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

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AAO Pinning Ceremony at UIWRSO!

The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) Student chapter at the Rosenberg School of Optometry (RSO) held their Annual Student Fellowship Pinning Ceremony. During this past AAO national meeting in Denver, Colorado, 26 students from the RSO received their Student Fellowship. This is a record amount at RSO and we are excited to have so many students interested in learning. The Academy’s annual meeting provides the highest quality continuing education and the most current vision science research, which includes nearly 300 hours of Lectures & Workshops, symposia, and scientific lecture and poster presentations over 4 days. The students loved the experience and best of all, thought the Academy was so much FUN!

The AAO has a special program for students to go through in order to receive the title of student fellow. After the requirements are fulfilled, the student is awarded an AAO pin at the school’s pinning ceremony. Each student completed a series of continuing education courses, symposiums, poster sessions, and paper presentations throughout the weekend, as well as representing RSO at the AAO national meeting.

The following students were recognized for this year at the pinning ceremony:
Amanda Achilles, Amy Belloli, Samantha Bohl, Timothy Bradshaw, Alicia Chacon, Wiliam Cluff, Amy Cuevas, Caroline Dang, Minati Desai, Sheyda Durig, Amanda Estrada, Kimberly Kim, Kyler Knobbe, Daniel Lam, Paul Lau, Denisse Lopez, Susan Ly, Jason Ngo, Jenny Nguyen, Monali Patel, Lisa Prejean, Ashley Pylant, Jennifer Ramey, Rebecca Sheeder, Anthony Vanrachack, and Beatriz Villegas.

Guest speakers included Dr. Valdes, an RSO professor who recently earned AAO Fellowship or F.A.A.O., and Mr. Terry Peterson of Zeiss. Both gave amazing speeches and the students enjoyed a delicious dessert reception sponsored by Zeiss.

Lastly, the event was put together by the AAO student chapter officers:
Ashley Pylant – President
Susan Ly – Vice President
Linh Nguyen – Secretary
Minati Desai – Treasurer
Faculty Advisor – Dr. Rick Trevino

The American Academy of Optometry 2014

UIWRSO Group Picture at AAO 2014!
UIWRSO Group Picture at AAO 2014!


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.

10270464_372776716215512_5067311626676979005_nOn 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.

Most of the students wanted to obtain their student fellowship at the Academy. The requirements are as follows: 4 hours of Continuing Education, 2 hours of attending paper presentations, 2 hours of attending poster presentations, a symposium on a specific topic such as Low Vision or Glaucoma, and various students meetings such as the AAO business meeting, the student networking lunch, and more. You can learn more from: (  It sounds like a lot right? The reason that the Academy has launched this exciting new Student Fellowship program is to encourage students to experience the entire meeting, hoping that it will stimulate improved integration of all of the opportunities offered at the meeting, encourage future involvement, and persuade students to become Fellows upon graduation. I really enjoyed picking the CEs that interested me and because the Academy was able to offer so many courses, some of my classmates were able to complete the requirements in two days. I truly enjoyed my experience at the Academy and I would love to come back again and again!

UIW Annual Research Week & Poster Session

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Seventh Annual Research Week at UIW (February 17 – 21, 2014) and the First Annual UIWRSO Research Poster Session (February 25, 2014)


Marian Hall!

RSO poster session
Our Research team! From left to right: Susan Ly, Denisse Lopez, Dr. Trevino, Dr. Majcher.

Denisse and I walked through rows and rows of 6’ by  4’ feet posters at the Marian Ballroom. There were also rows of chairs facing the stage were the podium stood – ready for speakers to present their research. We came early, so that we can practice presenting our research poster. It may not be a big deal to some students who had undergrad experience in research, but it was Denisse Lopez and my first time doing a research poster presentation. I’m really glad that our school offers research scholarships to students who are interested in optometric research, even if you did not have any prior experience.

We got into the Summer Fellowship Training Program (SFTP) last year and it has been such a wonderful experience. Dr. Rabin (our lovable Vision Science Professor) is also the Chair of the Research Committee. He assigned students to help with concurrent research done by staff, and/or create your own with

RSO poster session
Samantha Bohl, Dr. Mickles, and Desirae Brinkley with their Dry Eye Poster!

the help of your Principal Investigator (PI), who happens to be just one of many researching UIWRSO Faculty. Not only do you build rapport with your PI, but you also get to know your fellow student researcher really well. I highly recommended that an RSO first year join the research team, because it’s not just a one summer program, but a whole skill set that optometry school alone does not teach you. Even after the summer program, you can choose to stay involved in your research project, and present your work in national optometric conventions such as AOA, ARVO, AAO, etc.


RSO poster session
work from the School of Media and Design, UIW.
The Event Proceedings Booklet and our abstract
The Event Proceedings Booklet and our abstract

Back to the Poster session, this event was put together by the hard work of Rebecca Ohnemus, MAA, CRA, the Research Officer, of the School of Graduate Studies and Research’s Office of Research Development.  What I enjoyed was the diversity of graduate programs that UIW provides, I learned a lot from just talking to the students from different disciplines. Not only were there UIW researchers and scholars from the UIW Pharmacy, optometry, and Nursing school, but there were posters from the business and administration, Math, education, and the art, media and design graduate programs. Rebecca collected abstracts and artist’s statements describing their current and ongoing projects. The submissions were then collected and bound into a spiral notebook for attendees to take a copy. It was a great reference for attendees to find our abstract in the book!

RSO poster session
Dennis Yu and his team’s poster!

One week later, The First Annual UIWRSO Research Poster Session took place in our satellite campus, UIWRSO, Events Room 301, Tuesday, February 25th from Noon to 1pm.  Many students from RSO joined to celebrate the accomplishments of our Faculty and Intern researchers. Pizza was served, complimentary of our Dean, Dr. Buzzelli.  The posters reflect research accomplished during the Summer Fellowship Training Program as well as additional Faculty and Intern efforts.

It was thanks to the hard work of Dr. Maria Lourdes Alarcon Fortepiani, MD, PhD, our lovely, Professor at the Rosenberg School of Optometry, that this event was possible. It was a great way to let the first years know about our research experience!


RSO poster session
All RSO students were welcome to see what kind of research is being done by RSO faculty and interns!
RSO poster session
Alicia Chacon and Sean Johnson in front of their poster!


Finals Week

Alas, the dreaded finals week is upon us! We all know it will happen and some of us choose to ignore the fact that it will occur after every semester of school, regardless of if we want it to or not. Some students look forward to finals because it means the end of the semester, and there is a break very near. Others dread finals for the obvious reasons. Whether or not you like taking finals, they are a fact of life, so we must carry on. books

In optometry school, you will no doubt have 6 or 7 finals after every semester, and maybe a few lab finals as well until your third year, where clinic becomes a vast majority of your school day. To be honest, I still don’t know how I make it through finals week every time. I guess you just put your nose to the grind stone, and get through it. Our finals, here at UIWRSO, are set up so we have 1 per day, and on occasion 2, and they are usually in the morning. So, if you are a night owl, you can pull an all-nighter, take the test, go home and sleep for a few hours, and then do it all again. I am definitely not an “all-nighter.” Some of my friends call me a grandpa because I like to go to bed by 10:30pm, so the next day I may take a short nap after the test and then study all day, and get to bed so I can get at least 7 hours of rest. I’m sure you have all heard somebody talk about a study that has shown that people perform better when getting an adequate amount of sleep. Now, we are all adults, and know our own strategy for taking tests, so to each their own.

Well, on Friday August 2, 2013, I had my first final for this semester in Research Methodology. This class is focused on how to perform research correctly, and how to analyze the data you receive from research. We had normal class in the morning from 7:30am to 10:00am and our final was at 10:00am. It was a short 50 question comprehensive final. It was only a 1.0 credit hour class, so it was not that difficult, but a few of my other tests will be!

The weekend was full of studying. I woke up Saturday morning and studied all day. I was able to take a break Saturday night and get in some good relaxation. After church Sunday morning I was back at it, studying until the sun went down. Even after all of that studying I did not feel completely ready for my test on Monday. I had studied as much as I could, and I just had to do my best. My test on Monday was in Pathology of the Posterior Segment II. In this class you learn about many of the disease processes that can affect the back of the eye. It is difficult, but will help you clinically. The rest of my Monday was, again, filled with studying for most of the day. My test on Tuesday was in Advanced Contact Lens, and was not as difficult as my test on Monday. In Advanced Contact Lens you will learn about all the very different modes and types of contact lens. Also, you will learn to recognize contact lens related diseases and how to treat them.

Tuesday morning arrived, again, I woke up at 6:00am to prepare myself to take another grueling test. Luckily, the material in Advanced Contact Lens was not as difficult as Posterior Segment. The test came and went, just as any other tests would. My Tuesday afternoon consisted of taking a nap to rejuvenate, and then studying for Case Analysis. This class focuses on teaching you to think like a clinician. A majority of the lectures are case presentations where as a class we ask questions and determine diagnoses of many different cases. You may wonder what the final for this class will consist of, well, you will be tested over the different cases presented in class. They will provide specific information about the case and you will make the best diagnosis based on the information.

Wednesday at 6:00am I again reviewed a few lectures and prepared for my test at 7:30am! The test was a blur, like all the rest. The test coming up on Thursday, won’t be a walk in the park though, so after my test Wednesday morning, I had to hit the books hard. Thursday’s test was in Strabismus and Amblyopia, when you get to this class you will understand. This class is tough, but you will leave feeling more confident in your skills. You will learn all about eye turns/deviations and begin to learn how to recognize and how to manage these cases clinically. EyeChart

My Thursday morning was exactly like the rest. I was more nervous about this test though. It was going to be difficult, and I spent every minute that morning reviewing and trying to make sure I was ready for that test. It was a tough test, but as long as you prepare well, you will perform well. By this time there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow morning would be the last final of the summer! It was in our glaucoma course. This class is focused on the clinical aspect of glaucoma diagnosis and management. It is a very useful class. Everything you learn will apply clinically. By the time you finish the final you will have a good idea on how to diagnose and treat glaucoma. My Thursday afternoon was not as intense, I took a few hours to relax and play some racquetball. My studying on Thursday afternoon was sub-par, at best. I was able to get through all the lectures, but it was very difficult to stay focused.

Friday morning came around, and I woke up at 6:30am this morning. The glaucoma test was not easy, but it was our easiest final of the six we took. I looked over a few things Friday morning, but I was not as worried about this test. The final came and went, and I remember walking out of the test room and feeling free! It was time to get some R&R and enjoy not studying for a whole week!

Finals weeks are always the same in optometry school. They are intense, but you always find a way to get through it. You put your nose to the grind, and spend most of your waking hours of that week studying. In the end it is worth it. Receiving good grades is great, but to be honest, sometimes just passing is a relief. In the end, hard work does pay off! If you are reading this and it is your finals week, then keep your chin up, it will be over soon. If you have made it to this point then you are smart enough, just hang in there!

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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