Overcoming Adversity

Throughout my undergraduate career, I had always been an A/B grade student, described as an overachiever, and truly dedicated to my course work. I was anticipating the transition of class work and tests from undergraduate to optometry school to be difficult, but nothing could have prepared me enough for my first set of graduate school exams. At UIWRSO, during my first semester, we had a total of three exam weeks, with each week consisting of four days of nothing but exams and afternoon labs. Essentially, it was like having undergraduate final exam week three times a semester.

The stress that built up during my first test week really affected my performance on them and overall course outcome. Now, since completing my first year of optometry school I realized how important it is to stay calm during exams. Each person will achieve that calmness in a different way, and I hope you to find which method works best for you.

My first words of advice: “Never be afraid to ask for help”. At UIWRSO, upperclassmen who excelled in a previous course can become tutors. I highly encourage anyone struggling to sign up for a tutor in that course. And the best part: it is completely complementary! Tutors can provide you with practice problems and help you work through topics which are unclear. Many students in my class have tutors and you shouldn’t be ashamed to have one as well.

Another recommendation: On test days, arrive early, and arrive prepared! It seems like an easy concept but you want to avoid mishaps at all costs, especially during test weeks. Make sure to get a good night’s rest. It has been proven that “pulling an all-nighter” can have serious negative effects on an individual’s exam taking ability. Have your electronic device charged with the exam file pre-downloaded, bring a pencil, pen, and calculator, and for good measures, don’t forget your favorite lucky charm.

After you finish your test, you will notice many of your classmates aggregating outside the lecture hall discussing their grades, and/or difficult questions. I personally chose to avoid those conversations. Usually I had my next exam in 24 hours and needed to focus on reviewing that course material more than worrying about that one question I might have missed on the exam I just completed. Once exam week has ended, the professors will post exam grades on Blackboard and if you did not do as well as you thought, I urge you to make an appointment to meet with that professor and go over the questions you missed, to make sure it doesn’t happen again on the cumulative final exam.

My final word of advice: Don’t give up! I personally sometimes felt defeated after an exam week, but I reminded myself that I DO know this stuff and so will you. You have sat through numerous lectures, studied countless hours, and it is now your time to shine. If you don’t do as well as you thought during test week 1, then test week 2 is the time to prove to yourself that you can do better and do exactly that. In optometry school, you are not completing against anyone else, except yourself. So, on the first day of school, put your best foot forward and don’t let that foot ever fall behind.

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a second year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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Big Sib / Lil’ Sib Program

I have mentioned in my blog posts before how difficulty it can be, not only moving to a new state, but also starting a graduate program. One person who really helped me during this transition was my big sibling. The summer before starting my first year, I was given the option to join the Big Sib/Lil’ Sib program. A few weeks after filling out the match form with personal information and hobbies/interests, I then found out who my big sibling would be.

I attribute much of my reduced stress to having a big sibling. It is such a relief to have someone to ask anything. It can be something as simple as “Where is the best coffee shop to study at?” or something important like “How can I save time on an upcoming lab checkout?” Throughout my first year, I discovered that having a big sibling is someone who I could create a supporting relationship with. For example, when I had a proficiency test, I never hesitated to ask my big sibling for advice, and likewise when she was preparing for her optometry board exam I provided her with words of encouragement. For any incoming first year students, I highly encourage you to join the Big Sib/Lil’ Sib program.

Attached below is a photo of my big sibling and I enjoying our evening at the 2017 RSO Eye Ball Formal.

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a second year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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The Start of Optometry School

1 out of 70. I am one of seventy students in the UIWRSO class of 2020. When I first got the acceptance letter I couldn’t believe it; it felt like a dream come true. I, like many, have always been asked the age old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to give back through healthcare, but I was never too sure how I would accomplish it, until May of 2015. After spending an afternoon shadowing our family optometrist I had come to the conclusion; this was the perfect profession for me.

After my application had been submitted and verified, I now had to play the dreaded waiting game. The time spent waiting for an interview invite was far from easy but more than worth it. The interview experience was a great opportunity to show the university what I had to offer, but more importantly helped me determine if the university fit my wants and needs. UIWRSO fulfilled all of my expectations and then some.

Once accepted into the program, I could not wait for the first day of school. It was such a relief knowing where I would be headed after undergraduate graduation. The process of moving across country is not necessarily something you are taught in school. What is a lease? And how would I sign it from miles away? All of these questions and concerns started to build up inside my head. Thank goodness UIWRSO provides admitted students with a relocation service to help with all of these technicalities.

A few months’ passed and it was time to make the move! My parents helped me load up my VW Jetta and we hit the road! 1,300 miles and 19 hours later, we made it to the great city of San Antonio. After a few weeks, my apartment is all set up and I have learned the lay of the land, and it is now the first day of orientation. Oh the emotions I felt; anxious, nervous, apprehensive, but overall excited to start this new chapter of my life.

Like any other alteration in life, it takes time to adjust and get acquainted. Three months have passed since the start of year one of optometry school and I am pleased to announce: I am still alive! It isn’t as bad as you might think, it surely is no cake walk but I keep reminding myself, it will all be worth it one day. When I started school I expected the worse, but the faculty and staff at UIWRSO are so helpful and provide great support that makes day-to-day challenges that much easier.

My decision to apply to optometry school and accept a seat in UIWRSO’s class of 2020 is one of the greatest choices of my life. The friends I have made and the experiences I have had only within a short amount of time, reassures me that there are only more great things to come!

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a second year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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Getting Jobs Through Amani Ocular

One advantage to coming to UIWRSO is the excellent faculty who teach here. Many are involved in their own private practices, work outside of the facility, and even have their own businesses. One such former faculty member is Catherine Awad Amani, OD, MPH. Dr. Awad Amani, her husband (Mustafa Amani, MD) and her brother-in-law (Hamed Amani, MD FACS) all founded Amani Ocular Staffing. I wanted to share their website with you all, as it is something I visit frequently as my optometry school career is coming to a close!

Amani Ocular Staffing is a website designed for ODs, opticians, optometric/ophthalmic technicians, and general office staff looking for jobs, as well as employers who are looking for positions to fill, whether they be temporary or permanent. It is an innovative approach to how people find and fill job vacancies by helping both to find matches to their perfect positions and employees. Amani Ocular Staffing “provides the removal of the middleman” which helps both employer and job seeker find what they are looking for more easily and efficiently.

 

I first learned about Amani Ocular Staffing at a career fair we had at UIWRSO. The idea of our own professor helping us to find jobs was such a great idea. Who better to help students find an OD career than an optometrist we trust and work with daily? She explained to the crowd around her booth that their aim and number one goal is to make sure we become successful and gain the employment opportunities we are seeking and deserve. This is a win-win situation for job seekers and prospective employees. She then went into more detail about how it works. Job Seekers (such as current ODs or students who are approaching graduation) go onto the website www.amaniocular.com and click join. You simply have to put in your name, email, create a password, and you can now search for jobs. Dr. Awad Amani suggests completing your profile by adding your education, credentials, licenses, etc. so that potential employers can seek you out! There is never a fee to search job seekers to look for jobs or gain employment, which is great for us, as students! Employers have a similar set-up in which they are able to post positions for temporary or permanent jobs. They can also post exactly what they are looking for including “Job Seeker rank, skill set, background, region of interest and much more.” Employers get the first three matches for free! After that, a reasonable fee comes with each position filled and is based off the nature of the position (OD, office staff, etc.). One aspect that I find very helpful is the fact that you can “rate” the business you worked for once you have completed the job, and employers can do the same for you! It would be nice to be recognized for all your hard work and dedication to the job and have that help for the next time you are seeking a position.

Navigating through the website myself, I found that it was very easy to find what I was looking for. I am already looking at the website frequently, especially as graduation is around the corner for me as a fourth year. One other thing I really like about the website is the fact that they are connected to social media. At the top of their website you can find links for Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Google+ and Instagram. The doctors of Amani Ocular Staffing like to post updates on where they are and how to get more involved with getting the job of your dreams! I highly encourage all current ODs, 3rd and 4th year students (from all schools), technicians, as well as employers to check out the website and see what jobs or employees await you. As I mentioned, UIWRSO is a facility booming with talented faculty, and Dr. Awad Amani’s teaching and business is just one such example!

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Clinical Internship at UIWRSO

As my third year comes to an end, I get a chance to look back and think about how great my clinical internship at UIWRSO was. During your first and second years, you are so busy trying to do well in your classes and sharpen your skills to prepare for clinic. Once you are there, however, everything changes! You rely on your skills that you have practiced countless of hours on, but you learn the most once you are giving examinations to real patients and interacting with your preceptors.

To be completely honest, your first day of clinical internship is so scary. You go through a few days of training and orientation before you actually begin, but it’s a lot of vague information just so you have a foundation to what you need to do once you start. They give you tips on how to use the EMR (electronic medical record), the dos and don’ts in the clinic, and also how to use some of the equipment that you only used a few times before (OCT, Visual Field, etc.).

The night before we started I could barely sleep; I was so anxious! At the moment, our school has two different schedules for third years: you either have Monday and Thursday clinic, or Tuesday and Wednesday clinic, seeing about 5 patients a week with 2 hours of optical experience. We started school (the summer semester) and clinic on the same day! Talk about rough! We also have different locations we go to, either at our school at the Datapoint Eye Clinic, or our two other locations, Bowden Eye Clinic and another clinic on the West side of town. I was happy that I was at the Datapoint clinic, which I was the most familiar with at the time.

At 9:30 am, I showed up to the area where we (my clinic mates and I) were to set up. My hands were shaking so vigorously as I pulled out the equipment I needed from my kit. I am generally not so nervous unless it is time for a proficiency or something of that nature, so you can probably imagine the type of stress this felt like to me! We logged into the EMR and saw that a few patients were ready. For the first day of clinic, the preceptors allow you to work in a pair, so it’s not as intimidating. Two hours are allowed for each patient’s exam, which you definitely need for the first few weeks in clinic. My partner and I walked into the waiting room, picked up the paper with our patient’s name on it and I started thinking, “What if I pronounce their name wrong? What if they don’t like me?” I called out the patient’s name, and luckily a smile ran across their face as they followed us into the exam room.

I honestly can’t remember much about my first patient encounter, other than he was a very nice, older gentleman who was extremely patient with us. We had had some training on ICD9 codes (what you need to bill their insurance), but it was so new to us and nerve wrecking with the patient in the room that I am surprised we had finished everything within two hours! You are not used to using all of your skills in one sitting, and checking in with preceptors frequently, either, so it was a fast-learning environment.

A few weeks in, and it became routine like the back of my hand. Just like with anything, practice makes perfect. The amount of information you receive and pick up from your preceptors, your clinic mates, and even your patients is incredible during the 11 months you are in clinic at UIWRSO. Even though I am about to leave to fourth year externships, I feel like I have even more to learn from outside preceptors and locations. I am so grateful for the experiences and knowledge I have learned over this past year, and the feeling that I will be happy doing this for the rest of my life overjoys me!

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