When I stepped off the plane in Denver, Colorado, I turned to my classmate, Alicia Chacon, and asked “why would they have a convention in such a cold place?” Our phones alerted us that it will be -9 degrees Fahrenheit tonight and I felt my toes turn numb. Coming from San Antonio, Texas, we were definitely taken by surprised. However I probably spent only a total of 20 minutes outside in the beautiful flurry of snow and learned a life-long lesson.
The University of the Incarnate Word, Rosenberg School of Optometry had over two dozen students in attendance at the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), 2014. Last year there were over 300 students from across the nation, but this year Academy reported over 1000 students in attendance, the largest in attendance ever! Our school definitely has a huge emphasis in optometric research. This year our local chapter of AAO, led by student intern, Ashley Plyant, did an amazing job educating students about the importance of supporting Optometric Research and rallying a group of students to attend the Academy. As a result, we had more UIWRSO students than ever attend.
A handful of students who participated in optometric research were very excited to see their abstracts accepted into the Academy. I am a student researcher who is just learning the research process: from forming the hypothesis, to data collection, to presenting, and publishing. The concept of research was once so confusing, but now has become so clear thanks to the Academy. The summation of our research teams’ work is now shared with an audience of doctors who are curious, questioning, and learning. Dr. Trevino presented our research results in an interesting, clear and concise manner, that it kept the audience on their toes. When I sat in the rooms of the Academy, I learned so much, the education provided in optometry school is just the basics, there are optometric scientists always striving to to find better and better ways to care for their patients from innovation to new discoveries.
On Thursday night, UIWRSO hosted an Academy Networking Reception. Our Dean, Dr. Wingert sat in the front to welcome us to the reception with some food and drinks. I was so glad that I came because I saw faces of my TAs from first year, the rest of class of 2013 and 2014! The class of 2013 and 2014 were the first two classes to graduate from UIWRSO. They were an amazing bunch who pioneered through the program and helped to contribute to the way our school runs today. The interns, now doctors, started most of the school organizations and laid the foundation for how active our school is today. I have much respect for them and I’m really glad that they came out to this networking reception! In fact, a great amount of our graduates went on to pursue a residency; so they came back telling the students about their experiences. My classmates had a great time talking to the recent graduates, the resident, and the our faculty that came out that night.