How My Mullet Got Me Through Optometry School

“How My Mullet Got Me Through Optometry School”

Dr. Keith graduated from UAB optometry school and did a residency in Geriatric Primary Care and Low Vision Rehabilitation at the Birmingham VAMC in 2009, and he is currently getting his masters in Vision Science. Dr.Keith’s current research is working to determine if virtual reality is an appropriate/effective learning platform for patients with low vision.

So there I was, at Hooter’s, asking myself, “Why am I at Hooter’s”? Because you know, there are always those people who justify it by saying “but the food is really great!” Anyway, we were there because we won it through the SVOSH silent auction for some 500 spicy wings and beer. Not a bad deal! And we were supporting eye care to boot!

But we were also pre-gaming it for the “Rednecks of Caribbean” party. I was sporting my mullet wig, floral-patterned button-down and cut-off overalls. And I hadn’t yet been collectively nick-named. It seemed everyone by second year had earned a reputation of some sort, for something they did, and thus received a nick-name. We had names like “Kitten”, “Donkey”, “Biggie”, “Bonsai”, and “Rabbit”. Lots of critters, huh? Well, ever seen the movie Joe Dirt? Apparently we share a similar mullet style. So it was to be…. “Tak Dirt”.

Optometry school was a trip, in every sense of the word. At times it was a real journey with true discoveries. Other times it was mind-altering crazy, and discombobulating. It was sometimes even like a real trip and fall type deal, where you whip out, but then just gotta get up and get ‘er done. Keep your eye on the prize, right? Every year was a progression, a transformation of sorts. A growing up, or a revelation. So much information, so little time it seemed. It lasted so long, yet went by so fast. You look at those pictures they took of you the first day, then you look around when you’re graduating, and it’s like a metamorphosis, and now you’re ready! Let’s do it! Eye care rocks!

First year was intense. You’re having to get used to new people, schedules, and places. The volume of material you cover in Optometry school is massive! It was so much more than undergrad. But you’re also making new friends, learning to go with the flow, and yeah it’s tough sometimes but you manage. You even find time to celebrate finishing finals by going to the karaoke bar. Yeah the one you said you’d never be seen in, and you even like it, and find yourself on stage with a mullet singing ‘Journey’ and ‘Michael Jackson’ with complete strangers, and at the end of the night, for some reason everything you’re doing makes sense, and optometry school is the right place for you.

Second year they started piling on the clinical eye-related material, on top on the basic science stuff. You’re in lab practicing and role-playing for practicals so much that you’re reciting patient instructions in your sleep. But thank goodness for all the free pizza lunches, they keep you going, because you know you’ll be stuck at school late studying for Pathology. You even get used to being dilated several times a week, such that you own a personal pair of readers so you can continue to study during breaks. But you find time to play intramural soccer or football with team names like “Spectacles” and “Ocular Dominance”. And there’s usually a get together at somebody’s house every few weeks. You gauge your life based on the breaks you have between quarters. Your eye exams last 3 hours, but you enjoy it, and the patient-doctor interactions are educational and fun.

Third year and you’re over the hump. You can almost taste the sweetness of fourth year. But there are a few more classes to get through. You’re out of basic sciences and heavy into diagnosis and management. You’ve made some great friends in school. You spend you’re time in between classes playing Mafia and Chess. You even decide to sum up your experiences, put on your mullet wig and make a song about optometry to post on YouTube. You feel like you’re starting to really get the hang of things. Yeah, it’s still a little rough in clinic sometimes, but you’re learning something new with every encounter. And sure you tense up a little when you tell the patient, “Oh yes, of course I’ve removed many foreign bodies before….”. You even raise money to go on the SVOSH trip, where you provide care for disadvantaged populations and probably learn more from them and being there than you may have been prepared for — what a great life experience.

Fourth year and let’s put the books aside for a moment or two. You’ve earned it, in fact you’ve worked your butt off, and you’re all the better for it. Here you get to choose whether to do externships at Veterans Affairs, private practice, referral centers, or specialty low vision and contact lens clinics. You’ve thought about it, and planned, you know what you want and you’re working to make it a reality after graduation. Maybe even a residency is your the future. You even make up some skits for “Skit Night” and relive the last three years of all things optometry. Of course you put on your mullet wig every now and again to express you’re optometric alter-ego. Or are you becoming one-in-same? The overlap is considerable. You’re almost a doctor. The responsible is large. You’re gonna step up. Now’s the time. You feel good, prepared. Congratulations, you did it!

Well, that’s how my mullet got me through optometry school. I’m sure each of you have your own mullet of sorts. Wear it proudly. And I wish you all the best, and commend you on choosing to make optometry your journey. It’s a beautiful path, and you get out what you put in.

Alex Keith, OD

Check out the videos below!

UAB Optometry Class Of 2009 – ‘Script In A Box’

UAB Optometry Class of 2009- ‘Lazy Mondays’

UAB Optometry Class of 2009- ‘Optometry Video’

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