NOSA Multicultural Event & Greek Festival

As you all may know by this point, I love attending NOSA events! NOSA, or the National Optometric Student Association always has creative events to showcase different religions and cultures that our school represents. This time, I was able to attend their annual multicultural event, which is a big deal at our school!  It is exciting to be surrounded by so many different students from different backgrounds at UIWRSO, I think it adds to our experience.

Walking into the room, you could first see all of the bright colors and decorations that every table beautifully presented. You could also hear the music that each culture and religion picked out to be played over the intercom. I heard everything from Drake (for the Canadian club) all the way to traditional Greek music. There was also an overwhelming smell of food! Of course I was excited to try all of the food samples from each table, so I grabbed my plate and was on my way.

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First, I stopped by the Laos and Thailand table, where a third year student, Anthony Vanrachack, was passing out homemade sticky rice and Kopiko, or coffee flavored candy.

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Next was the Indian and Hinduism table, which showcased three students dressed in traditional clothing while handing out tri-colored barfi, a sweet treat. They also had colorful trinkets displayed.

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My next stop around the world was the Mexico table. It was obviously my favorite table because it involves my favorite food! They had homemade tamales, which are usually eaten around Christmas time, so it was a nice reminder of being home for the holidays.

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The Jewish table followed, which was run by Melanie Kane, a third year student. It was one of my favorite tables just based on how beautiful it looked with a tablecloth decorated with the Star of David, as well as dreidels and several menorahs, in honor of Hanukkah.

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I went to the other side of the room and caught up with Dr. Maki, one of our beloved professors, who made homemade sushi, which was amazing, to represent Japan. He also loves origami and brought some of his intricate designs to show off!

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There was a great Italian spread of food, provided by NOSA, and it was manned by Van Do, the president of UIWRSO’s NOSA, as well as another third year student, Dennis Yu, who is the Asian-American Committee Representative for our school.

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The Greek table was next, and Michael Bilalis was handing out homemade cookies his mother made just for the NOSA event! He also had baklava and had the projector behind him, displaying a Grecian paradise.

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Another table that I absolutely loved was the Persian table. They had one of the most delicious things I’ve tasted in my entire life: saffron cake. Not only was the food great, but the table was also beautifully decorated.

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One of the most interesting tables was the Mormon table. I’ve always wanted to learn more about this religion and the third year students who were working this table had great pictures, books, and decorations for students to look at.

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I joined the Canadian club this year, so it was great to see their table, as well. They showcased Canadian flags, money, and a slideshow about the country where many of our UIWRSO students come from.

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There was also a good turnout of faculty members who came, including another table held by Dr. Kasraie and Dr. Sanchez-Diaz. They were handing out tapas, which are appetizers or snacks, from Spain.

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Once I had my heavy plate full of food and sat down, everyone was treated to a presentation by Valenta Carter, the NOA Region IV Trustee, about Cultural Diversity. Through her presentation, we were able to realize how much cultural diversity plays a role in how we will conduct ourselves with different people in our practices every single day. She made sure to point out that we should familiarize ourselves with different cultures and their practices, because you might accidentally offend someone otherwise. She also emphasized how cultural diversity helps us by ending on this quote from Robert Alan Silverstein: “Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity.”

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Later that week, NOSA was lucky enough to be a part of the Greek Festival here in the heart of San Antonio. I was able to go and sample all of the great food, culture, and of course dancing on stage yelling “OPA!” It demonstrated to me how much NOSA and UIWRSO would like their students to be involved in the community and develop as a person, learning about and embracing different cultures and religions.

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Pictures below courtesy of James DeMarco.

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TOA Meet & Greet

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From Left to Right: Susan Ly, Dr. Peter Cass, Dr. Matt Valdes, Dr. Monica Allison, Dr. Fred Farias, Dr. Sandra Fortenberry, Dr. Deakins, and Jason Ngo

On Friday October 17th, 2014. Around 70 UIWRSO students and 6 TOA (Texas Optometric Association) board members were invited to Bass Pro Shops, a huge outdoors store, by the Students’ Texas Optometric Association (STOA)  for a night of food, drinks, and networking. The hunting decor and wooden cabin theme of the Islamorada Restaurant also had a towering tropical aquarium as it’s centerpiece; students pointed at the fish in awe and enjoyed the sea-like glow while eating a variety of hors d’oeuvre. Jason Ngo, Amy Cuevas, and myself are the current officers of STOA, and with the help of Intern Sheyda Durig and our faculty adviser, Dr. Fortenberry, we were able to help the students socialize with the TOA board members.   The creation of a signature card helped to facilitate conversations with each TOA board member before entering into a raffle. Four generous TOA board members donated to the raffle, where the winners would be sponsored to go to Austin in February for the TOA Convention. The STOA officers encourages all students to attend the TOA convention where they can attend/monitor continuing education classes, observe the House of Delegates, and participate in other student functions with the University of Houston, College of Optometry. The TOA convention offers so much to our profession and it is always  a load of fun! I’m glad that 4 students won a travel grant to attend!

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The event was sponsored by Michael K Newhouse, President of HM General Contractors. HM General Contractors help doctors construct office space and gave me a new outlook in space management and how that impacts your business. The representatives from HM General Contractors would visit with many health professions, so they had a lot of stories to tell! TOA board members Dr. Fred Farias, Dr. Peter Cass, Dr. Sandra Fortenberry, Dr. Matt Valdes, Dr. Monica Allison, and Dr. Deakins were so quite busy that night. Students surrounded them to hear of their stories while the doctors learned more about RSO and their interns. Some students were shy to talk to the leaders in the TOA, but by the end of the night, I felt that the attendees really got to know each other. Students were interested in the doctor’s drive to help push the profession legislatively and some students were curious to how they balanced their work and political involvement. The TOA board members answered, “if you are having so much fun, it’s not work!” Dr. Farias, President of the TOA, helped close the night with his motivating speech about optometry and our success and benefits in working together. I’m glad to be a part of this event, I felt that RSO has really prepared me for the work field and sparked my interested in legislative optometry. Lastly, I really enjoyed the company of RSO students and the a tight-knit TOA.

Practice Management for the Optometric Student

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Mr. Rob Grim, COE, Eye Care Business Advisor

As a student at UIWRSO, our professional growth and development is always supported by faculty, staff, and administration.  Students interested in pursuing a path toward private practice enjoyed a recent visit by Mr. Robert Grim! He was a guest speaker invited by the UIWRSO Private Practice Club because of his experiences in the business world and in optometry consultations.  Mr. Grim advises with medical practices, physician networks, ambulatory surgery centers, hospitals, and managed care organizations. His expertise includes human resources, employee development, coaching, leadership training, team building, sales training, marketing, business development, strategic planning, financial analysis, and overall practice efficiency. He has been working in the field of eye care for 11 years! The lecture topic was about Practice Management where he catered the lecture to optometry students. Over 70 students attended and Dr. Aitsebaomo, one of our practice management professors, played an active part in integrating Mr. Grim’s topic with application to his private practice! 

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Mr. Rob Grim with Susan Ly, UIWRSO Private Practice Club President

Many people enjoyed the seafood pasta dinner catered by Pappadeaux and sponsored by Allergan. I heard positive feedback from the attendees; most students were glad to have attended this event because of all the business tips they received and they felt like they had a clearer understanding of the optometry sector from the business point of view and from an educator’s point of view. My favorite part of the lecture was how Mr. Grim used numbers and charts to quantify and make his point. The graphs that he talked about kept students alert because they focused on the rising need for primary eye care physicians. He complemented that topic with where that niche is growing. The baby boomers are aging and the graphs showed the students that this correlates positively with aging eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma (see slide below). The future of optometry sounds bright for optometrists and I’m glad to have learned so much from our guest speaker and from our practice management professor.

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A slide from Mr. Grim’s lecture about aging and incidence of eye diseases.

Open House Student Panel: An Ambassador’s Prospective

After having participated and attended the recent UIWRSO Open House event, I started thinking about my role here as a student and the path I took to get here.  There are many opportunities at RSO, one of which is being a student ambassador, who are students who serve on multiple panels to help serve the school through orientations, interviews, academics, etc. I am lucky enough to be a student ambassador for RSO. Many times, such as last week’s Open House event,  I am asked questions from prospective students about what I really think about the school. In all honesty, the best optometry school is the one that fits you the best. For me, RSO was and still is my number one choice and I am beyond happy that I am here. Here are just a few of the topics that were covered by me, as well as two other students, during the Student Panel portion of the Open House event for UIWRSO.

For those who have not gotten an opportunity to personally visit or interview yet at schools, I can think of several reasons why I believe RSO is the top optometry school. One of the biggest reasons why I love RSO is that I feel like I am part of a family here. I was extremely worried about coming into school because I was scared that I would not make friends or fit in. That is the complete opposite of what happened. I feel like our student affairs team makes the best choices in the students they bring in, those that are well-rounded and overall great people. I know that when I leave school, I will keep in contact with all of my classmates and genuinely enjoy their company. Another reason why I believe RSO is the top optometry school is that our board exam passing rates exceed national averages for the last two graduating classes. This, in addition to the challenging and rewarding curriculum, helps me to know that I will leave school with the abilities to be successful not only on boards, but in my practice. Faculty and staff here really care about your education. If you’re having an issue and need help, they always lend the hand you need. Having smaller classes and even smaller lab groups (for more personalized attention) makes the experience even better. Because we are a newer school, we definitely have up-to-date technology and equipment that still looks brand new. Last, but not least, we are the only faith-based school of optometry. There is so much diversity in our school: religiously and culturally. It makes for a nice mix of people who are all open and welcoming. Even during the first day of orientation, UIWRSO emphasized that it is aims to help us develop as a whole person. I think these are the key ingredients to making some of the best doctors in the country.

Maybe you’re considering going into school, but not sure if you should spend the time, money, or sanity doing so. Well, optometry is one of the best fields to get into right now! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for optometrists is 24%, indicating that the need for these careers is expected to grow by that much. This is well above average for most careers (11%). Optometrists make an average of about $97,820 and have about 33,100 national jobs as of 2012. There will always be a need for healthcare professionals, including optometrists. Maybe you are thinking that you don’t have enough money to go to school, but that is not a problem, as financial assistance is available to most students who enroll at RSO. If you have a genuine passion to help people and your community, this is definitely a profession for you.

As a second year, I have been exposed to many (but not all) of the lab skills I will need to go into clinic. RSO has amazing optometry lab courses. It has been the most difficult, but most rewarding experience of my life. Professors prepare you by having lab proficiencies and checkouts frequently, insuring that you know and understand all procedures. They give you ample opportunity to practice these skills in lab with older students, who give you great tips. The lab courses are set-up to ensure that you are able to go into clinic well prepared and ready for boards at the end of your time at RSO. During second year, you are also exposed to vision screenings for children at various schools around San Antonio. First year also gives opportunities for vision screenings through organizations such as SVOSH or FCO. They also give summer research opportunities and the ability to work alongside professors during your first year. Community service is also very important to RSO, and the school gives us opportunities to engage in volunteer activities. I feel proud to come from a school that takes so much care in making sure I succeed in all aspects of the field.

Personally, I picked RSO for several reasons. RSO was my first choice in that it was closest to my home and there are only 21 Optometry Programs (2 in Texas). I wanted to be able to maintain a good balance between school and visiting home. I also picked it because I knew the school would be very up-to-date with technology and I would be using new equipment. I also knew that the classes were much smaller than other schools, and was excited about getting more one-on-one attention. Going into the interview was the cherry on top, however, because it just felt right during the whole process. I would suggest to anyone who is considering going into optometry school to research online, explore the school (especially through events like our Open House), and find the right fit for you. For me, I look forward to what the rest of this year and finally obtaining my white coat will bring me as I continue my journey through RSO.

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