En Visioning Success

There’s no doubt about it: optometry school is a stressful place, and students deal with this stress in different ways. Personally, I like to walk my newly adopted dog, listen and dance to music (even though I look silly doing so), and cook several times a week. Those activities allow me to clear my head and focus on something else that is important to me for just a little while. I have always appreciated the support available at RSO from students, faculty, and staff and I recently discovered a new resource.  This week, I was able to attend a stress management workshop that all second year students get to participate in. At the workshop entitled “En Visioning Success,” we were introduced to the counselors from the UIW main campus who taught us techniques that we could use to help manage our stress.

First, we were able to share with our classmates techniques we have used recently to help relieve stress. Some included cooking, playing with their pets, Netflix, taking a nap, and even bizarrely enough, someone said they use studying as a stress reliever! It was great to hear other suggestions from students who are going through the same exact stress; maybe what works for them, will also work for me. We were then asked us to stand up and spread out around the room. Mr. Keith Tucker introduced us to techniques using martial arts with the combination of moving our whole bodies and speaking aloud, “YES!” We felt instantly energized. Next, pieces of paper with different aromatic oils were passed around.The counselors told us that relaxing smells could help relieve stress. My favorite was the peppermint oil. Soon thereafter, we took a “Stress Test” to give ourselves an idea of how well we currently manage our stress. See how you score below!

We all know coloring as a kid is fun. As an adult? Even better. I would highly recommend coloring mandalas on a regular basis. Most people were upset that they didn’t have time to finish coloring during the workshop. The counselors told us that using small repetitive motions (like the ones used for coloring) while being mindful of what you need to focus on can help you clear out all other information and be relaxing at the same time. Try coloring your own mandala!

We learned about the power of something called a “vision board” which can help you to visualize your goals. Putting pictures of what you want to succeed at or things you have already succeeded at, can help put you in the place of mind you want to be. Post-it notes are a great motivator as well. Writing things such as “You can do it!” or “I’m not perfect, and that’s okay” and seeing it in a familiar spot such as a mirror or window can really perk you up when you’re having a stressful day. Here are examples of my own post-it notes.

We also learned how to “refocus” during tests. You simply put your finger under your nose as if you’re telling someone “shhhh!” While holding your finger there, breathe in and out slowly and focus on the breaths. Even 30 seconds can refocus your mind and bring you back to where you need to be while taking a test. Muscle relaxation techniques are also very useful. I saw everyone come out of that workshop with smiling faces, and many told me afterwards that it did, in fact, help them reduce stress. I was glad to have the opportunity to learn more de-stressing techniques. Not only will they help me get through optometry school a little easier, but I can foresee myself using them for the rest of my life. For now, I have some coloring to get back to.

Aromatic Oils Mandala Stress TestPost-It Notes En Visioning Success Workshop

NOSA’s Hispanic Latino Heritage Month Event

Hola! Como estas? That’s about as much Spanish as I speak, even though I am originally from El Paso, Texas, which is considered a “border city.” Luckily, I was able to attend the National Optometry Students Association’s (NOSA) Hispanic Latino Heritage Month Event and pick up a few more words. NOSA is a great example of one of the clubs at RSO that unite students who share specific interests. The primary objective of NOSA is to promote cultural awareness and diversity in optometry by hosting a number of events.  In addition to the event I attended, NOSA also helps to coordinate Diwali, Lunar New Year Event, and of course, their almost world-famous Multicultural Event!

Walking into the room, there were tons of decorations hanging from the ceiling. These are called “papel picado,” which are pieces of paper that have decorative cutouts. They also had some traditional music playing in the background. Next to the entrance, there was a line of food to choose from: Big containers full of traditional flour and corn tortillas, meats, beans, rice, and toppings for tacos such as pico de gallo and salsa. Now, that’s what I call my comfort food.

Taking my food to my seat, I was able to see the beautiful decorations set up on the table. There were maracas, a tiny sombrero (hat) and serape (blanket-like shaw), as well as a cute, colorful burro, or donkey, which you typically see as a piñata. There was also a cup of pinto beans to use on my favorite game of all time: Loteria!

If you’ve never played, it is essentially a Mexican version of Bingo. We play a lot back home, so it was nice to be able to enjoy with my classmates. Someone calls out the different words on the cards (in Spanish) and you place your pinto bean on the correct space if you have the word. It was great because after the announcer said the word, everyone would repeat with his or her best Spanish accent. We all got a language lesson that day!

During all the festivities, I got to learn a little more about NOSA. In my opinion, I think it is a great club to bring all cultures together. It was overwhelming to see so many students show up and take part in something I feel is close to my heart. I am looking forward to the upcoming Greek Festival and Multicultural Events and all the students who represent this club. Honestly, I believe RSO’s NOSA is just a small representation of what our school embodies. We are all from different cultures, religions, and backgrounds, but we all have the same goal in mind: optometry.

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Vision Expo West 2014: new technology, networking, and job offers

Part of my experience at RSO has centered around cultivating relationships with what will soon be my professional peers and colleagues.  An opportunity I had to connect professionally while learning came while attending Vision Expo West (VEW). My eyes were in for a treat or more physiologically correct, my hyper column of the v1 cortex cells were excited. It was an unforgettable sight, the Sands Expo in Las Vegas was all about vision care and frame fashion. Bright lights and indoor billboards hovered over me, in no way did VEW fell pale to the Vegas lights. The vision council did an amazing job sectioning the vendors and booths into easy to find categories. Learning about the industries that work for optometrists DSC00831was absolutely jaw dropping because of the booming technology on the horizon.

In undergrad I had a few close friends who were studying physics, fiber optics and researching 3D printing. I myself worked in a renowned bioengineering lab at UCLA, where I fell in awe with the eye surgery research done by robots. Today I see how the research in new technology have manifested in the field of optometry.

Handheld auto-refractors (AR) were invented years ago, however criticisms of their inaccuracies have not allowed them to sell. At VEW, a company launched their smartphone based AR with a beautiful and simplistic interface. The inventor of this small handheld device has a goal, to help optometrists work anywhere and on the go. When I was talking to the CEO, I did not talk yo him with a mentality of a student. I went in there thinking, as a doctor what do I want to know about this product. I asked how would this program would sync with electronic health records? Which smartphones are compatible? And the list goes on. I was offered a position as an OD on the team. I reminded him I still have two more years of school. Networking comes in all places and so does work. I never imagined ODs working in product research, it is not something on our radar screen nor is it something you hear about from ODs, but someone has to test the new products.

One product in particular caught my eye at South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, Texas: 3D printing. I had the opportunity to talk to all the inventors and find out why their 3D printer was different. The technology has evolved so much and the machines are now accessible and affordable to the public. Optometrists are using this technology to create custom frames in available 3D printed materials such as plastics and metals.

UIWRSO students
UIWRSO students

Can you imagine what I did when I saw a booth at VEW that had a 3D printing making the frame on the spot? I quickly moved to the booth and approached with a big smile. I probably spent 30 minutes talking to the engineer and grabbed another 3 min meeting with the OD who started this company and the best part is that I still got offered a job. This was such a great opportunity to ask so many questions and even make suggestions for the company. Research pays off, literally. After our conversation, the engineer asked the busy OD to meet me. The OD was the CEO and shared this thought with me after only a couple of minutes, “you have a great personality, what year are you in? I would love to have you come down to my office to visit and come join the team when you are done.”

As a first time attendee, I did not feel lost at all, the people were so friendly, I was really happy to reunite with some friends from undergrad who are now in optometry school as well, soon they will be my colleagues! I also handed out some business cards and received a lot more! It’s a great place to network and it goes to show that you as a student can benefit in many ways by going to these conventions. It is an amazing way to keep in touch with your colleagues and with the ever growing profession of optometry. I’m excited to come back next year!

AOSA Activities Fair

One thing I’m really proud about our school is that our students are very involved. Although we are considered one of the newer optometry schools, the students took initiative to start their own clubs and reach out to optometry associations to start local chapters at our school. For example, our chapter of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) is the largest student chapter in the nation. The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) at RSO have fundraised thousands of dollars to help a child in need of an comprehensive eye exam. SVOSH at UIWRSO, the student branch of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) have traveled to South America and Africa. We have over 17 student organizations and each of them bring opportunities for students to become leaders and learn more about the different niches in Optometry! Personally, I am a great supporter of the Private Practice Club, who have invited speakers from all around San Antonio, Texas, and the nation to come speak to our students about Practice management.

The American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) is one of the most active clubs at our school. Every year, AOSA conducts the first event of the fall semester, the Activities fair. The Activities Fair is the place to learn more about AOSA, its affiliated organizations, and all the different clubs that are offered for students at RSO. It is also the easiest place to sign up for organizations that interest the students.

The fair was located in UIWRSO events room, from 1:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m and featured a guest speaker, Mike Elton, a representative from HOYA.

This year, AOSA offered complimentary ice cream and multiple raffles including gift certificates, a floating trip in New Braunfels, and an iPad Air (sponsored by HOYA). Denisse Lopez and Reid Cluff, AOSA Trustee/Trustee elect. respectively, did an amazing job coordinating the event. It was a huge success and a lot of the first year optometry students were able to learn about the school’s activities, events, and student leaders.

Impact of InfantSEE Event on “Future Eye Doctors”

UIWRSO students, faculty, staff, friends and family came to enjoy the InfantSEE event on Friday, September 26. It was in a beautiful venue on main campus, and everyone was dressed for the occasion. It was a great event to bring awareness to the InfantSEE program and see how blindness has affected one talented individual, Mr. Tom Sullivan. As I sat in the crowd and listened to the InfantSEE statistics from Dr. Glen Steele, I was amazed by the stories of children whose lives were saved from this program. Tons of “awws” came from the crowd as we saw pictures of children who participated in the program and were essentially saved by it. Tom Sullivan was next, and he was an amazing performer. He called all of the students in the crowd “future eye doctors” and addressed us as such for the remainder of the event. He made everyone laugh, cry, and just feel great about the program. It is so wonderful to see someone make the best of a situation and share their experiences.

I asked several of the students what they felt about the InfantSEE program and event, and if they believe they will be involved in the program after they graduate from UIWRSO. Here were some of the comments I heard throughout the night:

“I had heard about InfantSEE in my undergrad program, but this event helped me to get more details about it, and now I am pledging to participate in InfantSEE when I graduate.”

“Tom Sullivan is an inspiration for us all. We, as students, can make a difference and prevent blindness from happening.”

“This was a great way for faculty and students to come together. I can personally say that it was incredible to see our professors promote this kind of program because we look up to them. Watching them be involved in something so important makes me realize how important it is, as well.”

“I never thought of myself as such an integral part in someone’s overall health. Most people just think we check their eyes, and that’s the end of it. We need to raise more awareness of this program, and the easiest way to do that is be providers ourselves.”

“I am privileged to be part of a school that believes in and promotes such an amazing program.”

When asked the question “Will you be an InfantSEE provider when you graduate?” 100% of the students I asked said, “Yes.” You could not have asked for a better outcome from the event. The program and the event personally moved me, as well. I pledge to be an InfantSEE provider when I graduate and have my own practice. To know that you could prevent blindness and even save a child’s life just by giving a pediatric eye exam moves me beyond words.


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Last photo courtesy of James DeMarco.