Optometry school is a new experience for all of us. I remember when I started, we were encouraged by upper-classmen to get involved. I didn’t listen — I thought I wouldn’t have time. I was married and had a one-year–old daughter at home. I just wanted to get home as fast as I could so I could spend time with my family. I also was worried about my ability to balance family and school — would I be able to handle the course load while getting involved in extracurriculars? At our club day, I was disappointed to find that none of the clubs spoke to me. I had been hoping to join the ocular disease club, but it turned out we didn’t have one. Because they didn’t have the club I most wanted to join and I still wanted most of my time to be with my family, I ended up going through my first year of school without any real involvement. However, that all changed my second year, and it has changed more as time has gone on.
It started when I decided to do a summer research internship through my school. As I was talking to one of the professors I could work with, I mentioned I was interested in ocular disease, and that I was disappointed to know that our school didn’t have a club. I mentioned that I wished someone would start one, and the professor I was talking to said she would be interested in supporting it as a faculty advisor. From there, the whole thing snowballed — I found myself asking administration about the process of starting a club, then actually going through the process. By the time the next year started, we had a club put together. It wasn’t something I ever planned, I just stumbled into it.
When I started the process, I was somewhat worried that it would take me away from my family too much or impact my grades, but as I went through the process I discovered something amazing: getting involved doesn’t mean selling your soul. I wasn’t spending massive amounts of time on it. Yes, it took some leg work, but most of it was just sending emails. It only took a couple of minutes a day, and it ended up being a little bit less time wasted online. I learned a lot about leadership and volunteering, as well as had a club that I actually wanted to attend. I was away from home for an evening once a month, which was a sacrifice I felt willing to make for such great benefits, and it didn’t impact my schoolwork at all.
The fact is, getting involved didn’t mean attending club meetings three nights a week or missing my daughter growing up. Getting involved doesn’t need to take all your life and time. If you are on the fence, just dip your toe in. You would be shocked to find how much you can contribute while not giving up your lifestyle. The difference you make for those around will be great, but the best thing is it will prepare you for your future in our legislated profession. It’s a fact of optometry that if we want to practice to the full extent of our training, we need to continue working with legislators to make changes. That doesn’t happen unless everyday optometrists — you and me — get out there and work to make a difference.
Changes aren’t accomplished by one super-optometrist who does everything.
If you start getting involved now, it will make involvement in your future career easier, will build your resume, and help you improve the quality of life of the students around you.
To sum up, Nike got it right. If you aren’t sure about getting involved, just do it. The results will be more beneficial than you realize—I guarantee it!