David Nguyen stood on stage at the Varilux Optometry Student Bowl at Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia while wearing a tank top, shorts and flip flops inspired by his Southern California roots. He had made it to the final round of an exciting Student Bowl competition and stood with his fellow contestants waiting for the winner to be announced. As his classmate and friend, I stood anxiously in the audience with the Southern California College of Optometry section. We’d been waving our banners and loud noise-makers in support of David throughout the competition, but now we were silent and tense waiting for the announcement. “Congratulations…David Nguyen!”
The SCCO section erupted with David’s victory and rushed towards the stage. David was holding his well-deserved Varilux Optometry Student Bowl crystal trophy, and we hoisted him up in an insane celebration of school pride. The bright lights were solely centered on David, and the camera flashes were exploding all around us. The SCCO president and dean of optometry joined us on the stage with our new celebrity and offered him congratulations (see below). David had a big smile on his face, a shimmering trophy in his arms and a group of people around him sincerely proud of his triumphant accomplishment.
David Nguyen is a fourth year optometry student at the Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University. At school, he has a reputation as an academic superstar with a strong work ethic. As his classmate, I always appreciated David’s helpfulness, dedication to self-improvement and his ability to win almost every optometry student scholarship. He has a soft-spoken personality, so it was extremely fun to watch him stand as Student Bowl champion on the bright stage with his fellow schoolmates jumping for joy around him. David definitely deserved this moment in the spotlight.
As the Varilux Optometry Student Bowl champion, David Nguyen is OptometryStudents.com’s July 2014 Student in Focus. David speaks with us about his experience in Student Bowl and shares some advice with his fellow and future optometry students.
Now that you are Student Bowl champion, what are your future career goals?
I’m pursuing a residency in contact lenses and/or ocular disease because I want to maximize my scope of practice, and I’m interested in teaching down the line. Then I want to move back to my hometown of San Diego and work in a medically-oriented group private practice. As much as I love the clinical aspects of optometry, I’m equally fascinated by the business side and aspire to own a practice someday.
First of all, my faculty and peers are amazing and I couldn’t be the student I am without them. Many professors have given up their lunches or stayed late to answer my questions. Tutors spent countless hours helping me refine clinical skills and even came in on their weekends off.
Second, I believe that everyone has the potential to excel and that learning is a process. I’ve failed proficiencies and gotten C’s on multiple exams, but always focus on how to improve my knowledge, understanding, skill, and efficiency. After each quarter, I reflect on what went well and what I could do better. Everyone is a little different, but as long as you’re making progress, you can’t go wrong.
Tell us about the mission trips you’ve been on and your motivation for volunteering.
I’ve participated in vision screenings for nuns in Mexico, orphans in Guatemala, and persons with albinism (PWAs) in Tanzania. During college, I went on several mission trips with my church and served communities through construction work, arts and crafts for kids, and teaching English. Now I’m blessed with new knowledge and skills that can have a profound impact on peoples’ lives. It’s extremely rewarding and refreshing to get away, forget about grades and money, and help someone in need. Sometimes what I do is called “giving back,” but I’ve grown so much as a person and clinician from these experiences that it can hardly be considered a sacrifice. Once I get settled into my first job, I hope to set aside a week each year to serve the underprivileged.
What do you like to do when you’re not studying?
I like playing basketball and lifting weights to get the endorphins flowing. And I love to read and be constantly learning, whether it’s the clinical pearls in optometric journals, current events in Time, or business insights in Fortune.
How much did you prepare for Student Bowl?
A fair amount. I knew the other contestants were going to be sharp (and they were!) so I had to be on top of my game to compete. I compiled pictures of common conditions and practiced transposition and prism problems because it’s really hard to do mental math when you’re on the hot seat – trust me, I almost forgot how to multiply on the final question!
Did you enjoy Optometry’s Meeting, and would you recommend that students attend future Meetings?
Even though I could only stay in Philly for a day and a half, I had a blast! I’ve been to all three meetings so far, so yes, you should all go! It’s a great opportunity to explore a new city, hang out with old friends and make some new ones, and learn a thing or two.
How much do you love optometry?
I love optometry like myopic students love minus!
Congratulations to David Nguyen for his victory in 2014’s Varilux Optometry Student Bowl! He is OptometryStudents.com’s July 2014 Student in Focus.