Advice Column

Strength in Numbers

Advice going through optometry is tough, mainly because each year has its own mountains to climb and goals to achieve. As you enter optometry school you have completed undergrad, which was a time commitment within itself. By using your study skills and time management skills you obtained in undergrad, you can build on those when you get to optometry school. For myself, I did not build the best study skills in undergrad and this put me at a disadvantage.  

When you begin your classes, my school did a good job of easing the students into a dense schedule. We started with classes that most people have taken during undergrad, with a couple other classes sprinkled in that relate to the field of optometry. Although this schedule is less strenuous then the future schedules (2nd and 3rd year specifically), it still requires the proper time commitment in order to succeed. Now, because I did not build the best time management skills during my days in undergrad, I would encourage all students to use this first semester to create the foundation for these skills. To be more specific, take out a part of your day after class to sit down and go back over what you were taught that day. I do not necessarily mean to “study” the material, but use this to better organize your thoughts about the subject. Optometry school will consist of many more classes per day compared to your previous college experience. So, with this heavy course load my brain felt congested with all the material thrown at me during a normal day. By using an hour or two to go back over the day’s work, it will create that foundation that help you succeed in the future.  

As the end of my 3rd year is approaching, I have been able to look back on my experience here at the Kentucky College of Optometry. I have made amazing friends and colleagues of the profession. Having these people by my side, as I have put in countless hours of studying and sacrifices, has been my saving grace. Although, your family and friends outside of school will always be there for you, only the people going through these four years can truly relate. Surrounding yourself with people that will push you to be better and pick you up when you are down is one of the greatest things I found here at KYCO. Without them, I do not believe I could have been as successful here at school. The quote, “strength is in numbers” rings so true when it comes to optometry school. Although your success is based on your own decisions, surrounding yourself with friends and colleagues that make you a better student will have a the most positive impact on your success. 

My last piece of advice is something that I have seen being in clinic with many other classmates of mine. Although all of the classes we take here at KYCO are important, our main goal is to be the best clinicians possible. Your school will give you every opportunity to help you become this successful clinician. I would encourage all students to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the school. It is the student’s own decisions and dedication to the program that will make them a better clinician. No matter what school you decide to go to, the decisions and commitment you make to that program will determine how good of a clinician you will become. I am trying to take my own advice and get as much out of the next year and half I have left here at the Kentucky College of Optometry. Soon, I will be in the real world helping many patients get exquisite eye care.  

Advice Column

Lessons My Patients Have Taught Me 

As optometry students, we look up to our attendings with their many years of experience and wealth of knowledge. They’ve taught us to make educated predictions about what might be causing a patient’s visual complaint just by listening to their chief complaint. We’ve learned what tests to order and what medications to prescribe for various conditions. We’re constantly being shown tips to be efficient and taught how to be smart with what tests should be performed. While all the lessons our attendings and professors have taught us have been invaluable, sometimes the greatest lessons can come from our patients. 

Lesson 1:  

A 30yearold female came into our binocular vision clinic and reported symptoms that I had only heard about in textbooks but never expected to encounter. She reported words moving on the page when she read, grocery aisles towering above her as she shopped and legs that seemed to lag behind her as she walked. As the exam continued, she seemed worried that she was the only patient with such unique symptoms. I could sense that she needed reassurance and told her that while her symptoms were extraordinary, she was not alone and that we believed her. She was immediately relieved to know that we believed that what she was experiencing was real and that there are others who also have out-of-the-box symptoms.  

From this experience I learned that while listening to our patients is incredibly important, it is just as important to make sure that our patients know that they are being heard and to provide reassurance to their insecurities 

Lesson 2:  

When I was working in our eyewear clinic, an older lady walked in looking to buy a new pair of glasses. We had a great time trying on frames that matched her blue eyes and that best suited her face shape. During the process we shared stories about new hobbies that we picked up during quarantine, and I had made a joke about how I randomly decided to bleach my own hair because no one was going to see. We laughed about it until she suddenly started tearing up. She apologized and soon opened up to me that I was the first person in a long time that she’s had a conversation with as she had been quarantining alone in her home for so long. 

Because we interact with so many patients each day, sometimes we forget that we may be the only interaction that our patients have had in a long time, especially during this pandemic. This encounter was a good reminder to slow down, be personable and remember how important it is to connect as human beings beyond just small talk 

Lesson 3:  

During my primary care rotation, I decided to chart review and saw that I had a patient with corneal neuropathy. In her chart, it seemed like her chief complaint was extreme dry eye and that she also was being seen by our school’s dry eye clinic. I saw that she had spent thousands of dollars for various treatments such as multiple treatments of Lipiflow, autologous serum, various steroids, scleral lenses, punctual plugs and more. I immediately thought to myself that if she were already being seen at a dry eye clinic and other specialists that surely I, just an optometry student, couldn’t possibly help her relieve her dry eye complaints. But as I reviewed the list of treatments that she has undergone, I noticed that there was no mention of an amniotic membrane, which was a treatment plan I had just learned about a week prior. So during my exam, I presented the idea and she was surprised to hear about it, assuming she had already tried everything. Due to insurance purposes, we thought it would be best to get the amniotic membrane done with her specialist, but she was appreciative of the suggestion. So while I may never know if that amniotic membrane actually helped her dry eye complaints, I learned that just because you’re not an expert or specialist, it doesn’t hurt to try to be creative and suggest other solutions for your patients.  

Lesson 4:  

I had an older gentleman come in who had been battling colon cancer for four years and other various medical conditions. Given everything he had gone through, he still had such a positive outlook and shared his passion for cooking and Scrabble. While I was doing RET, he explained how his favorite dish was steak despite the high cholesterol intake. Continuing on with the exam, my attending and I unfortunately found signs of ARMD. My heart sunk because I knew he was battling so many other health conditions and I didn’t feel it was fair that he would be getting more bad news. When we explained our findings, he became a bit more silent. Once the exam was over, I walked him over to get checked out and he began to chuckle while mentioning, “I think I deserve a steak today! If I’ve learned anything in my life, a good steak always solves the problem! And I’ll be sure to add some leafy greens as a side.”  

It’s often so easy to focus on bad news and get bogged down with life, such as the stress of studying for boards or worrying about grades. My patient’s positive outlook on life and genuine appreciation for all the small things that life has to offer reminded me to not completely lose myself in my studies and to make time for the activities that make me happy.  It also reminded me to appreciate how far I’ve come and how fortunate I am to have my health and this unique opportunity to pursue a career that makes me happy and fulfilled.  

 

Advice Column

The Life-Changing Magic of Staying Organized: The Optometry School Edition 

Do you struggle to stay organized? Maybe it was never your thing and it’s not important to you. But we all know that we can’t navigate through optometry school like we did during undergrad. Staying organized will make it much easier to get through all your classes and exams and stay on top of your assignments. If you want to try organization, welcome to the life-changing magic of staying organized: the optometry school edition. Here are my tips on how I stay organized through optometry school to manage my time and maximize it between studying, being involved with extracurriculars and keeping my grades up.   

 

Go through your syllabi 

Let’s face it, not many people like to go through the syllabus that our professors give to us at the start of each semester or quarter. But think of your syllabi as the Bible to your success in school. It will tell you the course policies, the topics covered in class, the breakdown of points for your course grade, etc. At the start of every quarter, I go through the syllabus for every class and write down what each course expectation is and what the point or percentage breakdown is for the course grade on a single page. Doing this allows me to easily go back to the one page and refer to what each exam or assignment is worth for which class. 

 

Your planner is your best friend 

I carry my planner around with me everywhere I go. I make sure to go through my block schedule and write down every exam and proficiency for the quarter. Then, as I find out about quizzes and assignments throughout the quarter, I will add them to my planner. My preference is to have monthly pages as well as weekly pages with the days of the week. The monthly pages allow me to look at what is coming up for the month and the weekly pages allow me focus on my tasks each week. I also like to color code on the monthly pages. I highlight exams and quizzes in one color, and assignments with another. 

 

Find out what kind of learner you are 

Finding out your learning style will help you maximize your studying and keep your mind organized with the various courses you need to stay on top of. Knowing your learning style will also help you be more of an active learner. If you’re not sure what your learning style is, there are some helpful tools and quizzes online that may help! 

 

Use a study calendar 

Study calendars are a great way to keep track of your studying and keeping up with your classes. From attending classes, labs and clinic to finishing assignments, it can be hard to find time to solely dedicate to studying. A study calendar will be a good reminder and a useful tool to set aside some time each day to study and review the material. There are a lot of free study calendar templates available for use on your tablet/computer or as a printout! 

 

Make to-do lists! 

To-do lists are my favorite, there’s just something so gratifying about checking things off. 

I like to plan out my week using the weekly section in my planner and making daily to-do lists. I try to make it as realistic as possible, and even though I may not be able to check everything off each day, it gives me a good idea of where I want to be by the end of each week. 

 

Create good notetaking and study habits 

The most important thing about notetaking is being able to go back to your notes and understand them. Find out what works for you, whether it’s writing your notes by hand or typing them. Creating good study habits also is  going to be useful in keeping yourself organized. Beginning with some realistic and concrete steps is a great start! Are you most productive during the day or at night? If you know you can focus better at night, plan your studying for the evening. The quicker you make good notetaking and studying into a habit, the more organized you will be in managing your time in the long run.  

 

Keep your notes in one place
I have found this to be one of the most useful tips during optometry school so far. Having my notes in one place allows me to know where all of my notes are at all times. I usually have my current quarter’s notes in my tablet and once I am done with a quarter, I transfer all my notes to an external hard drive where I organize my notes into folders by year, quarter and course. That way, I will always know where I can find my notes and turn to them when I begin studying for boards. 

 

Designate a spot for all your things
Whether it’s your notes, your optometry equipment, your backpack, or even your glasses, create a space for all your belongings and designate the spot as its home. Once you’re done using it, make sure to remember to put it back in its spot every time. You will be able to find whatever you need at all times and keep yourself prepared for any situation.  

 

Hopefully you’ll try at least one of these tips and find it to be useful! Optometry school is tough and a lot of work. I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves falling behind at some point. It’s completely understandable to feel overwhelmed with studying, doing homework and practicing skills, all while trying to maintain a social life during this pandemic. I hope you’ll find staying organized to be helpful and somewhat stress-relieving. Don’t forget to keep your mental health in check and know your resources on where you can turn  if you ever need help. Lastly, know that you’re not alone! Good luck, and happy studying (and organizing)! J 

Advice Column

Take That Break

Two things that I have told myself these past few months: You cannot have cereal for dinner again tonight, and you don’t need to feel guilty for doing an activity that doesn’t involve studying.

Let me explain.

I love cereal and I truly believe that you can eat it any time of the day, but when I am on my second box of cereal in one week because I have been eating cereal three times a day, I know that something must change. Sometimes as students we get so lost in all the studying, exams and due dates that we often don’t leave enough time at the end of the day to make dinner. Since in quarantine, we are at home for multiple days at a time and I think that now is the best time to discover your love for cooking. I used to hate cooking. But being in quarantine has made me realize that I didn’t hate it, I hated doing anything that took time away from studying for an upcoming test. There are so many quick, easy and, most importantly, inexpensive meals that you can make for yourself.

It took me quite some time to realize that I was forgetting that our brain needs fuel. I mean how many times do I need to learn about ATP and the mitochondria. I find that if I take a few minutes and really think about what I want to eat for the next two weeks for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, and make a grocery list that is specific for those meals, I am more inclined to eat full meals throughout the next two weeks. Meal prepping is a great way to ensure that you are fueling your body correctly, and it reduces the amount of time that you spend in the kitchen cooking dinner.

Secondly, I know that grad school was not the best time to start a YouTube channel, as if the coursework isn’t enough. But I started a Youtube channel! I recently came to the realization (this was the year of a lot of realizations for me) that I wanted to do something else in my day other than study for tests and practice for practicals. As I said earlier, I used to feel guilty for taking time away from studying to do anything other than prepare for my exams. Showers were short, TV was timed and naps were nonexistent. I didn’t feel like I did enough until it was 11 p.m. and I was incredibly tired. But I decided that this is not what I wanted for myself.

I think it is important to tap into the other side of what makes you you! You are hard-working and driven, but you might also be creative and talented. Taking the time scratch thatmaking the time to discover what activities you enjoy can fill your study breaks. It’s important to understand that IT IS OKAY TO TAKE BREAKS! You need to take regular breaks from studying. I like to use the Pomodoro Technique to keep me focused, especially on days when I feel like my attention span is really short and I have a lot to do.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great tool to increase your productivity. Basically, you study for a certain amount of time and then you take a quick break and after a few hours you take a longer break. The method that I like to use is the 50-10 method. I would study for 50 minutes and take a 10minute break, and after 2 hours I would take a 30minute break. You could also do the 25-5 method, or any other time frame you want. This technique works even better if you make a small goal for yourself to achieve by the end of the study session. How many lectures do you want to finish? How many chapters do you want to read? What topic do you want to fully understand? It’s important that you get everything that you need to start your study session (laptop charger, water, headphones, etc.) and you leave your phone a fair distance away from you or on donotdisturb mode. You must stay focused for this technique to work.

If you increase your productivity, you could spend less time in your day studying. With those extra few hours, you can work on that passion project, plan out your meals and make a grocery list for your next grocery run. Yes, you are a student, but that is not all you are. There is so much more to you. Take a minute to discover all the other talents! 

Advice Column

Staying Motivated in Zoom University: Optometry School Edition 

Zoom University was not what I had in mind when I signed up for optometry school. The first quarter of remote learning started out rough, mostly because I had to reacquaint myself with studying after a long, gapyear break. As the weeks rolled on, I digested and learned to cope with the new normal and new learning system. Like many students, there were times when I lost motivation and had to search for ways to push on. Nevertheless, I survived the first quarter and continued to improve myself as I built on the lessons I learned. Today, I’d like to share some of my tips for staying motivated during Zoom universityoptometry school edition!

  1. Zoom call with your favorite study buddy/buddies!

I usually prefer studying alone and never really considered group studying. However, with the pandemic, it can be tiring and draining to study at home all day by yourself. In the middle of fall quarter, I found a great study buddy to Zoom call with. At SCCO, we have exams weekly, and my study buddy and I Zoom called every week to review materials for the upcoming exam. Our favorite studying method is to take turns quizzing each other. This really tests your knowledge and the other person can expand on the concept, if needed.  

Zoom calls also work for home labs! It’s always nice to go through a lab with someone, especially for optics as the subject isn’t always easy to understand. 

2. Missing the coffee shop vibes? Set up your own!

In a non-pandemic situation, I’d be sitting down at my local coffee shop, sipping on my hot caramel latte, and catching up on anatomy lectures. I definitely miss the café vibes, so I knew I had to create my own at home. 

(1)    On your laptop, search “coffee shop lofi” on Youtube for the music, and Google an image of “coffee shop background” to display as your monitor screen (this works even better with a big monitor!). I usually do this the night before so it’s ready for me the next morning. 

(2)    The next morning, make yourself some nice coffee and a good breakfast of your choice. Relax and immerse yourself into the atmosphere five minutes before starting any lectures. 

(3)    Got a candle? Light it up and use it to enhance the atmosphere! 

Definitely give this idea a try! It might seem a little extra, but it really does work! 

3. Stay organized!

With remote learning, it is so important to stay on top of your game! 

It took me half a quarter to figure out what method worked best to help me stay organized. In undergrad, I enjoyed writing down all my daily tasks on a sticky note every day, but I realized it wasn’t working for me during optometry school. Therefore, I understand that my method may not work well for everyone and would encourage you to experiment with different ways to find the one that works best for you. 

I also use Google calendar to track all my courses, exam dates, and club meetings. I use a Google Excel sheet to plan out my tasks for the week. Each column is marked with a day of the week and I would fill in tasks for that day. I like to underestimate my goals for the day, so I do not have to stress if I do not meet all the goals by the end of the day. Other apps you may consider for productivity: Notion, Google Keep, Forest. 

4. It’s okay to take weekend breaks! 

Yes, optometry school is busy work, but remember that your mental and physical health is much more important! In the beginning of the year, I was refusing to take weekend breaks because I felt that a Saturday would be wasted. However, a friend told me to look at it in a positive light. Take a Saturday off to enjoy yourself so that tomorrow, you will be reenergized to study again. 

I think it is important to remember that we are students, and we deserve breaks! If your heart is calling you to take a break, listen to that calling and go for it! As grad students, even though we hold ourselves to a high standard, we also need to accept that taking breaks won’t cause us to slip up or fail. 

I usually enjoy my Saturday off by exploring new boba places and getting take-out dinner. Sometimes, I would indulge into my favorite hobby, designing and making stickers! I’ve also seen classmates catching up on Netflix, baking their favorite chocolate chip cookies, or even going off somewhere nice for a weekend getaway! 

 I hope these suggestions are helpful, and maybe you’ll even give them a try! Feel free to connect with me on Instagram @blink.ling and let me know what you think, or if you have other suggestions for me! Good luck with your journey! 

Advice Column

School and Life; A Balancing Act

Optometry school is basically a full-time job. There are lectures to listen to, labs to attend, notes to take, skills to practice, assignments to complete, exams to study for and patients to see. Sometimes it feels like there’s no time for anything else. However, the most important thing you can do during optometry school in order to keep up with the intense demand of the program is to always take care of yourself. 

That’s really the key to balancing school and life: making time for yourself. That time can be spent any way that’s beneficial for you. Whether it’s working out, taking a nap, spending time with loved ones, playing an instrument or even just watching a Netflix show, it’s important to take time away from your schoolwork to decompress and focus on your own mental and physical wellbeing. This is especially important during those extra stressful weeks in the semester where you have your midterm exams, proficiencies or finals. 

Another vital part of optometry school survival is to have a great group of friends. It’s not a program that you can get through alone. Having a solid group of friends who understand what you’re going through and who can be there to study with you, share notes with you, and most importantly, to support you through all of it, is extremely important. I know that I wouldn’t currently be in the middle of my second year if it weren’t for the help and support of the wonderful friends I’ve made here. 

Finally, it’s important to not be too hard on yourself if you feel like you haven’t accomplished enough, or if you have a bad day. There are plenty of times during each semester where I’ll make a to-do list of things related to school that I want to and plan on getting done. Then, by the end of the day, I’ve only gotten through half of that list. Sometimes I feel really disappointed, but I have to remind myself that there will ALWAYS be work that needs to get done, and I’m only one person. Or there are times where I take an exam and it didn’t go as well as I had thought or hoped. This can be really discouraging when it happens, but it’s important to remember that as long as you did your best and tried your hardest, that’s really what matters most. I also try to use these experiences as opportunities to improve myself. If I didn’t do well on an exam, I use that as motivation to study harder for that class so I can make sure to do better on the next one. 

 When you’re in optometry school, I promise these same things will happen to you. Don’t be too hard on yourself and always give yourself some credit for completing even one task on that list, or for just passing that really difficult exam. 

Optometry school is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment and time. But it’s also a lot of fun and as long as you’re passionate about the profession, you will really enjoy it. Always stay focused on your goals and work hard to achieve them, but also make sure to take time away from school to relax and focus on yourself. Succeeding in optometry school really does take a village, so surround yourself with good friends and never be afraid to reach out to them, your family or your professors for help. 

Advice Column / Health & Wellness

Make Mental Health A Priority

COVID, elections, zoom, family, friends, sanity. The list goes on and on. It can be difficult to step out of your own bubble to realize everyone around you is going through their own version of the same thing. We worry about our loved ones’ health and safety; we worry about the state of our nation; we worry about keeping up with countless online platforms just to stay on track with school, and all while maintaining our personal and romantic relationships.  

 

It can become very easy to feel desensitized by all the negativity we are bombarded with on the internet and it has become almost normal to expect the worst in the year 2020. We’ve all heard the jokes and the seen the memes. It feels almost unnatural to continue regularly scheduled curriculum while the world around us seems to be in a state of instability. Add the presidential election to the mix, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for anxiety. Not only is the abrupt transition having an impact on our learning, but also on our mental health.  

 

I challenge you to take charge of your mental health and reach out to various resources available to you. Many universities offer counseling/therapy free of charge to their students and you would be surprised how beneficial it is to talk about your personal experience with someone outside of your close circle. Personally, I had never participated in counseling sessions until recently, but it took a small weight off my shoulders and that made all the difference. Normalize saying no to others once in a while and take time for yourself to catch a breath. I know a lot of us are overachievers and want to do it all, both in our personal and academic lives, but it is important to take a step back and remind yourself how far you’ve come and to put yourself first. As someone who’s always had trouble reaching out for help, I can understand the hesitation.  

 

The first few months into the pandemic it seemed easier to stay productive with projects, trying new recipes, learning TikTok dances and even catching up on schoolwork. Now that we are more than half a year into the new normal, motivation can be harder to come by. For those 1st years who are beginning their journey in optometry virtually, for those 2nd years that are struggling to keep your clinical skills up to date with limited in person practice, for those 3rd years that are struggling to study for boards and keep up in clinic, and for those 4th years that are trying to learn as much as they can on rotations before setting forth onto the real world, remember that we are all doing the best we can and that is all anyone can ask of you.  

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.