SUNY Optometry – A look at first year

Today we have an AMAZING article from team member, Antonio Chirumbolo. I really have to give Antonio a round of applause for this article, a real 10/10 article packed with details that are useful for any first year optometry student attending ANY optometry school. He really stole the show with this article and it is remarkable to see how his talents in optometry school manifest themselves into great articles.

So enjoy the article and please comment at the bottom!

SUNY Optometry – A look at first year

It is finally over. SUNY class of 2013 has completed first year, and what a year it was. As the class of 2014 prepares to begin their journey into Optometry schools all over the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, I am sure they are pondering, what is it that awaits us? Will Optometry school be difficult? Fun? Torturous? The truth is, at times, Optometry school was all of these things, and I would not change any of it even if I could, not even the torture. Why you ask? It was all of these things that made first year exactly what it was meant to be, a great learning experience and a prime opportunity to build character both as a person and future health care professional. I would like to take a look at the past year and reveal everything that contributed to the class of 2013’s first year experience.

Whether you are beginning your first year at SUNY this fall, or another Optometry school anywhere in the country, this article will provide something that not a single member of the class of 2014 can attest to have, and that is experience. I hope that by sharing our first year experience, the class of 2014 can learn from both our successes, but more importantly our mistakes.


SUNY operates under a semester system.  The following are the classes that first year students are required to complete.

The following course descriptions belong to State University of New York, College of Optometry and can be found on


Human Bioscience I 4.13 Credits

This course integrates histology, molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry.

Gross Anatomy 3.50 Credits

In depth study of the anatomical regions that surround or are responsible for the neurovascular supply of the orbit is followed by the gross anatomy and macroscopic structure of the orbit including the bony orbit, the fascial organization of the orbit, the extra-ocular muscles and their function, orbital neurovascular bundles, the functional fibers of the cranial nerves and the eye.

Ocular Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology I 2.25 Credits

The Ocular Anatomy, Biochemistry, and Physiology course covers the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of the globe, related visual structures, and the visual pathway.

Integrated Optics I 4.5 Credits

This introductory course which integrates elements of geometrical, physical and visual optics will prepare the optometric intern for the challenges of clinical practice, as well as the requirements of the National Boards.

Optometric Theory and Procedures I 4.5 Credits

Introduction to examination of the external and internal parts of the eye. In the clinical laboratory, the student as practitioner learns to observe patient’s behavior, construct working hypotheses, carry out appropriate examination procedures and gather data to diagnose and correct refractive anomalies of the human eye.

Integrative Seminar I 1.5 Credits

Integrative Seminar I is meant to help the student in the professional program of SUNY, College of Optometry synergize the seemingly disparate components of the curriculum into a cohesive body of knowledge that will serve as a foundation for both their further educational endeavors and their clinical pursuits.


Human Bioscience II 3.13 Credits

This course is a continuation of Human Bioscience I and will integrate the biochemistry, physiology and histology of organ systems, including gastrointestinal cardiovascular, respiratory and renal.

Ocular Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology II 3.25 Credits

OABP II is a continuation of OABP I. It begins with the study of the anatomy of the vitreous, retina, optic nerve, and visual pathway. The course ends with the study of the development of the eye and visual system. Integration with material taught in Gross Human Anatomy and Neuroanatomy is integral to the understanding of the structure and function of the eye and is emphasized in the course.

Integrated Optics II 4.0 Credits

This course continues where Integrated Optics I left off. It begins with the wave nature of light and the wave-based optical phenomena, as well as quantum optics and lasers.

Visual Function: Sensory 4.5 Credits

This course covers monocular sensory processes and visual perception. Topics include spatial and temporal visual processes; visual adaptation; color vision; psychophysical methodology; information processing; gross electrical potentials; basic visual development and senescence; form, space, and motion perception; visually-guided action; and basic visual-cognitive processes.

Optometric Theory and Procedures II 4.5 Credits

Introduction to examination of the external and internal parts of the eye. In the clinical laboratory, the student as practitioner learns to observe patient’s behavior, construct working hypotheses, carry out appropriate examination procedures and gather data to diagnose and correct refractive anomalies of the human eye.

Integrative Seminar II 1.5 Credits

Second of two parts in the first year, Integrative Seminar II is meant to help the student in the professional program of SUNY, College of Optometry synergize the seemingly disparate components of the curriculum into a cohesive body of knowledge that will serve as a foundation for both their further educational endeavors and their clinical pursuits.

All classes include a laboratory session that is scheduled every week or every other week. A typical day of class began at 8:30am and concluded at 12:00pm. Labs began at 1:00pm and usually concluded at 5:00pm. The class was split up into different sections for laboratory and thus, each section had different labs on different days. The 5:00pm was not the standard, just an average. On some days, various lab sections finished at 12:00pm.


All classes with the exception of Optometric Theory and Procedures as well as Visual Function, were graded solely on a midterm and final. Usually each exam was worth 50% of your final grade. Visual Function, in addition to a midterm and final, included 10 quizzes throughout the semester that contributed to the overall final grade. Optometric Theory and Procedures was graded based on six quizzes, a midterm, final, as well as laboratory component. The laboratory included various assessments throughout the year as well as a final assessment worth around 11% of the final grade.


The following procedures were learned throughout the course of Optometric Theory and Procedures and were subsequently assessed. Each assessment was altered throughout the course of the year and continuously reassessed. Greater demands were made each time, and time to complete the assessment was reduced as the year progressed.

Direct Opthalmoscopy




Distance PD/Near CD

Subjective Refraction

The Final Assessment:

The final assessment is a comprehensive examination involving every single procedure learned in first year. Failing the final assessment results in failure of the Optometric Theory and Procedures class regardless of quiz and written exam scores. Being able to comfortably and quickly complete the examination is not only pivotal for passing the class, but also essential for progressing into second year as techniques learned in second year build upon the foundations from first year. The final assessment included all of the following techniques that were learned in our first year of study.

  1. Case History
  2. Unaided/Aided Distance and Near VA
  3. Unaided/Aided Distance and Near Cover Test
  4. EOMs
  5. Saccades
  6. NPC
  7. Pupils
  8. Confrontation Visual Fields
  9. Distance PD/Near CD
  10. Keratometry
  11. Retinoscopy
  12. Subjective Refraction and Binocular Balancing
  13. Distance OMD using Von Graffe, Modified Thorington, or Maddox Rod
  14. Horizontal
  15. Vertical
  16. Distance Horizontal and Vertical Base In/Base Out Ranges
  17. Distance Right Supra/Infra Vergence
  18. Near OMD using Von Graffe, Modified Thorington or Maddox Rod
  19. Horizontal
  20. Vertical
  21. Near Horizontal and Vertical Base In/Base Out Ranges
  22. Near Right Supra/Infra Vergence
  23. Amplitude of Accommodation using Push-Up or Minus Lens
  24. NRA/PRA
  25. AC:A Ratio using Modified Thorington or Von Graffe
  26. Color Vision Testing
  27. Stereopsis Testing
  28. Non-Contact Tonometry
  29. Worth 4 Dot
  30. Accommodative and Vergence Facility
  31. Direct Ophthalmoscopy
  32. Lensometry
  33. Slit Lamp
  34. Direct Diffuse Illumination of Palpebral and Bulbar Conjunctiva
  35. Optic Section of Lens and Cornea
  36. Specular Reflection of Corneal Endothelium and Lens
  37. Retroillumination off the Iris
  38. Conical Beam of the Anterior Chamber
  39. Lid Eversion and examination of the Palpebral Conjunctiva
  40. Sclerotic Scatter
  41. Van Herick Angle Estimation

Clinical Experience:

SUNY is blessed with their very own Eye Center that handles almost every single facet of Optometric care. Fortunately, from day one, and over the course of the semester, students are put into the clinic with the task of shadowing interns in all of the different specialties of Optometry including pediatrics, contact lens, ocular disease, general practice, head trauma and vision therapy.  As the year progresses, it becomes common for interns to ask first years to perform various tasks learned in lab including lensometry, keratometry, and retinoscopy. Not only does this give first years the opportunity to interact with “real” patients, but it also helps build confidence for vision screenings. As first years, we were required to participate in various vision screenings throughout the year. Screening sites included the SUNY Eye Center as well as local elementary schools throughout Manhattan such as the Harlem Village Academy and Manhattan New School PS 290. Vision screenings not only provided an opportunity to practice techniques outside the comfort of school grounds, but also allowed students to interact with patients in a manner that demanded professionalism. Working with true patients as opposed to classmates is a much different encounter and provided a great learning experience.

Study Habits:

Optometry school is indeed difficult and extremely time consuming. It requires great discipline to enjoy academic success and a social life. Can both be achieved? Absolutely! A common question is “how much do I need to study in Optometry school?” The answer all depends on you. It is no secret that some students are naturally more gifted than others. Many of my classmates can study for an exam two weeks before the test date and do extremely well. Personally, I am a person that needs to continuously stay current with the material. I usually studied two to three hours a night on the weekdays and around 10-12 hours on both Saturday and Sunday. Not everyone studied this much, many much less. Those students were equally if not more successful academically than myself. Once again, it all depends on your ability. You know yourself better than anyone else. Know what your limits are, and decide in advance how much time you need to prepare for an exam to do well. Universally however, I think most students would agree that Optometry school does require much more studying than in Undergrad, and so first year students should prepare themselves for a greater commitment to studies and academia. It is also imperative to keep in mind that in addition to academics, students will be required to practice perfecting techniques learned in lab on their own time. This can be a daunting task, especially come time for the final assessment. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, time management is essential. You must decide how you will allot your time to studies, practice, and social life. It is extremely important to establish friendships and find time to escape from the rigors of school. I highly recommend you do not let school keep you imprisoned in the library. However, the ultimate goal should essentially be to keep up with your studies and truly learn the material. Do not fall into the trap of memorizing things. Not only will it not work in Optometry school, but memorization will not be good enough as a future eye care professional.


Here are a few tips to make the most out of first year in Optometry school.

Make Friends

Do not just focus on making friends with your classmates, but more importantly, form cohesive relationships with the upper classmen. Upper classmen are seasoned veterans when it comes to Optometry school. They can provide great advice regarding school, technique, and externships. Instruction during lab is often limited due to the volume of information that must be covered. Many first years relied heavily on the help of upper classmen to master abilities such as slit lamp techniques that simply could not be allotted abundant time during lab instruction. Upper classmen can also offer wisdom and perhaps prevent first years from making the mistakes they made in the years prior.

Learn the Material

It is pivotal that students actually learn the material. Do not cram for exams, but try to grasp a profound understanding of what is taught. Take an active approach to learning for this will be the academia required to succeed throughout the rest of your life!

Get Involved

Get involved. Meet people. There is ample opportunity to meet professionals in the field of Optometry and every student should take advantage of this. I had the pleasure of meeting the Executive Director of the AOA, Dr. Barry Barresi one evening and learned valuable lessons about life after school, lessons that I would have never been exposed to unless I had taken the advantage of the opportunity to meet him. Likewise, there is an abundance of guest speakers who often come to school to speak about various fields, current events, and opportunities within Optometry. I highly recommend attending these talks as it can spur your interest in a particular aspect of Optometry, a facet you may have never known existed.

Do More

It’s not just about going to class and mechanistically completing the curriculum set forth by your respective school. Optometry is more than that. Some students are more than happy with simply going to school, passing classes, and completing requirements. However, for many students, this simply is not enough. You should find your passion in Optometry and immerse yourself in it. For many students, this involves obtaining an MS in Vision Science, or becoming class officers, or participating in various Optometric organizations such as the AOSA. For some, it involves focusing on establishing the number one resource for Optometry students everywhere, and for others, it is performing vision screenings on weekends for the Special Olympics. Do something that really highlights your passion for Optometry because it will only help you envelop yourself in a truly rewarding field.

Good luck,
Antonio Chirumbolo

1. “Course Descriptions for Optometry (O.D.) Program.” SUNY College of Optometry. SUNY, 2010. Web. 28 May 2010. <>

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