August 2012 Optometry Student of the Month; Karen Lee

Optometry Student of the Month
Name: Karen Lee
School: Indiana University
Year: 2013

1. Congrats on winning Student of the Month! – Please tell us exactly why you won student of the month?

While in school I was actively involved in the Indiana Optometric Student Association, Private Practice Club, and Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. During my 3rd year I was treasurer of the Private Practice Club and VOSH. I attended our annual Mexico trip 2 years in a row where VOSH helped over 2,500 patients. I am one of the eight Gold Key members from the class of 2013 at IUSO. During my time in school I was an assistant instructor for four different courses. I also won the 2012 Varilux Student Bowl.


2. Can you give a few words of advice to other students out there striving to achieve certain goals while in optometry school?

Do your best because you want to make a real difference. Building your resume isn’t everything. The experience you take away from the different positions you hold and the impact you can have on others is much more important.


3. Where are you from, where did you attend undergrad?

I am from Honolulu, Hawaii and I went to UCLA for undergrad.


4. What did you study in undergrad, and what ultimately drove you to optometry?

I majored in physiological sciences and minored in East Asian languages and Linguistics.

I decided to pursue a career in optometry when I met a classmate who was blinded in one eye by a herpes infection when she was younger. They had no idea what was going on and by the time they figured it out her cornea was incredibly scarred over. She is currently in medical school and has always been an inspiration to me. I often wonder what she could have done if both her eyes functioned properly. She recently underwent PKP so she still has time to cure cancer or save the world.


5. What made you choose your school?

I fell in love with the professors and the administrative staff that I met during my interviews. I felt I could really excel in such a friendly and inviting environment.


6. Are you involved in any optometry organizations, do you hold any special positions at school or have any other creative optometry ventures going on?

I relinquished my many positions at school since starting my external rotations and I am shocked at how much free time I have now! Currently, I am still a member of the HOA, AOSA, COVD, and CLCS.


7. What academic subject have you found most interesting in school thus far?

Specialty contact lenses are very interesting to me.


8. What was the most difficult class for you thus far?

This is going to sound silly but my lowest grades were in anterior seg and posterior seg. We had proficiencies that counted for a large part of our grade and my nerves always got the best of me.


9. What was the most difficult clinical skill to learn?

Undilated 90 and 4 mirror gonioscopy. I still get nightmares about it. Also, being able to identify things that I see in the posterior pole and peripheral retina is something I still struggle with. I have a feeling it is going to take a lot more experience before I am truly comfortable in this area.


10. If you’ve already started seeing patients in clinic, how did you help make the transition from student to intern?

Self confidence is really important. As an intern, you do a lot more thinking and analyzing prior to consulting with the doctor. In order to present a complete A and P you really need to believe in yourself and stick with the diagnosis that makes the most sense to you. It is okay to be wrong. We are here to learn. So don’t take it personally when the doctor disagrees with you. This way the doctor can, at least, see what your thought process is and point out where you went wrong. Plus, I learn best from my mistakes.


11. What techniques do you utilize to help develop a good rapport with the patients that you see?

Empathy and respect. They are taking time out of their schedule to come see me. They could have gone anywhere else but they chose to be my guinea pig so that I could learn. So I try to think that they are doing me a favor by letting me treat them and not the other way around.

I also try to remember that everyone is battling something in their lives some just hide it better than others. So always be kind and caring towards your patients.


12. Will you be doing a residency? Why or why not?

I am attempting to do a cornea and contact lens residency but it is really competitive, so fingers crossed. I want the experience and the chance to learn from doctors who are knowledgeable on specialty lenses. That way when I start seeing my own patients, I won’t be stumped. This also gives me the option of becoming board certified after I complete the residency.


13. If you could change one thing about optometry, what would it be?

Insurance really makes my head hurt. I really wish everyone just paid in cash and had to file for reimbursement.

On a side note, the lack of soft toric multifocal contact lens options is also frustrating.


14. How do you feel about the legislative battles surrounding optometry?

Laws and bills are constantly being changed that greatly affect our profession. It is incredibly important for young optometrists to be active in their respective associations back home. Many people have fought hard for the rights that we have as optometrists. We cannot get careless and let their hard work come undone.


15. Where do you see yourself practicing after graduation? Where? What type of modality? Are you more interested in research, teaching, organized optometry, or private practice?

I want to return home to Hawaii and practice in a group private practice.


16. How will you make optometry grow as a profession?

I plan to lead by example. I want to work hard and practice progressive optometry by using my skills and technology to the fullest.


17. What are some things you feel optometry is lacking? Any ideas to combat this?

Public knowledge of our profession and how large of an impact we can play on diagnosing asymptomatic diseases. I am on the advisory board for the Health and Wellness ministry at church so I constantly tell people the importance of getting their eyes checked with brochures and even had several classmates come talk to people after church. We really need to spread the word that prescribing glasses is just a tiny portion of our exam.


18. Are you satisfied with your decision to pursue Optometry? Or can you see yourself doing something else?

I am very satisfied with my choice of pursuing optometry but hey if they wanted to give me a show on Food Network I would not tell them no.


19. If you had a time machine, what would you change in history and why?

I am going to steer clear of the political stuff. I would tell Kim to not marry Kris and Kristen to not cheat on Robert. I have seen first-hand the sadness these events have caused and I hope to stop the shedding of tears.


20. If you could go anywhere in the world for vacation, where would you go?

Asia, I have never been. I would literally eat my way through all of Asia.


21. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?

Well I grew up in Hawaii so I think I could survive. But I would want to bring a Swiss army knife, my nonstick ceramic pan, and one of those flash lights that work when you shake it so no batteries needed.


22. What was your greatest achievement?

Winning the 2012 Varilux Quiz Bowl is definitely up there. I felt like everyone was cheering for me! It wasn’t until later that I realized there were two Karen’s in the competition.


23. What are your biggest strength / weakness?

My biggest strength would be that I am very friendly and can speak three languages.  My greatest weakness would have to be how hard I am on myself. Sometimes it really causes me to dwell on things that are insignificant in hindsight.


24. What interests you most outside of optometry?

I am a total foodie.


25. You can cure one eye-disease, what would you cure?

I would cure glaucoma just because it could help the most people. Diabetic retinopathy and ARMD were at the top of my list though.


26. Would you rather be 5D Hyperopic or 6D Myopic? Why?

I have been an emmetrope my whole life so I really can’t choose. Both sound horrible.


27. If you discovered/invented an ocular phenomenon or ophthalmic technique would you name it after yourself or would you name it after what it is/does? Why?

Just because my name is so common (google Karen Lee, I am impossible to find) I would have to really jazz it up and include my middle name. Karen Lilixian Lee’s Phenomenon…*boom* optometry students will be cursing the heavens for years to come.

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