Grant the Guide Dog

Before moving to San Antonio, I had spent countless hours volunteering my time at a guide dog school in Florida. Guide dog schools are non-profit organizations that typically breed, raise, and train guide dogs to increase mobility and independence to legally blind individuals. So, it would make sense that when I had accepted a seat in RSO’s class of 2020, my next thought was to locate the closest guide dog school to San Antonio. To my pleasure and surprise, I found one, not only in Texas but headquartered right here, in San Antonio.

Prior to leaving my home state I had all paper work filled out, all training quizzes complete, and became an approved volunteer with Guide Dogs of Texas. I was not only excited about starting optometry school but also having the opportunity to give back, to my soon to be neighborhood and community. After several months as a weekend guide dog boarder and getting a handle on my first semester of graduate school, I felt it was time to take the next step.

With approval from RSO administration I signed up to become a full-time guide dog raiser, one who boards a dog long-term. On January 10th, my life changed as soon as I met Grant, my guide dog in training. With his big floppy ears and grinning smile, he instantly stole my heart.

As a guide dog raiser, I oversaw exposing Grant to all the sights and sounds he could potentially experience one day while with a client. When I received Grant, I had only lived in San Antonio for six months and was still exploring for myself. What better way to learn a new city than with a puppy by my side?

The very first place I went with Grant was the iconic Riverwalk! With water features, ducks, lots of people, and narrow sidewalks it was a great place to begin working on our bond and his training.

One week after getting Grant, the spring semester began, which meant all new sights and sounds for him, and for my peers. Many classmates had the urge to pet Grant, given his cunning looks, but they understood the damaging effects that occur when a guide dog is distracted from work. Grant quickly discovered his favorite teachers (they were the ones with treats) and would readily interact with them while in the hallways. When I would stay late studying for exams, he would easily cheer me up with a puppy lick or a goofy play session.

On June 5th, the big day arrived. After six months of training, he went in for his assessment to see if he could continue as a guide dog. It was a nerve-racking experience, but I knew I had given it my all, and after a few days I found out…HE PASSED! Grant would officially become a guide dog for a legally blind individual. After passing his assessment he had lots of “free runs” at the dog park and maybe a few extra treats.

On July 15th, Grant attended his doggy graduation where he traded in his blue “In-Training” vest for his official harness. He will continue in advanced training for six more months and will then be matched with a client. After roughly ten years of working, he will then enjoy the good life of retirement.

This whole experience has been so rewarding to me, through the ability to train Grant and help potential visually impaired patients. I highly encourage everyone to find a hobby or organization that you are passionate about and donate your time to it while in school.

Pictured below is an example of a guide dog and client team. Guide dog Finn with his client Steven. (Fun fact: Finn is Grant’s uncle.)

Visit www.guidedogsoftexas.org to learn more, donate, or become a volunteer.

Janelle Sventek

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

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My Last Year at RSO!

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After spending a whole year with my third year clinic group, it was hard to part ways! I would not get to see many of my classmates until graduation in the spring ’16. It was a bittersweet moment indeed. The summer semester went by before I knew it, and we went off on our externships. Some students moved to Florida, some decided to live with family in the East coast, and some stayed in Texas. Dr. Majcher, our externship coordinator, made sure to find the best places for externships. There are many locations and modes of practice to choose from. For example, I picked all private practice externships because that is what I wanted to pursue (you probably figured that out from all my previous private practice club posts). However, some students picked VA sites or eye hospitals to see more ocular disease, while some classmates wanted to specialize in vision therapy so they went off to a pediatric/vision therapy based practice. All in all, I think picking the right externship for yourself is very important part of your education and growth.

Allow me to introduce to you the layout of RSO’s 4th year. There are three semesters (summer, fall, and spring) in the 4th year, however you spend only 1 semester on campus, this semester is called your 4th year in-house rotation. The in-house rotation is broken up into mini-rotations where you are focused on a subspecialty of optometry. The other two semesters will be considered your externship, meaning you will pick two externship sites to spend 3-4 months in.

Here’s a recap of my 4th year experience so far.

I was in-house for the summer. I got to know my classmates, who were in my in-house clinic group, really well. My clinic group was so much fun, we went out to eat, inside jokes lightened up the day, and helping each other out made the day go by so much smoother. I really appreciate working with them because they shared with me their tips on patient care and their experience with challenging cases. I consider them more than just colleagues but life-long friends and I will truly miss them.

The in-house rotation was full of learning. I wish I could write a blog for each, but for briefness’ sake, here is a summary of each mini-rotation. We worked with visually impaired patients at the Low Vision and Rehabilitation Clinic. After seeing cataract and LASIK surgeries. we learned how to manage those patients at the Peri-Op rotation. At the Glaucoma Clinic, we watched glaucoma laser treatments and monitored the patients’ conditions. If you are wondering what the Visual Neurophysiology Service is, there is only a couple in Texas. Challenging patients, most often tertiary referrals from retinal specialists, neurologists, etc, came to see us for special testing. Contact lens services made me more confident in fitting all sorts of contact lenses (scleral, hard, soft, astigmatism, multifocals, etc).  Also we saw infants to high-school students in the pediatrics rotation. Vision therapy rotation gave us week-to-week interaction with the same patient and it was a great feeling to see them improve over the time.

UIWRSO Optometry Student Bowl

Every year, students attend Optometry’s Meeting, which will be held in Seattle from June 24-27 this year. During that meeting, Essilor sponsors the National Optometry Student Bowl, where students answer optometric questions to win the national title. In order to see who will represent RSO at this national competition, UIWRSO holds an AOSA Optometry Student Bowl. Not only does it prepare the students for the national level, but it also gives RSO students an opportunity to win travel grants to the Optometry Meeting itself! This year, five students competed at the chance to have a spot in Seattle: Alicia Chacon, Sam Bohl, Melanie Kane, Van Do (all third year students), and Amy Cuevas (second year student).

Let’s see if you can answer the first (test) question:

“Who is the sponsor for the National Optometry Student Bowl?” If you were paying attention like the participants were, you should’ve gotten it right. The answer is Essilor!

That’s when Round 1 started. Round 1 questions were 1 point each (10 questions), Round 2 were 2 points each (10 questions), and Round 3 questions were 3 points each (5 questions). The final round was similar to “Final Jeopardy” in that the students had to wager how many points they wanted to gamble with and try and get ahead.

The set-up was very creative! Students sat in a table-like panel and even had “buzzers” which were lights that turn on when you touch them. There was a timer, Minati Desai, and she was helped by Bobby Olivarez (RSO’s new Trustee-Elect for AOSA) to decide who “buzzed” in first. Students had 10 seconds to answer the question, which was handled by Reid Cluff, AOSA Trustee-Elect for 2014-2015. He also handled the scoreboard. The star of the show, however, was our very own faculty member, Dr. Narayanan, who hosted the Student Optometry Bowl!

Throughout the whole competition, it was a pretty close game between the participants. Professors, as well as students from all years, came to support the contestants, and I even saw someone in the crowd who had a poster that said “Class of 2016!” It was great to see and hear the encouragement from the crowd. In between the rounds, AOSA gave away raffle prizes including Starbucks gift cards and t-shirts (things that all optometry students love). Food from Freebirds was also provided to students, so everyone was excited about that!

After 3 grueling rounds and many points lost and gained with the wager in the final round, the winner of the RSO Optometry Student Bowl was announced: Melanie Kane! She will be representing our school in Seattle in June, and received a grant to attend the event. The runner-ups also got smaller grants for the trip, as well, so everyone was a winner that night. UIWRSO says good luck Melanie and win that national title!

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Student’s Role in the Texas Optometric Association

How TOA helped developed my networking and leadership skills

2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees
2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees. (Left: Dr. Valdez and Dr. Fortenberry are UIWRSO Faculty)

My political optometry involvement grows concurrently with my public health efforts. I am drawn to the legislative side of optometry because many life changing vision programs like the InfantSEE® program was established due to optometrists lobbying and networking with state representatives and senators.

I’ve been to multiple optometry board meetings with the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) and I would like to explain the organization of the optometric societies in America. Every state has a board that represents all the optometrist residing in that state. The board may include optometrists, public health advocates, administrators, accountants, membership directors, etc; together the board runs the association with or without dues from participating/supporting optometrists in the state. These optometric associations are formed to ensure that those who have earned the title of Doctor of Optometry have the opportunity to practice their profession to the fullest extent possible.

Many optometry students do timeline aoanot realize that the state optometric associations and the American Optometric Association (AOA) are closely connected. AOA board members will visit and sit in on the state meetings while state associations presidents gather at least twice a year at the Optometry’s Meeting or the Presidents’ Council Meeting. Also the student optometric associations at each school can support the state associations by encouraging students to lobby or educate fellow students about the laws that the state is trying to pass, as well as donate or pay dues to support their cause. Optometry students often join the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and in doing so they are also supporting and a member of their state student optometric association. Before my experiences with the TOA, I had no idea that there is such an organized network that keeps our profession strong. If you would like to read more about the history of optometry please click here for a timeline.

 

I am an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association (STOA) because I want to take an active part in the political association that opens doors for optometrists as well as improves the visual welfare of the people. Jason Ngo (President, STOA) and me (Treasurer/Secretary) are invited to the Texas Optometric Association board meetings to keep up to date about what the TOA board is planning and learned of their successes or what needs to be changed. I was impressed by the leadership and organization that they possessed; they are encouraging and positive when discussing their agenda and I can feel how their camaraderie fuels the team’s success! The board also taught me the importance of networking with other leaders. The board members would introduce themselves to us, and I’m grateful because I was really nervous at my first board meeting. I appreciate this opportunity to learn from these leaders. I would also like to mention that any optometry student in Texas can attend these board meetings if they let their STOA officers know in advance. I hope that optometry students can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

The Texas Optometric Association (TOA) mission statement: “Doctors of Optometry working together to advance excellence in eyecare for every Texan.” To show our support, the UIWRSO STOA created hoodies that incorporates the TOA mission statement.

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References:

http://www.aoa.org/?sso=y
http://fs.aoa.org/optometry-archives/optometry-timeline.html
http://www.theaosa.org/
http://www.coavision.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3282
http://www.infantsee.org/
http://texas.aoa.org/x7042.xml

Public Health and Optometry

Teaching children about the body systems and how to keep healthy!
Susan Ly, UIWRSO 2016, teaching children about the body systems and how to keep healthy!

During my undergraduate career, I was part of the Pathway for Students into Health Professions (PSHP) program, which provided career development and mentoring to undergraduates who are considering careers in the health professions.  This includes students pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, social work, and other professions in the social/human services. Optometry wasn’t even listed under the description of a health profession under this scholarship, but they still admitted me!  The program has a strong emphasis on public service to mothers, children, and families, which confirmed my desire to go into pediatric optometry. PSHP is administered by the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, which is affiliated with the UCLA School of Public Health and School of Medicine. It was enriching to participate  in graduate level public health courses and since then, I knew I wanted to learn more by obtaining an Master of Public Health (MPH).

Samantha Bohl, UIWRSO 2016, taking a picture with children from Sierra Leone Mission Trip in Africa!

While applying to optometry school, I wanted to attend a school that carried the same public health mission that I had in mind; much like the American Public Health Association (APHA)‘s mission: to improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) stood out to me because of their mission and what they stand for: To educate and prepare future leaders in optometry through excellence in education, patient care, and vision research. This is achieved in an environment committed to personal growth within a context of faith, human dignity and social justice.  I clearly remember my UIWRSO optometry school interview with Dr. Coates, the Chief of Vision Therapy Services, Director of Outreach Programs, and Assistant Clinical Professor. During my interview, he asked me about my public health mission trip to Honduras and why I decided to go, after I answered, he told me about his experiences with mission trips and how he wanted to start these trips with our school. Dr. Coates worked hard and stayed true to the UIWRSO mission and now these optometry students have multiple opportunities to go on these trips. I’m really happy that I can be a part of a school that has taken public health to a global level! We have an upcoming trip to Panama, and one last year to Sierra Leone, Africa.

Optometry is definitely an undeserved health profession in the public health sector due to the fact that optometry and public health are not as intertwined as the other health professions. To me, this needs to change! Because most of the efforts to spread vision care has been done through public health programs such as the InfantSee program.

I made this video with the intent to spread the word, so that optometry students can learn how to  be effective leaders with a public health background.

This video was filmed at Optometry’s Meeting 2014 at Philadelphia. With the help of optometry student leaders who are interested in public health, we were able to arrange a time to meet and shoot an impromptu video! Many thanks to Dr. Di Stefano, PCO; Lili Liang, PCO 2016; Dr. James Deom, PCO; Feyi Aworunse, SCO 2016; and Janis C. James, IAUPR 2016!

Contacts:

Anthony F. Di Stefano, OD, MPH, FAAO
Professor & Director
Master in Public Health Program
tdistefano@salus.edu
www.salus.edu/publicHealth/
admissions@salus.edu
800.824.6262

AOSA-Salus Public Health Scholarships
Master of Public Health Scholarships to Optometry Students
www.theaosa.org/aosa-exclusives/aosa-salus-public-health-scholarships/

Feyi Aworunse
AOSA National APHA Liaison
American Public Health Association
faworunse@student.sco.edu
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VIDEO PRODUCED BY: Susan Ly
UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry, Class of 2016
UIWRSO APHA Liaison (American Public Health Association)
sly@student.uiwtx.edu