Summer Fellowship Training Program

The summer following the first year at RSO, you can perform research under the instruction of a professor. The Summer Fellowship Training Program (SFTP) is an 8-week long program where students can partake in clinical or molecular research in optometry. Having completed research prior to optometry school, I was excited for this opportunity to continue my interest in benchwork. When the program application was released during the spring semester I promptly filled it out in hopes that I would be offered one of the few spots available.

Once I was accepted into SFTP, I had a list of roughly 10 projects to choose from. After meeting with multiple faculty members, I chose to complete my research project with Dr. Fortepiani, studying retinal endothelial cells at UT Health San Antonio, Department of Ophthalmology with a fellow RSO student, Miriam Almanza. Many of my peers who were accepted into the program chose to work on other topics such as dry eye, low vision, and military ocular trauma.

Pictured below is myself, a lab team member, and Miriam working under the cell culture hood.

Half way through the 8-week program all SFTP participants and faculty members would convene weekly for a journal club meeting. These meetings gave students an opportunity to review a similar paper to their project, present their personal project data and identify future intent.

After completing our summer project at UT Health, Miriam and I put together a poster and presented at the UTHSCSA 6th annual Physiology Graduate Student Symposium.  Even though I had prior experience in research, many of my peers entered the program to gain new research experience. This program helped provide a connection of laboratory research to clinical practice, as many of these projects will benefit our patients in the future. I especially recommend to those who have never completed research before to consider applying for SFTP; you will not regret it.

 

Janelle Sventek

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

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Show Your Best Dance Moves

Every year during the spring semester RSO hosts an awards banquet for all students. The event is designed to recognize students for their hard work, honor the class superlatives, and provide a great venue to celebrate the end of the academic year. This banquet is coined with the punny name: “Eye Ball Formal”. This past spring, I attended my first Eye Ball, and it was a blast. Many of my classmates called it the prom of graduate school; but it was so much better than any prom I have ever attended. This year’s theme was Monte Carlo, and included music, awards, dancing, raffle prizes, roulette tables, and black jack.

One of my favorite things about this event was interacting and seeing professors and proctors in a fun and endearing venue. It gives everyone a moment to stop thinking about tests and proficiency exams and enjoy a night out and have fun. The Eye Ball is planned and put on by the second-year student government board, with support from first year SGA board. If planning events and decorating is a hobby of yours, consider joining SGA during your first and/or second year.

Janelle Sventek

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

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Fourth Year Begins!

My optometry school career is coming to a bittersweet end. I am finally in my fourth year at UIWRSO which means a number of things: going on externships, taking part 2 and 3 of NBEO Boards, and saying goodbye to a lot of friends! You guys have been a part of most of my journey, and I will continue writing this year, so you can see what a fourth year extern experiences!

At UIWRSO, students in their fourth year go on to their externship sites to gain more knowledge in optometry, their skills, and network with many other doctors around the country. At the beginning of third year, you get to “choose” your sites based on your rank in the class. You write down your top choices for sites based on your preferences in site (VA hospitals, contact lens/private practice sites, etc.) and the location around the country. I CE3wanted to go to a VA hospital to gain experience in posterior segment, as well as get a taste for private practice, so I chose both as my top choices, and luckily, I got them! You also get to spend a semester at UIWRSO as a fourth year, continuing your education from your third year clinic rotation.

I was very nervous to start the first rotation. Going from third year clinic, where you get almost 2 hours for an exam, to a VA hospital where you get about 35-40 minutes for a complete exam, was very intimidating at first. I chose a site where I was the only extern there so I could become more independent. Some sites have room for only 1 extern, while others have the capability of having several (sometimes 7 or 8 depending on other schools’ participation). Clinic started around 9:45am at the third year clinic, now I had to be ready to go by 7:30am for my first patient at my new site!

I’m not going to lie; the first few weeks at my rotation were hectic to say the least. I was very intimidated by the amount of patients I saw, my new preceptors, and all the new things I needed to learn at the site. The electronic medical record (EMR) system was very different from RSO’s, but I picked it up quickly. I also had to learn how to cut down on my exam time, which the preceptors helped me with. I also had access to a lot of technology, including OCT and Visual Field testing (which I had in the school clinic), but also new equipment like an anterior segment camera, B-scan, and fundus autofluorescence! It was very exciting to learn about these machines and be able to interpret their scans.

During the externship, you also have other responsibilities as a student. You are required to write about 2 cases that you personally saw at the site. You also have a chance to provide feedback to the externship director about your preceptors at the site. It gives you a chance to let them know what more they could do to enhance your learning experience at the site. Your preceptors also do an evaluation of you, indicating what you are strong in and also some areas of weakness and how to improve. It’s a great learning experience. Even though I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to criticism, everything they wrote was true and I took it to heart. By the end of the semester, I’m glad to say, my preceptors thought I improved 100%. It is a good feeling to know your preceptors want you to do well.

Although I am only finished with my first rotation through my fourth year, I can tell you that I have learned so much more than I thought I ever could. Being in class and learning from a book is one thing, but actually experiencing it and seeing it in a patient, as well as managing it, is another. I have grown leaps and bounds from this first experience, and know I will continue to grow through my next two sites. Stay tuned to hear about those in the near future!