Hi, Nice To Meet Me

Second year students attend a school vision screening

“Hi, it was nice to meet me,” says my dad jokingly in his thick Spanish accent every time he is introduced to someone. My dad: the reason why I was surrounded by medicine growing up. My father studied medicine in Mexico and moved to the US as a newlywed to complete his residency. My mom did not know any English, and my father was barely conversant. Imagine the shock of getting married and moving to a new country to start a family while learning a new language! I am forever astonished by my parents and what they accomplished. I am the youngest of three; I was born and raised in Laredo, TX, a border town with a population of around 250,000. Some of my best memories are of racing my siblings down the long hospital hallways on roller chairs while we waited for my dad to get off work, here sparked my interest in medicine.

I had been to the optometrist several times but never thought twice about a career in optometry. Early on, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, I just did not know what kind.

Fast forward to high school. I attended a public high school that offered a Magnet program for health science, meaning we took extra health-related courses in order to jump-start our career in medicine. Junior year was the year everyone looked forward to; it was the year you had a clinical rotation class where you shadowed different clinics and practices in order to find the career that fit you.

After rotating through several clinics, I panicked when anyone asked me which one I liked the best. “To be honest, none,” I replied, as none of the options really appealed to me. Halfway through the year, and I still had not found the career for me. It was not until I rotated through my very last office which was the optometrist’s. Needless to say, something clicked that day.

I set out for college with my eyes on optometry and the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). I studied Biology at Oral Roberts University and midway through my senior year, accepted my seat in the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) class of 2022.

I am now a month into my second year at UIWRSO and look back with appreciation for my family and for all the guidance I have had in my life that resulted in me being here today.

If you were to ask me what the best decision I have made (thus far), choosing optometry and UIWRSO would arguably be my top answer. Why? Keep following this blog and as the weeks unfold the answer will become obvious. I am grateful for this opportunity to share my story on this blog and continue to share my experiences at UIWRSO.

As my dad says, “It was nice to meet me!”

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

As you may have heard, optometry school can be rather costly, especially at a private university. But as the age-old phrase goes, “you get what you pay for”. I believe the value of my education is priceless, and the graduates before me have proven that paying off student loan debt is feasible, given the starting salary of an optometrist. 

But, one way to combat the ever-growing financial debt of optometry is by working as a student. RSO provides many job opportunities to students, which include library desk staff, student affairs office, tutoring, laboratory teaching assistant (TA), and many more. 

I refrained from obtaining a student job until my second semester of optometry school, because I wanted to get a handle on course-load, and figure out the best method of studying for my success. As of the third-year fall semester, I proudly was offered the position of teaching assistant. 

Watching first year students practice Retinoscopy.

Every year, roughly 30% of the third year class is hired to work in after-hour labs, supervising underclassmen, and helping them master their skills before taking their final clinical proficiency. I really honor and respect this position, because I remember how helpful the TA’s were when I was just learning a new skill in the beginning of my optometry coursework. 

Watching second year students practice Goldmann Applanation Tonometry (GAT).

Since starting this position, the most rewarding experience is helping a first- or second-year student who is struggling with a technique and then finding out that they passed the checkout or proficiency for that skill. I believe a vast benefit of being a TA is being reminded of the skills learned years prior and serves as a reminder of the potential uses within the clinic setting. 

Third Year Clinic

Unlike most doctoral professions where you would receive your white coat at matriculation, at RSO you receive your white coat after the completion of your second year. Academically, in your first 2 years, you are building your knowledge and skillset in preparation for you to provide patient care. Each semester of optometry school contains a clinical lab course that teaches you the rudimentary techniques needed to perform an eye exam. At RSO the courses are named: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Optometry, in that order. 

In the spring semester of your second year you will take a Clinical Optometry course which reviews everything from Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. At the end of this course you will take the Final Clinical Proficiency which tests your comprehension, effectiveness, and accuracy of clinical skills. 

Upon passing this proficiency you will have earned your white coat, which is symbolic and essential in your transition to clinical rotations. At RSO, clinic rotations begin summer of third year. Starting clinic can be nerve-racking and exciting, all at the same time. You officially begin to see actual, live, real patients (by yourself) with chief complaints and concerns. I remember my first day of clinic, like it was yesterday – it is such a monumental moment, that I never want to forget. 

When you begin clinic, you will be grouped with three other classmates, and as a group of four you will rotate around the three clinics, we have at RSO. One clinic is at our main campus on Datapoint Drive, the second clinic is on the east side of San Antonio near the AT&T center, and the third clinic is on the west side of San Antonio within a community multi-care clinic. Each location presents a different patient base and unique experience. 

Myself after completing the first day of clinic.

Three things I have learned since starting clinic are: be confident when presenting to your attending doctor, you can never ask too many questions, and even with the hustle and bustle of clinic be sure to treat every patient with the quality of care you would want to be treated with. I full-heartedly believe my first two years at RSO have immensely prepared me for my clinical experience, and I look forward to fourth year where I go out on externship and can show off the skills this great school has provided to me. 

My clinic group-mate, Adaly, and I after completing day two of clinic.

 

Long-Term Tourist

Moving to a new city is such an exciting time and gives you the perfect excuse to explore! Of course, we all know what San Antonio is known for: the Riverwalk and the Alamo.

BUT those two things only cover one mile of this great city. I am here to enlighten you to some of my favorite sites of San Antonio, as well as, the surrounding cities.

Some other historic places to visit in San Antonio include the Mi Tierra Cafe in Historic Market Square, San Fernando Cathedral, and the McNay Art Museum (all pictured below).

When I first moved to Texas I knew very little about the multiple-large cities found within the state lines. Some of my favorite cities to visit include:

Fredricksburg, TX, which is home to numerous Texas wineries found just off of U.S. Highway 290.

DFW area which includes the Texas State Fair in Dallas, TX (highest attended fair in America) and the MLB Texas Rangers can be watched at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX.

Austin, TX where you can catch a home of the UT Longhorns football game at Darrell K Royal Stadium.

Houston, TX, which is the most populous city in the state.

Segundo Año

As the title of this entry might suggest the latin culture is very prevalent in San Antonio, and is just one of the many features that makes me glad I chose to study at UIWRSO. Upperclassmen will tend to say, “Second year is so hard!”, but now that I have completed my “segundo año ” I can confirm that it is not THAT hard. It just takes dedication, time management, and focus.

We all know that being in graduate school, especially a health professional program, is NOT supposed to be a cake walk.  The fall and spring semesters of second year include lectures and labs specifically designed to prepare you for the final lab proficiency. This lab proficiency is typically held at the end of April, and is a time where students are evaluated on all clinical skills required to conduct a comprehensive eye exam.

Upon passing the final lab proficiency and second year courses, you will be awarded your white coat. The white coat symbolizes the beginning of patient care and your commitment to The Optometric Oath. This ceremony is such an exciting time for family and friends to come and celebrate the past 2  years of hard work and commitment.

Receiving your white coat is not nearly as exciting as your actual first day of clinic. Nerves are obviously heightened during the first clinic day but your preceptors do a fantastic job of helping ease the anxiety. Clinic is conducted in groups of 4 interns and the first half of summer semester you are paired with a classmate to conduct each exam. As the summer semester continues, you will begin to see patients by yourself and speed up your exam time.

My main piece of advice about your “segundo año” is to go in with confidence, don’t treat it any different than your first year. Be confident in your knowledge and skillset. Make sure to stay ahead in your studies and don’t get caught up in the day to day worries. Think of the big picture and the final outcome: starting clinic!