Second Years Get a Grip on Torics

As a second year, I feel as though I have learned so much in the past eight months. One of my favorite classes so far, however, has been our Contact Lens course. This semester, we were privileged enough to have the opportunity to attend a Toric Workshop held by the STAPLE (Soft Toric and Presbyopic Lens Education) Program. This program allows students to fit toric lenses on actual patients. This was actually the first time we were working on other patients, rather than our classmates! The program introduces students to different companies’ lenses and options, including Alcon, Bausch+Lomb, CooperVision, and VISTAKON. We met the sales reps that were either from San Antonio, or a surrounding area. This was very important to me, because if we choose to stay in this area once we graduate, we already have our foot in the door with these beneficial resources.

The program started off with a nice catered dinner, which was great as we had just finished a long day of labs and classes. Patients and participating professors were also invited to the dinner portion. Coordinating the event was Mrs. Ursula Lotzkat, who also introduced a guest speaker, Dr. Sahlu Pal. Dr. Pal gave a very interesting and informative presentation about toric lenses, and provided us an insight into her life. She expressed the importance of providing information about toric lens options to patients, which I found very valuable. As doctors, we to provide an opportunity to help someone see at their very best and be sure to help them to consider all possible options!

After the presentation, the workshop began. All of the second year students were put into groups of three with a doctor to oversee our progress. We were able to fit two lenses on one patient, and then two lenses on another. It gave us the opportunity to work with a real patient, and also see the different kinds of lenses out there. The sales reps really helped us in determining the best fit and powers for the patients. The professors were extremely helpful in making sure we knew what to look for when fitting contact lenses. Patients also seemed to enjoy helping the students.

To be honest, I was very nervous going into this experience. I felt like I was going to be unable to confidently interact with a patient who I had never seen before. However, it came naturally and that just proves to me to trust my natural instincts in helping and also validated the academic experience I am getting at UIWRSO. My patient was happy, I learned so much, and now I am able to say I have already fit patients in toric lenses, a skill I plan to incorporate when I have a practice of my own!

If you would like to find out more about the STAPLE program, check out their website here:


Tour de Optometry with the ​National COVD’s President Dr. Ida Chung

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The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) club at UIWRSO hosted the Annual Tour de Optometry and Residency Forum. COVD created the Tour de Optometry to educate and excite optometry students about behavioral and developmental vision and vision therapy. The COVD Board of Directors and some Past Presidents visit each of the schools of optometry, and the attending Board Member works with the COVD Faculty, Resident, and Student Liaisons to coordinate the Tour visit.

This year the ​National COVD’s President Dr. Ida Chung visited RSO on Wednesday March 4th to talk about her practice and how vision therapy (VT) impacted her patients. She was also glad to see her past students who are now teaching vision therapy at RSO. Dr. Maki was a student of Dr. Chung before coming to RSO as a faculty member. Following Dr. Chung, the club held a Residency Q&A with RSO faculty, Drs. Coates, Maki, Tison, and Nicklas. The students asked a lot of questions about how to get more involved with VT after graduation and why the faculty decided to pursue this path in optometry. I had a great time listening to the speakers and enjoyed some zesty Olive Garden at the same time.

From left to right: Dr. Chung, guest speaker and COVD President, Desirae Brinkley, COVD RSO Student President.
Student members who wore their shirts for the event!

Helping the Community Through FCO

This past week I was privileged enough to follow our school’s FCO (Fellowship of Christian Optometrists) club while they went to a local church to give full eye exams to those in need. Every few weeks, members of FCO, in addition to many professors, volunteer their time and skills to check the eye health of several members of our community in churches, clubhouses, etc. I want to take you through my journey of what I was able to witness during one of these sessions.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect; the President of our school’s FCO, Melissa Gonzales, told me that the exams were going to take place in a church basement downtown. One of the first things I noticed when I showed up was that she pulled out her equipment from her car trunk, but also pizzas from Little Caesar’s. Once we went into the basement, I saw a few people occupying seats waiting for our arrival. She put the pizzas on a table, and mentioned that the pizza was for the patients waiting. This was the first of many selfless acts I saw by the members of FCO.

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Then we ventured into another series of back rooms to the actual “exam room.” It was nothing like what I expected. I anticipated seeing something like our equipment at school, with private lanes, and brand new equipment. It was small, dark, and full of older equipment. The appearance didn’t fool me though; the students and doctors made full use of this equipment, and in a timely fashion. I followed Melissa with her first patient to a private, quiet area. He was an older man, complaining of not being able to see that well at distance and near. When prompted with how old his current glasses were, he told us 3 years old, that they weren’t even his, and that his last eye exam was in 2005. This shocked me! As students, we encourage patients come in every year for their exam and have up-to-date prescriptions; but recognize that this is not always possible for everyone. This goes to show what a great service these students are providing to people who normally would not get this kind of eye care.

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After doing a quick case history, patients are led back into the other room with the equipment, and the eye exam begins. They get all kinds of services, including getting their eyes dilated, refracted, and examined with the slit lamp. They also get their eye pressures checked. Students from all years get the chance to participate and the professors also helped. Dr. Maki manned the tonometer, which was clearly dated, with ease. Colonel Cleland, a preceptor for UIWRSO’s clinics, oversaw the whole operation, helping out wherever needed. The patients also have access to glasses, and the church pays for the cost of the glasses and lenses. They even get to pick from a small assortment of glasses, so it’s not just a one pair for everyone.

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The best part of the whole experience, as I am sure it is for the volunteers also, is hearing how grateful and happy the patients are when they leave. One man left and said, “I really appreciate what you all did for me; thank you so much.” You could tell he was genuinely thankful for these services. It brought me to tears. Sometimes the patients had to wait for a station to open for a while, but none of them complained. They were all very cooperative and helped things run smoothly.

I am really proud to come from a school where students help those who are less fortunate. Not only are these students getting great experience using a wide variety of equipment, but they are also helping their communities. Ms. Gonzales told me that “The only thing I would want people to know about FCO is that we serve people to show Christ’s love. The Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to be in school and learn these skills and we only want to give back to others what The Lord has given us.”

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Listening in and learning at the COVD Convention

Thank you OEP for the student travel grant!  From Left to right: Maggie Fransisco, Susan Ly, Kory Botelho, Nikolai Perez, Current OEP Resident - Sandy Tran, OD, Kelin Kushin, Optometrists Change Lives Writing Competition student winner - Katie Davis, OD.
Thank you OEP for the student travel grant! From Left to right: Maggie Fransisco, Susan Ly, Kory Botelho, Nikolai Perez, Current OEP Resident – Sandy Tran, OD, OEP Executive Director – Kelin Kushin, Optometrists Change Lives Writing Competition student winner – Katie Davis, OD.

The Optometric Extension Program (OEP) helped me travel to the 2014 COVD (College of Optometrists in Vision Development) Convention through a travel grant. I am very grateful for this opportunity because I have been interested in attending since my first year in optometry school. I know that each optometry convention that I attend has their interests and specific courses of continuing education, but what I liked most about COVD was the community’s passion to help their patients. In all the CEs and sessions that I attended, one theme resonated, how can optometrists educate parents and other health professionals about what we do, so that we can give better patient care. I really enjoyed hearing about case studies of co-management of pediatric patients with ophthalmologists and neurologists because I plan to practice progressively to give my patients holistic, inter-professional, health care. COVD focuses on many other topics, for example, below are the COVD statements; you can read more here.

COVD Mission Statement

Improving lives by advancing excellence in optometric vision therapy through education and board certification.

COVD Vision Statement

To facilitate ongoing progress in developmental vision care, advocate for wider adoption of optometric vision therapy, and increase recognition of its integral role in enhancing learning, rehabilitation, productivity, and overall quality of life.

The exhibit hall was like none that I have ever seen before! Due to the specific instruments and equipment needed to practice Vision Therapy (VT) and rehabilitation, I was able to talk to vendors who sell to this specialty and learn more about their products. As a great appreciator of technology, I was drawn to the G-lab booth because they had a stereoscope for an iPad and an app that allows for interactive vision evaluation and therapy. My good friend, Nikolai Perez, the current OEP national student liaison, was a vision therapist before attending the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, School of Optometry. He saw the potential in this instrument and purchased one at the convention. I was really glad that I was able to travel the exhibition hall with someone that has prior experience as a therapist because it contributed to my understanding of vision therapy patients and clinically working with VT equipment in preparation for my fourth year in optometry school. 

Mrs. Benoit and Mrs. Kushin at the OEP Table
Mrs. Benoit and Mrs. Kushin at the OEP Table

Kelin Kushin, Executive Director of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation, gave every student a Brock’s String. Mrs. Kushin has expanded OEP, especially within the optometry student community; she has also helped organized many events with our school, such as a Skype meeting with Dr. Susan Barry, author of Fixing My Gaze, and a Skype meeting with Mrs. Benoit, author of Jillian’s Story. It was also a great pleasure to finally meet Mrs. Robin Benoit in person at the OEP table; she is very friendly and has been conducting Skype meetings with our school for the past two years! The Brock’s String was a thoughtful gift and I was really happy because we have just learned in RSO’s Vision Therapy course the clinical uses for the Brock’s String. In fact, one of our VT professors, Dr. Yukata Maki, Chief of the Vision Therapy and Binocular Vision Service, has just received his fellowship with COVD, under the following rigorous requirements. It is a great honor and Dr. Maki is now board certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy. The UIWRSO student COVD chapter celebrated his new achievement with a group meeting and a chocolate cake!

Practice Management for the Optometric Student

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! 

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.