Giving Back One Vision Screening at a Time

Within my first few months of school it was very easy to notice my classmates and I all had one dream: to help those in need and give back to our community. As a first year student at RSO, I did not expect to be given an opportunity to do such so early in the program. After just 28 days from the beginning of classes, I found myself inside a small dim room at a San Antonio church located in the heart of downtown.

This would mark the day of my first vision screening. I was scared and timid at first but my fellow students (second and third years) reassured me that everything I had been learning in my Basic Optometry course was going to be put to good use that night. As soon as the patients started to arrive, my peers and I were continuously busy. From measuring pupil size to testing visual acuity, as a first year student with only a month of school under my belt, I was able to help so much!

There are many organizations and clubs on campus that provide students with hands on experiences through vision screenings. I highly encourage many of my classmates who still haven’t attended a vision screening to do so ASAP. It is a such a great reminder of why we study and work so hard to do well in the classroom. These vision screenings provide us with a real world application of everything we have been learning from the textbook, and it doesn’t get much better than that!

As an RSO student, we are reminded of UIW’s core values, especially one in particular: service. From the first day of orientation, we were prompted to be mindful of our community and give back as much as possible. As students of community engagement, we complete a service learning project within our curriculum, consisting of at least 16 service hours by the end of our third year. My classmates, as well as myself, truly understand how important these moments are. Not only are we fulfilling the mission of UIW, but we are also improving the lives of so many community members.

Pictured below are first-year students and instructor Dr. Narayanan, who volunteered at the 2016 BAPS Charities Health Fair. Which is a day that provides a wide array of health screenings and blood testing for community members.

 

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You too can fulfill your dreams of giving back to the community through vision screenings within just one month of beginning your career as an optometry student at UIWRSO!

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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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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Low Vision with a Twist

As an officer for the LVR (Low Vision and Rehabilitation) Club at RSO, I am very excited to share my experience with a recent event that we held as a fundraiser. Most people have heard about “Painting with a Twist,” which involves a teacher showing you step-by-step how to finish a painting, all while indulging in a BYOB atmosphere. LVR Club wanted to do something similar, but do it with a low vision twist. This was the first time an event like this has ever been held at UIWRSO, so we were very eager to have it go off with a bang!

For our event, we had a teacher (our very own third year and LVR officer Minati Desai) show us how to paint a picture, but with the added difficulty of wearing low vision simulator glasses. Our third year class made these glasses, and they simulated all kinds of low vision diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma, among others. Participants were encouraged to use the glasses and see a small glimpse into the life of someone with one of these eye diseases. I used a pair of cataract glasses and I have to admit that it got difficult when I was trying to use my central vision! Luckily, I was still able to come up with a decent painting.

One of the great things about this event is that more than just RSO students attended. Some pharmacy students from UIW attended, as well as friends of the professors here at UIWRSO. One thing that is very difficult about being an officer in a club is sometimes worrying about the turnout of events. We were very pleased that we had a full turnout with all 30 spots filled. We were also able to have wine service at the school for this specific event. The event was sponsored by Mattingly Low Vision.

Everyone at the event really enjoyed it. Many people told me it was one of the best events we’ve ever had at RSO, which myself and the other officers of the club are very proud of. We were even mentioned in the UIW newsletter! I hope that this event continues next year and even after we graduate. I think it is a great way to educate students who have no prior exposure to low vision and also people who aren’t involved in optometry. I am very proud of what our club has done this year, so what a great event to finish off my third year of optometry school!

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The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind Partnership with UIWRSO

As a fourth year intern, students at UIWRSO get the chance to have their low vision rotation through the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind (SALB). The organization has been around for more than 80 years in the city of San Antonio, and has spread to many other cities, not only in Texas, but also to New Mexico and Oklahoma. I attended a Low Vision Club meeting where the SALB was able to show the students some of the various services they provide to the blind and visually impaired, so that before we go to our rotation, we have a good idea of all the incredible things the organization does.

UIWRSO students get very familiar with the SALB’s Low Vision Clinic, which has seven state-of-the-art exam lanes. The speakers explained that the eye exams actually used to take place in a much smaller location, which is now part of the Lighthouse Rehabilitation Center for the blind or visually impaired, where they learn to live independently and do daily chores and tasks on their own. Not only do they provide these services, but they also help in teaching people new skills or help in assisting them in continuing their work (with or without the use of visual aids), so that they can become successfully employed.

The SALB is unique in that it employs close to 425 people, which nearly half of whom are blind. The products that these employees make are distributed and sold in over 14 stores throughout a few states. Employees get competitive pay, and also medical and retirement benefits. They manufacture various supplies, including those for offices, as well as those for the military. The speakers showed us some of these supplies, and the craftsmanship on the products was impeccable.

The organization also has a shop for the blind here in San Antonio. They are able to purchase products such as braille materials, large print items, canes, magnifiers, etc. They showed us some of the items that the blind or visually impaired can buy. One of the most interesting products was a little remote-control looking item. The speakers explained that the blind and visually impaired need help in determining colors for the clothes they wear, which is something I think people take advantage of everyday. The remote control is pressed up against the clothing in question. You push a button and the device tells you what color the clothing is!

Not only does the organization have all of these great programs and devices, but they also have the Blind Children’s Education Program, which is the only one of its kind in Texas. It helps children from birth to the age of 14 with the use of enrichment programs and several activities throughout the year. One of the speakers explained how their annual Easter egg hunt is a huge success and is getting bigger each year. They told us a story of how one mother of a visually impaired child had “never seen her child happier” than when they found one of the eggs during the Easter egg hunt this past year.

Learning more about the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind made me realize the importance that UIWRSO plays in the community. The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind is doing amazing things in our city, and it’s great to know that we can have a small part in their mission to improve and empower the lives of the blind and visually impaired.SALB SALB 2 SALB 3 SALB 4 SALB 5 SALB 6 SALB 7 SALB 8 SALB 9 SALB 10 SALB 11 SALB 12 SALB 13