2nd Year of Optometry School… A Beautiful Thing

By: Matthew Geller – SUNY Optometry 2013

Warning: The article you are about to read is slightly exaggerated and was written to be comical representation, yet at the same time an authentic expression of the life of a 2nd year of optometry student. Strap on your white clinic coat because you are about to go in deep!

Strolling into class everything feels the same and looks the same. Confidence is higher because I made it through 1st year, but aside from that it’s just another day in optometry school.

Yeah right…

I open my book and begin taking notes for my Optometric Theory and Procedures class and immediately I am smacked upside the head with a dose of clinical knowledge – pure optometry with no filler… Anterior segment diagnosing, fundus grounds and nerve fiber layer dropout are staring me right in the face and it ain’t pretty…

General Pharmacology comes around and BOOM! I am hit by a train of 300+ drug names and mechanisms, purely clinical, nothing extra – know it all or get left back! Antibiotics, analgesics, steroids, NSAIDS, Opiods, DMARS, Benzos, Barbs, Anti-epileptics, sympatho/parasympatho-mimetics, symaptho/parasympatho-lytics, and re-uptake inhibitors… the list goes on and on.

Next class brings a big fat textbook of ophthalmic dispensing and I can’t help but think to myself that I’m gonna need a bigger backpack. I am awoken from a deep sleep when the doctor teaching the class does a “drop ball test” on a crown glass lens (index=1.53, obviously) and the lens shatters to a million pieces.

Pathology and microbiology proceed to dump a truckload of information on top of me and now I know for sure that the floor of my apartment room will be covered with notes; no more room to walk or sleep but that’s okay, paper makes a nice bed. I feel like I learned so much about ocular flora and bacteria that I have actually transformed into a Staphylococcus Aureus myself, (coagulase(+), of course).

It’s time to go up to the OTP Clinic Lab to explode my pupils with 1% Tropicamide and 2.5% Phenylephrine, but that’s not before a fellow classmate will “cookie cutter” my corneas with a 3 mirror Gonioscopy lens. Don’t even mention SPK from the abrasive Tonopen.

Can’t forget about visual function and tracking the smallest possible eye movements with infrared glasses and studying neurological pathways in such depth that I develop a small nystagmus.

A few more classes of this and it dawns on me: the things I am learning are becoming much more clinical. My professors want me to start thinking like a doctor.

With basic sciences are creeping to a halt, the clinical sciences are emerging from the depths.

The ODs I have seen walking around in the halls for the past year become very, very REAL. They are on a mission to teach us EVERYTHING clinical, no more messing around.

FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY – I am starting to feel like an optometrist and damn it feels good!

I take my midterms… All good, no worries…

I take my final assessment… All good, no worries…

I take my final exams… All good, no worries…

I go on break for 12 days… This time I really mean it – All good, no worries. 😉

I arrive back in my classroom 12 days later to begin the second semester.

Strolling into class everything feels the same and looks the same, confidence is higher because I made it through 2nd year – first semester, but aside from that it’s just another day in optometry school.

Yeah right…

Waking up at 7:00am I make a cup of coffee, ride the M train 25 min from Astoria to 42nd street in Manhattan. Before I know it my lab partner is sticking several different type of contact lenses in my eye attempting to learn the basics of contact lens insertion and removal. I’m wide awake but I don’t think it was the coffee that did it.

I sit down for my ocular disease course and BAM! Smacked right upside my head with a lecture on ocular trauma! Nothing respects midlines or boundaries, nothing is normal or clean cut. How can it be when we are studying pieces of metal flying through people’s corneas, ripping through the cilliary body and landing straight on their retinas? Once again, purely clinical…the Wills Eye Manual becomes my best friend.

I stroll into ocular disease lab and immediately my friend shoves a small steel rod through my inferior puncta, stretches it open and then sticks a blunt ended syringe deep into my canula and sprays saline solution all the way from my puncta down to my throat – good old dilation and irrigation! Before I can recover she sticks a .4mm collagen punctal plug deep into my puncta with a pair of forceps. Hey at least I won’t get dry eyes anymore. Oh wait, I mean dry eye… she only did my right eye, oh darn…

Ocular Pharmacology comes around and the first piece of paper I receive is the National Board Exam’s list of drugs that I will need to know for all 3 parts of the board exam… I am not sure what happened after this because I think I blacked out.

Children’s vision and pediatrics brings a smile to my face when the professor shows us cute little babies in his PowerPoint presentation. But this is serious stuff, babies don’t speak – they throw things at you and throw up on you! And I thought retinoscopy was hard enough on my classmate sitting patiently in the chair. How will I ever use a portable slit lamp on a baby that is going to be rolling around on the floor crying?

Visual function for 3 hours a week is the next to show up. I attempt to be patient and studious, focusing my corresponding retinal points on a textbook page that explains corresponding retinal points… I loose it, slowly it becomes a little hazy as the rays of light focus outside of Panum’s Fusion Area (on my retinas) and then BAM everything is double, and then BAM I fall asleep on my textbook… Guess I wont be specializing in Vision Therapy!

The icing on the cake is practicing for my final assessment, the assessment that determines if I am ready to see patients, all by myself, in the clinic. The assessment is a primary eye care examination with dilation (BIO and 78/90). I practice 3-4x per week sitting for 1 hour as a patient and then practicing for 1 hour on the student I sat for. I come home every night or start every morning completely dilated, pupils blown wide open. I guess this is what it feels like to be presbyopic.

Haha, and I thought that last semester was clinical! This semester makes the previous semester look like my first ever optometry school tour.

My point is…

Optometry school is an amazing experience and for me, life should be comprised of amazing experiences. Yet if you don’t 100% LOVE this profession and TRULY want to become an optometrist then just turn away now and don’t pursue it. This profession is for the students who are passionate now and who will forever be passionate about all facets of optometry, who will continue to support the profession by helping it to grow and improve. This profession is for the people who will remain students even at the age of 50, who will always be learning and improving so that they can provide quality eye care to their patients.

This article was meant for a change of pace, something different from your average reading and your typical boring look into the life of a student. Optometry students do interesting things day in and day out. Yes our threshold is a little higher now, so not everything wakes us up in the middle of class, but one thing is for sure: we love our profession no matter how hard it gets.

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