Student’s Role in the Texas Optometric Association

How TOA helped developed my networking and leadership skills

2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees
2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees. (Left: Dr. Valdez and Dr. Fortenberry are UIWRSO Faculty)

My political optometry involvement grows concurrently with my public health efforts. I am drawn to the legislative side of optometry because many life changing vision programs like the InfantSEE® program was established due to optometrists lobbying and networking with state representatives and senators.

I’ve been to multiple optometry board meetings with the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) and I would like to explain the organization of the optometric societies in America. Every state has a board that represents all the optometrist residing in that state. The board may include optometrists, public health advocates, administrators, accountants, membership directors, etc; together the board runs the association with or without dues from participating/supporting optometrists in the state. These optometric associations are formed to ensure that those who have earned the title of Doctor of Optometry have the opportunity to practice their profession to the fullest extent possible.

Many optometry students do timeline aoanot realize that the state optometric associations and the American Optometric Association (AOA) are closely connected. AOA board members will visit and sit in on the state meetings while state associations presidents gather at least twice a year at the Optometry’s Meeting or the Presidents’ Council Meeting. Also the student optometric associations at each school can support the state associations by encouraging students to lobby or educate fellow students about the laws that the state is trying to pass, as well as donate or pay dues to support their cause. Optometry students often join the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and in doing so they are also supporting and a member of their state student optometric association. Before my experiences with the TOA, I had no idea that there is such an organized network that keeps our profession strong. If you would like to read more about the history of optometry please click here for a timeline.


I am an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association (STOA) because I want to take an active part in the political association that opens doors for optometrists as well as improves the visual welfare of the people. Jason Ngo (President, STOA) and me (Treasurer/Secretary) are invited to the Texas Optometric Association board meetings to keep up to date about what the TOA board is planning and learned of their successes or what needs to be changed. I was impressed by the leadership and organization that they possessed; they are encouraging and positive when discussing their agenda and I can feel how their camaraderie fuels the team’s success! The board also taught me the importance of networking with other leaders. The board members would introduce themselves to us, and I’m grateful because I was really nervous at my first board meeting. I appreciate this opportunity to learn from these leaders. I would also like to mention that any optometry student in Texas can attend these board meetings if they let their STOA officers know in advance. I hope that optometry students can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

The Texas Optometric Association (TOA) mission statement: “Doctors of Optometry working together to advance excellence in eyecare for every Texan.” To show our support, the UIWRSO STOA created hoodies that incorporates the TOA mission statement.

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My Application Process For Optometry School

optomcaslogo1Oh, the days of applying and preparing for optometry school!

If you are at this time in your life, normally around the end of your third year of undergraduate, you are probably trying to figure out the best way to go about this process. A good place to start is your faculty advisor or pre-health advisor for pre-optometry at your college or university. You will most likely start the application process through OptomCAS and a good reference about that process is here: All optometry schools in the United States utilize OptomCAS for the application process. It’s also important to remember that each school may have their own supplemental application that you will have to fill out in addition to the application.

At the website I listed above you will be able to find a list of all the optometry schools in America, and from there you can Google search the schools to find more information about each one. To be honest with you, you can only learn so much from a website, or from somebody else, like myself, telling you about a school.  One of the best ways to decide whether or not a school is for you is to take a tour of the campus. Most schools will give you a tour the day of your interview, but if it is possible to tour before your interview, I would definitely jump at the opportunity. Overall, you just need to put in time and learn as much as you can about a school that you may be interested in attending. These were on my list of things to know about a school when applying; class size, curriculum, when do you enter clinic, and does the school operate on a quarter or semester system. I’m just going to walk you through my process of being accepted into optometry school. My story is not quite the average optometry intern story, but I did have to jump through the same hoops as everyone else.eyeball

My quest to become a Doctor of Optometry started when I was in high school. I had a passion to help people, and eyes seemed very interesting. My senior year of high school I sent a request to the Illinois College of Optometry for more information about the school. They sent me a little booklet that had the list of prerequisites and little tidbits about the school. At that time, I thought I would probably go to ICO if I had the chance.

So, after high school I entered my undergraduate at Iowa State University, my goal was a little different, I was going to get all the prerequisites done and then apply as fast as possible. I entered college with 23 credit hours, from college courses I took while in high school, so I was shooting to get into a school of optometry after my junior year of college. You should understand that every optometry school has different requirements for acceptance. Some require a bachelors degree, while others only require that you finish the prerequisites.

During the spring of my sophomore year of college, I shadowed my optometrist every Tuesday from 1:00pm to 7:00pm. I was able to see how a private practice functioned on a day-to-day basis, and asked many questions, to learn as much as I could. So, during Christmas break of my junior year of college, I took the OAT and received a 300 or 310 overall. I then began the process of applying. I used the website and submitted my application to four optometry schools, and submitted all the supplemental applications, directly to the schools. I heard back from ICO in February and set up my interview for March, when I was on spring break. I heard back from UIWRSO in April, and had my interview the same month.

My interview at ICO was not the best interview I’ve ever had, but I realized when they gave us a tour of the facility, that this was not the school for me. Please don’t take this as a knock on ICO; they have a great program there. The school just didn’t fit my needs. My interview at UIWRSO was completely different; I must have gained more confidence from my first interview because when I walked out of the interview I felt great. The school had top of the line everything, and the atmosphere was very welcoming, and friendly. I felt comfortable here. The faculty seemed very encouraging, and like they wanted me to succeed! A few weeks after my interview, I found that I had been put on the “waiting list.” If you are applying to optometry schools right now, you may know what this means, but if you don’t know, here you go; the “waiting list” is essentially a small list of students that have the credentials to be accepted, but are facing competition for admittance with other students with similar credentials.  Some schools use the waiting list as a way to ensure the most qualified applicants are accepted when evaluating students who are not eligible for a direct admit.

As you can see, the Lord blessed me by moving me far enough up that list to be accepted when other people decided to go elsewhere. I had done it! I was starting my optometry career after 3 years of undergraduate! The thing is, I was not accepted until 1 week before orientation. I literally had a weekend to pack up, and move from Arlington, TX to San Antonio, TX. Talk about a hectic week, but it all came together and I was able to make the move and start optometry school. My path may not be “traditional,” but I knew what I wanted, and I went for it.

In a nutshell, make sure optometry is what you really want to do for the rest of your life. Get in with a practicing optometrist and shadow, or work for them. Try to understand what optometry is, and the role that optometry plays in the medical field. One thing I know faculty look for when interviewing students, is their passion for optometry, because when you and I graduate, we are the face of optometry, and we all want the very best representing our profession.

Andrew Yoder

I am a 3rd year intern at the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry. I was home grown in Dyersville, IA. I have a brother and sister, of which I am the youngest. My hobbies include playing ultimate frisbee, basketball, tennis, and anything else my friends want to play, and jamming out on my guitar.

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