Catherine Liu, ICO, Class of 2025
Dear future optometrist,
How are you doing? You hanging in there?
Maybe you’re a pre-optometry student still working on your prerequisites in college and worrying about that pesky OAT, wondering if you’ll be able to make it into optometry school. Maybe you’re an incoming first year about to start optometry school and you’re so excited but also so nervous because you know how rigorous it’s going to be. Maybe you’re about to start year two, ready to dive deeper into what you’ve learned but already stressed remembering how hard first year was. Maybe you’re in the swing of year three, navigating the responsibilities of patient care and preparing your battle plan for NBEO Part One in less than a year. Maybe you’re finally in your fourth year externships, amazed at how far you’ve come but still feeling anxious about what’s ahead.
We’re all at different points in our journeys to becoming optometrists, and none of our paths look exactly the same because we’ve all had our own unique experiences that have led us to where we are today. Maybe you took a gap year—maybe even a few. Maybe you went into school straight from college. However you got here, just know that YOU BELONG, and I’m also here to tell you to give yourself more credit for where you’re at today. Because let’s face it: what we’re doing is not easy, but it’s so important.
According to the CDC, about 12 million people in the United States over the age of 40 have some form of vision impairment, with 25.3% of children from the ages of 2 to 17 already wearing some form of vision correction (as of 2019). By 2050, it’s expected that almost 9 million adults over 40 will suffer from vision impairment that cannot be corrected due to various diseases, including diabetes—a disease that about 1 in 10 Americans have. The CDC also claims that almost 100 million adults in the U.S. are at high risk for serious vision loss, including blindness—but only about half of that population has visited an eye doctor in the past year.
And you are joining the profession that gets to help all of these people. How cool is that?
With so many communities in the United States designated as Medically Underserved Areas, you are answering the call by purposefully pursuing more education in order to provide desperately needed vision care to people all across the country. You chose to sacrifice at least four more years of your life, take on an unholy amount of student debt and study for countless hours in order to make your difference in this world by allowing people to see all that it has to offer. You learn not only everything there is to know about eyeballs but also all about systemic physiology, pathology and pharmacology so that you can care for your patients holistically and make a true impact on their overall health and well-being. To be able to do what we aspire to do and make an immediate improvement in the quality of life of our patients is a gift, and you should give yourself some credit for choosing this path in life.
So really, going to optometry school shouldn’t even be thought of as a “sacrifice,” because it is truly an honor and privilege to get to do what we do. It is so important to keep this in perspective, because with all of the long days and nights of studying and stressing, it can sometimes be easy to wonder if it’s going to be worth it. But you are relentlessly putting in the work and persevering through some of the most trying times in your life, and that is perhaps one of the most courageous things that you can do. And let’s not forget: you’re doing all of this in spite of a worldwide pandemic! I mean, come on, how brave is that?
It’s not easy. Nobody said it was going to be easy. But you’re doing it anyway, and you are going to walk out into this world after earning those coveted two letters after your name with not only the knowledge base and skill set but also the confidence and intrinsic drive to make it a better place. You belong in this profession, and if you haven’t taken some time to celebrate yourself in a while, I encourage you to do so because you deserve it!
So to all my future optometrists out there…
I see you. And you’re doing amazing. Keep it up.
Another future optometrist