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

Dr. Parker demonstrates Customer Service in a “Full Scope Practice”

Dr. Parker - Essilor

The Private Practice Club at UIWRSO welcomed Dr. Parker to lecture on “Full Scope Practice” on Monday, March 2nd from 6-7pm in the Lecture Hall 328.  Over 60 students and faculty came out to this event and were very please with the presentation, role-playing, videos, and the tips for improving their customer service. Dr. Parker was very interactive and invited students to come to the front to act as a customer or patient while Dr. Parker acted as an “engaging” or “not so caring” doctor to demonstrate the impact that good customer service have on the patient.

Dr. Ryan Parker graduated from the Oklahoma College of Optometry at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah Oklahoma in 2004.  While in school he was honored to be elected as President of The AOSA and greatly enjoyed his time serving the national student association.  He opened Parker Family Vision Center in 2007 after being involved in two partnerships.  Dr. Parker practices full scope optometry.  He is proud to be among a select group of Optometrists in the state of Oklahoma that have completed the training to become licensed to perform PRK eye surgery.  Dr. Parker works as an optometric consultant in professional relations for Essilor of North America and lectures for Essilor nationwide. He has lectured on practice management topics at many of the schools and colleges of Optometry and has presented numerous lectures to opticians and optometric physicians on a variety of spectacle lens related topics.

He shared his experiences with the students and many students were glad to have learned more about private practice from a customer service point of view. Please watch this clip to hear what he had to say!

TEXAS BBQ dinner from Rudy’s was served in the cafeteria afterwards. There was brisket, sausages, beans, corn, peach cobbler, pecan pie, and refreshing ice tea! Essilor sponsored Dr. Parker to come to our school as well as the food for the school.


Preparing for Finals

One of the most stressful times of the year for all students is finals week. UIWRSO prepares students very well to succeed on their finals throughout the year with personalized help from teachers, one-on-one tutoring, and fun review days using games like Jeopardy! No matter if you’re in undergrad or already in optometry school, hopefully these tips below will help you to get through finals just a little better. I asked several students from each class what kind of stress reliever/distraction/tips they have for finals week.

First year students:

“I’m being very cautious about finals. I don’t know what to expect yet, but hopefully the preparation the professors and I have put forth will reflect in my grades.”

“As a study break, I like to watch YouTube videos about cats. Don’t get too distracted though, because one leads to another and you end up on YouTube for an hour before you notice.”

“I had a teacher in undergrad who would always say, ‘Study smart, not hard.’ I think that is probably the best advice I’ve ever gotten.”

Second year students:

“Starbucks is my favorite thing right now.”

“I enjoy dancing on my study breaks. Just getting up and moving does wonders for your brain. I seem to retain more information if I am up and about.”

“Try to use some of the study and exam tips they have online, such as eating peppermint gum, using certain scents, etc. while studying. It works for me!”

“Have a strategy before you go into the test! If you know you take a long time, make sure to pace yourself.”

Third year students:

“My advice to first and second years has always been to make sure you start studying for finals a few weeks ahead of schedule. You might think you can wait until the last second, but it’s not a very good idea.”

“Remember that grades aren’t everything. I have seen a lot of students wear themselves out to the point of exhaustion! Make sure you are exercising, taking breaks, and eating properly.”

Fourth year students:

“Studying gets easier and easier each year. You finally understand what each teacher wants and by the time you get to fourth year, you’ll have already taken some parts of boards. Push through!”

“Remember this is the best time of your life. Yes, it’s difficult right now, but it will definitely be worth it. You are working to save lives.”

That being said, I hope some of these tips will relieve your stress, or give you some motivation. I wish you all success on your finals!

Open House Student Panel: An Ambassador’s Prospective

After having participated and attended the recent UIWRSO Open House event, I started thinking about my role here as a student and the path I took to get here.  There are many opportunities at RSO, one of which is being a student ambassador, who are students who serve on multiple panels to help serve the school through orientations, interviews, academics, etc. I am lucky enough to be a student ambassador for RSO. Many times, such as last week’s Open House event,  I am asked questions from prospective students about what I really think about the school. In all honesty, the best optometry school is the one that fits you the best. For me, RSO was and still is my number one choice and I am beyond happy that I am here. Here are just a few of the topics that were covered by me, as well as two other students, during the Student Panel portion of the Open House event for UIWRSO.

For those who have not gotten an opportunity to personally visit or interview yet at schools, I can think of several reasons why I believe RSO is the top optometry school. One of the biggest reasons why I love RSO is that I feel like I am part of a family here. I was extremely worried about coming into school because I was scared that I would not make friends or fit in. That is the complete opposite of what happened. I feel like our student affairs team makes the best choices in the students they bring in, those that are well-rounded and overall great people. I know that when I leave school, I will keep in contact with all of my classmates and genuinely enjoy their company. Another reason why I believe RSO is the top optometry school is that our board exam passing rates exceed national averages for the last two graduating classes. This, in addition to the challenging and rewarding curriculum, helps me to know that I will leave school with the abilities to be successful not only on boards, but in my practice. Faculty and staff here really care about your education. If you’re having an issue and need help, they always lend the hand you need. Having smaller classes and even smaller lab groups (for more personalized attention) makes the experience even better. Because we are a newer school, we definitely have up-to-date technology and equipment that still looks brand new. Last, but not least, we are the only faith-based school of optometry. There is so much diversity in our school: religiously and culturally. It makes for a nice mix of people who are all open and welcoming. Even during the first day of orientation, UIWRSO emphasized that it is aims to help us develop as a whole person. I think these are the key ingredients to making some of the best doctors in the country.

Maybe you’re considering going into school, but not sure if you should spend the time, money, or sanity doing so. Well, optometry is one of the best fields to get into right now! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for optometrists is 24%, indicating that the need for these careers is expected to grow by that much. This is well above average for most careers (11%). Optometrists make an average of about $97,820 and have about 33,100 national jobs as of 2012. There will always be a need for healthcare professionals, including optometrists. Maybe you are thinking that you don’t have enough money to go to school, but that is not a problem, as financial assistance is available to most students who enroll at RSO. If you have a genuine passion to help people and your community, this is definitely a profession for you.

As a second year, I have been exposed to many (but not all) of the lab skills I will need to go into clinic. RSO has amazing optometry lab courses. It has been the most difficult, but most rewarding experience of my life. Professors prepare you by having lab proficiencies and checkouts frequently, insuring that you know and understand all procedures. They give you ample opportunity to practice these skills in lab with older students, who give you great tips. The lab courses are set-up to ensure that you are able to go into clinic well prepared and ready for boards at the end of your time at RSO. During second year, you are also exposed to vision screenings for children at various schools around San Antonio. First year also gives opportunities for vision screenings through organizations such as SVOSH or FCO. They also give summer research opportunities and the ability to work alongside professors during your first year. Community service is also very important to RSO, and the school gives us opportunities to engage in volunteer activities. I feel proud to come from a school that takes so much care in making sure I succeed in all aspects of the field.

Personally, I picked RSO for several reasons. RSO was my first choice in that it was closest to my home and there are only 21 Optometry Programs (2 in Texas). I wanted to be able to maintain a good balance between school and visiting home. I also picked it because I knew the school would be very up-to-date with technology and I would be using new equipment. I also knew that the classes were much smaller than other schools, and was excited about getting more one-on-one attention. Going into the interview was the cherry on top, however, because it just felt right during the whole process. I would suggest to anyone who is considering going into optometry school to research online, explore the school (especially through events like our Open House), and find the right fit for you. For me, I look forward to what the rest of this year and finally obtaining my white coat will bring me as I continue my journey through RSO.

Open House 1 Open House 2 Open House 3 Open House 4 Open House 5

Vision Expo West 2014: new technology, networking, and job offers

Part of my experience at RSO has centered around cultivating relationships with what will soon be my professional peers and colleagues.  An opportunity I had to connect professionally while learning came while attending Vision Expo West (VEW). My eyes were in for a treat or more physiologically correct, my hyper column of the v1 cortex cells were excited. It was an unforgettable sight, the Sands Expo in Las Vegas was all about vision care and frame fashion. Bright lights and indoor billboards hovered over me, in no way did VEW fell pale to the Vegas lights. The vision council did an amazing job sectioning the vendors and booths into easy to find categories. Learning about the industries that work for optometrists DSC00831was absolutely jaw dropping because of the booming technology on the horizon.

In undergrad I had a few close friends who were studying physics, fiber optics and researching 3D printing. I myself worked in a renowned bioengineering lab at UCLA, where I fell in awe with the eye surgery research done by robots. Today I see how the research in new technology have manifested in the field of optometry.

Handheld auto-refractors (AR) were invented years ago, however criticisms of their inaccuracies have not allowed them to sell. At VEW, a company launched their smartphone based AR with a beautiful and simplistic interface. The inventor of this small handheld device has a goal, to help optometrists work anywhere and on the go. When I was talking to the CEO, I did not talk yo him with a mentality of a student. I went in there thinking, as a doctor what do I want to know about this product. I asked how would this program would sync with electronic health records? Which smartphones are compatible? And the list goes on. I was offered a position as an OD on the team. I reminded him I still have two more years of school. Networking comes in all places and so does work. I never imagined ODs working in product research, it is not something on our radar screen nor is it something you hear about from ODs, but someone has to test the new products.

One product in particular caught my eye at South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, Texas: 3D printing. I had the opportunity to talk to all the inventors and find out why their 3D printer was different. The technology has evolved so much and the machines are now accessible and affordable to the public. Optometrists are using this technology to create custom frames in available 3D printed materials such as plastics and metals.

UIWRSO students
UIWRSO students

Can you imagine what I did when I saw a booth at VEW that had a 3D printing making the frame on the spot? I quickly moved to the booth and approached with a big smile. I probably spent 30 minutes talking to the engineer and grabbed another 3 min meeting with the OD who started this company and the best part is that I still got offered a job. This was such a great opportunity to ask so many questions and even make suggestions for the company. Research pays off, literally. After our conversation, the engineer asked the busy OD to meet me. The OD was the CEO and shared this thought with me after only a couple of minutes, “you have a great personality, what year are you in? I would love to have you come down to my office to visit and come join the team when you are done.”

As a first time attendee, I did not feel lost at all, the people were so friendly, I was really happy to reunite with some friends from undergrad who are now in optometry school as well, soon they will be my colleagues! I also handed out some business cards and received a lot more! It’s a great place to network and it goes to show that you as a student can benefit in many ways by going to these conventions. It is an amazing way to keep in touch with your colleagues and with the ever growing profession of optometry. I’m excited to come back next year!