July 2012 Optometry Student of the Month; Vittorio Mena

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

Thanks! Since I’m currently a 3rd year at PCO I have worked diligently inside and outside the classroom since my first year here. I got involved early with many different clubs and organizations that you will see if you continue to read further. My favorite achievements as a student were when I won the AOA video contest as well as the AOSA photo contest.

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

The only real goal is to graduate optometry school. As with anything in life the biggest key is time management. If you think you are able to make an influence at your respected school and have the time for it then by all means go out and give it a shot, whether it is volunteering at screenings or joining different clubs or becoming president of your class. Every school has some student leader that others (including alumni) look up to and are thankful for them. Other than that enjoy your four years while you are there since they will forever leave lasting memories.
3. Where are you from, where did you attend undergrad?

From Northern New Jersey, Bergen County in a town called Ridgefield which is about five minutes from New York City. I attended Seton Hall University (Big East School: Home of the Pirates!)

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

I studied Biology in undergrad and then went on to the Masters program in Microbiology. What drove me to optometry was the fact that I am a sports driven individual. If I couldn’t be a professional athlete, I thought how else could I be of a positive influence? Sports vision is what ultimately drove me to the profession since life is mostly all about hand-eye coordination.

5. What made you choose your school?

PCO was my #1 school from the very beginning. What drove me to the school was that it is the first of many. First non profit, independent college of optometry, first to confer an OD degree, first to require four-year OD educational program, where all the other schools around the country followed this model. But, what ultimately drove me here was that we are a clinically oriented school with a very intense patient base. Since we are in Philadelphia our clinic is like an ophthalmology center where we see the most incredible cases on a day to day basis. Residents from other schools are astounded by the vast amount of pathology they see here and can’t believe that we see this much so often. We enter clinic right away starting our fall semester of first year and also learn the material at a faster pace in 2.5 years where all other schools learn it in 3 years. So we get 1.5 years of heading out to external sites around the country before we graduate and see our very own patients. I figured if you wanted to be the best doctor that you could possibly be for your patients then that is by getting the most clinical exposure and feedback from doctors and professors throughout our four years here would be the best route. Also, having an $11 million dollar renovation to our clinic, The Eye Institute, was a nice perk.

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?

— Optometry Organizations:
                                              i.     President: New Jersey Student Society of Optometric Physicians (NJSSOP)
                                            ii.     Local Liaison: AOSA Sports Vision Section
                                          iii.     Lions Club Member
                                            iv.    Student Optometric Service to Humanity (SOSH) Member
                                              v.     AOA-PAC Member
— Positions:
                                              i.     Co-Chair: Athletics Department
                                            ii.     Secretary: Student Executive Council
                                          iii.     Parliamentarian: Christian Fellowship
                                            iv.     Head Lab T.A: Optics
                                              v.     Tour guide: Prospective Students & Alumni

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

Clinical Medicine

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

Posterior Segment

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

Gonioscopy, because when you first start you are trying to figure out what you are looking at and hope that there are no bubbles present from blocking your view.
10. If you’ve already started seeing patients in clinic, how did you help make the transition from student to intern? What techniques do you utilize to help develop a good rapport with the patients that you see?

In all honesty, patients are going to like you and come back to you if you can “connect with them.” Meaning if you have a good bed side manner that will “win” patients over. Also, if you can perform a great refraction and the patient loved their glasses that you prescribed them, then they will think you are the best doctor ever, no matter how many times you can diagnose a certain disease or not. However, with all the information that is given to us during our four years, if we can always remember to find the underlying cause during an exam you will ultimately be the best doctor you can for your patients because you can potentially save someone’s life.
11.  Will you be doing a residency? Why or why not?

You never know what opportunity the future will bring us so it may or may not be a possibility. Residencies are great for people that would like to one day work in the educational setting or have a desire to work at a Veteran’s hospital. Also, they do it because they have a true calling in that certain specialty so they could learn more about that subject. If I were to do one it would be in either sports vision or pediatrics. The reason being is that there are many kids that participate in sports and hopefully that will also draw in their family members to get a comprehensive eye exam as well.

12.  If you could change one thing about Optometry, what would it be?

I think as a profession we have come a long way and will continue to push forward. The only thing hindering optometry from really taking the bull by the horns are all the legislative laws that prevent certain states from being the best doctor they can be since they have to prescribe the alternative medicine for a certain condition.
13.  How do you feel about the legislative battles surrounding Optometry?

Since our profession is such a legislative profession there will always be ongoing battles. I am just thankful for the AOA-PAC who goes out and fights for our professions rights and our full scope of practice for every state. I am hopeful that our profession will continue to expand in the future.

14.  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?

After graduation I hope to partner up in New Jersey with an O.D. that has been practicing for 20+ years in a private practice so I can absorb as much information as I can before that doctor decides to retire. I would then be able to run my own practice just as good if not better.

15.  How will you make Optometry grow as a profession?

Optometry is continuously growing and it is difficult for just one person to go out and do something, but together we can make a difference. What I can do around my community is go to the local high schools and colleges and let them know I’m in the area and ask them to spread the word that optometrists do more than just prescribe eyeglasses and contacts.

16.  What are some things you feel Optometry is lacking? Any ideas to combat this?

What optometry is really lacking is the fact that people all over the world still have no idea what the difference between an optometrist and ophthalmologist are! For example, many people seem to think if they have a red eye they need to go to an ophthalmologist and that is because people are not educated on our scope of practice. What the AOA can do is possibly put out commercials about what optometrists actually do on an everyday basis besides those commercials we see about if you need your Acuvue oasis contacts or need Restasis go see your local optometrist.
17.  Are you satisfied with your decision to pursue Optometry? Or can you see yourself doing something else?

Optometry is a great profession for one to get into if you are a fan of the health professions. Especially since it was recently stated that Optometry was ranked #1 highest paying low stress jobs in the country, which is a plus! I can also see myself doing photography on the side since I do take a lot of pictures on my spare time.

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

I always believed that everything happens for a reason! But for the sake of the question I would go to the Garden of Eden and tell Eve not to eat that apple or else she would die. Besides who listens to a talking snake.

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

Atlantis Casino & Resort at the Palm in Dubai. Staying in the Poseidon suite where the walls of your room are an aquarium! I would also settle for Atlantis Paradise Islands in Bahamas.

20.  If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?

A Wilson volleyball so I could have someone to talk with, a sword since it will help me slice up those coconuts and potentially hunt for food, and a water bottle so I can collect the water when it rains. (However, the smart thing to have brought is a flare gun to get the attention of the planes).

21.  What was your greatest achievement?

Getting accepted into PCO and surviving these first two years here. Also, being recognized and selected as the optometry student of the month right after Mallori Aschenbrenner, the top scorer on Part 1 of NBEO, received this achievement is pretty awesome!

22.  What is your biggest strength / weakness?

Strength = I’m a social butterfly and laid back person.

Weakness = I try to please people too much whether or not it’s in my best interest

23.  What interests you most outside of Optometry?

Playing sports, going to professional sporting events, Dave & Buster’s, taking pictures, making videos, putting smiles on people’s faces, hanging out with friends and family, and seeing my dog!

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

Since glaucoma drugs only keep the IOP stable and cannot completely get rid of it I would like to cure glaucoma.

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

Since I always learned in our optics course the term poor poor hyperope and that plus lenses are really thick in the center I would rather be a 6D myope.
26.  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?

Neither, I would name it FLASH or SONIC BOOM just because I think it sounds cool.

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