for doctor visits today and comprises a large component of health care expenses. However, it has been found that a strong link exists between preventing chronic illness and proper education on smoking cessation, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and nutrition.

Overall wellness involves not just the physical aspects of one’s health, but the mental and social as well.The concept of an integrated health care team is becoming even more essential in the management of patient care.  

As optometrists-in-training, we have the knowledge to educate and guide our patients towards the right information and resources needed to achieve optimum wellness. Optometry in particular is especially unique in that the doctor-patient relationship created from examining the eyes sets up an opportunity to offer preventative health advice. Patient education on nutrition is just one important component in the multimodal approach to the management and prevention of chronic health problems. However, what healthful information we tell our patients is just as important as how we present it to them. In this article, we’ll talk about why optometrists are in a critical position to influence disease prevention, how to open up conversation about health to our patients, and what pieces of nutritional advice we can provide during patient education.  

In optometry school, we are taught to gather information along every step of the comprehensive exam: beginning with the key elements of a thorough patient history and ending with a complete vascular and neurologic assessment of the back of the eye. We get to know our patients’ personalities and lifestyles by asking targeted questions and using careful listening to deeply understand the entirety of their complaint and condition. By the end of the exam, we have a wholistic picture of our patients’ mental and physical wellbeing. This unique perspective places optometrists in a critical position to be able to impact the health of our patients. However, the manner in which we communicate with our patients is a crucial step in initiating change in their lives.  

Patients with chronic health conditions may feel overwhelmed and rarely motivated to act when given a laundry list of health checks they must meet.

Adopting a patient-centered approach by showing empathy, carrying open, non-judgmental conversation, and seeing the patient’s perspective is important in order to leave them feeling empowered to change.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques have been found to be an effective mode of communicating to increase intrinsic motivation, particularly in diabetics. Below is a list of example questions, some of which have been adopted by the MI technique, that can be used to spark open conversation about health and establish rapport during patient education, a concept shown to leave patients feeling more confident about taking charge of their health.  

  • “With your permission, I’d like to propose a plan…” or “If you don’t mind, may I share a bit of information with you…”1  
  • Replace “I think…” or “You should…” with “Perhaps you could start with…” or “One option you may consider…”1 
  • “Tell me what you prepare for breakfast in the morning…” 
  • Patients in the past have found that…”1 

With the immense amount of health literature that we have access to today, it can be difficult to narrow down the most important take-home message regarding nutrition and health. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants play a critical role at the micronutrient level at impacting our metabolism, microbiome, and cognitive function as well as preventing eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. While patients may have a generalized understanding that proper nutrition can affect their physical health and weight, not many are aware of the nutrients essential to eye health. Patients often respond the best when given a single piece of advice, and are surprised to hear that such small changes can make a large difference in their overall health.  Included below is a list of important elements in nutrition and eye health to steer patients towards healthier habits. 

  • Lutein & zeaxanthin. Xanthophylls are one of the two categories of carotenoids, antioxidants that play a role in protecting the health of the macula, ocular surface disease, cognitive function, and skin health. Add 1 cup steamed or 2 cups raw spinach to your meal each day. This could be in the form of a smoothie, a salad, or sautéed into your dinner. Sidekicks are kale, collard greens, swiss chard, arugula, and bok choy.2  
  • Carotenes. The second of two categories of carotenoids. Color your plate with red and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, peas, and broccoli.2  
  • Vitamin C is a water soluble, potent antioxidant that plays a role in immune function and wound healing, among others. The most abundant natural sources include guavas, kiwis, and bell peppers, though a dissolvable supplement in a glass of water may be necessary in order to reach adequate levels.  
  • Vitamin D is a prohormone that has a supportive role against autoimmune disease, fractures and falls, depression, heart disease, influenza, and type 2 diabetes.2 For fair skinned individuals, spending a few minutes outside without sunscreen, or for darker pigmented skin, up to 15 minutes, would be enough.  
  • Healthy fats, specifically polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, ALA), have been found to support ocular surface disease, fight inflammation, improve cognitive function, and contribute to hormone production. One handful of walnuts, five times per week, or incorporating wild salmon, Alaskan halibut, or canned, chunk, light tuna (1,000-2,000mg/day) is recommended.2  
  • Absorption of vitamins with healthy fats. In order for proper absorption of vitamins, supplements or foods should be taken with or cooked in healthy fats including avocado, nut butters, and olive oil.  

While these are just a few aspects of health that we encounter during patient care, the optometric exam opens the door to caring for so many other areas of overall wellbeing. As largely a medical profession, we can positively impact our patients’ lives beyond their eyesight and significantly contribute to disease prevention in our community today.  

  1. Welch, G., Rose, G., et al. (2006). Diabetes Spectrum. Motivational Interviewing and Diabetes: What Is It, How Is It Used, and Does It Work? 19(1). 6-8. 
  2. Richer, S., Poteet, J., Summerton, S, et al. (2018). Review of Optometry. Wellness Essential for Clinical Practice. 1(1), 6-17.   

A Survey Of Study Methods: What Works?

Tis the season for studying here at the University of Houston College of Optometry. The third years are busy with boards, the second years are tackling pharm, and the first years are just now realizing what they have gotten themselves into.  

 As a third year myself, it has been a time of reflection; as I began studying for boards, I realized that there was a lot of information that I had “learned” in my classes, but never retained. Then the big realization hit: I had been cramming for tests my entire academic career. 

 So, as a reasonable person in a state of reflection, I mass-emailed the entire student body of first, second, and third years asking for some advice on studying. It was disguised as a survey of study methods, saying it was for an article I was writing, but the real reason for sending out the survey may have been two-fold.  

Everyone, of course, is different when it comes to learning styles. It’s best to know yourself and your own preferences. Unfortunately, I had no time for that. What I needed was DATA and I needed it quickly.  

Here are the findings (n=151 unless otherwise stated): First, I should say that the classes were almost equally represented. If you really want to extrapolate, it means that I have only a slight skepticism for the current first years.  

People overwhelmingly thought that the best study method was writing and re-reading notes.

 

Many people are happy with their methods for studying, but a good amount are not. Interestingly, the OPT IIIs were proportionally the least likely to be happy with how they study. 

Most people had to change their style of studying for optometry school. 

Finally, I asked for some thoughts if anyone was willing to share. Zebin Dholasaniya, a second year, gave some practical advice by saying that tables allow him to visualize relationships between related or opposing concepts and that color-coding material surprisingly makes recollection of material easier. Some other interesting study methods people reported included teaching others the material, walking around while talking through the material, and spaced recall. 

Brandon Le, another second year said that “[everyone] has different methods. Not one thing works for everyone. It’s important to realize that especially when giving advice; you don’t want to project your own experience onto someone else as gospel. What works for me might not work for others; everyone learns differently and it’s ultimately up to that individual to figure out what works best for her or him.  

 As much as I hate to take someone’s advice about giving advice, I had to agree with him. There’s only so much that data can do, but if anything, it’s a place to start. From this I have started to incorporate more study methods to see what works for me. This was also a good reminder that as challenging as school can be, reaching out to classmates who are going through the same struggles can help.  

 

 

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 

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.

 

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. 

 

 

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.  

 

 

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