I thought that I knew what optometry was like when I finished my first year of school just a little over a month ago, but I had no idea! Prior to the end of the school year, I was fortunate enough to be elected as a trustee-elect for the American Optometric Students Association (AOSA), the student equivalent of the American Optometric Association (AOA). The opportunity allowed me to be more involved at Optometry’s Meeting this year in Orlando and I am so grateful for it all! For those of you who are pre-optometry students, or are currently optometry students who haven’t been to a meeting, I am writing this for you!
Optometry’s Meeting is the premier event for optometry. It’s an event where thousands of ophthalmic professionals gather to network, share information, learn about new products, and have fun! This event takes place every summer, usually in a large, accessible city. This year, it was at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando.
Not too long ago, the AOA and AOSA had their meetings separately and it was not until recently that the two decided to put together one big meeting. I’m not sure how that worked then, but having just been to my very first meeting, I thought it was very successful. Not to mention so many ophthalmic professionals, there were close to a thousand optometry students across the nation! It was an ideal venue for professionals to share information and for students to learn and be pro-active with their profession.
Most students arrived on the first day just in time for the welcome reception that night. We all stayed around for some food, drinks, and went off to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the night. Throughout the week, there are many events happening at the same time. One could attend a class to learn about ways to deal with student debt, how to obtain a job upon graduation, or listen to something unique like practice management. Students also took breaks to swim at the pools, meet new colleagues and have a few drinks at the bar, or wander around the huge exhibit halls. Many ophthalmic companies were there to educate and show off their new products as well as sell them for an incredibly cheap price! Many of the students told me they were pretty much on vacation—they were there to meet other students, learn more about optometry, and have a good time!
Aside from the formal and educational aspects of the meeting, there was so much entertainment as well! At the AOA General Session, everyone got to hear Frank Abagnale (the character Leonardo di Caprio played in Catch Me If You Can) give an inspiring lecture. During the day, students that attended the AOSA General Session got to see some of their friends get hypnotized by Ricky Kalmon. And that night, there was the Optometry Student Bowl (hosted by Essilor). It is an exciting optometry quiz game that featured one contestant from each of the optometry schools and they all compete to get to the next round. It is pretty much like any big football game, but with optometry students cheering for their respective schools. This, you’ve got to definitely experience at least once in your optometry life time. Then there was also a night club event reserved for optometry students that were tons of fun. The meeting capped off with comedians Frank Caliendo and John Pinette and a laser show.
Being a part of AOSA, I had to wake up very early most mornings for meetings (as early as 6:30am). That was tough considering the late night social events, but it was overall very educational and it got me very excited for our profession. Optometry’s Meeting was no doubt a lot of fun. But what I gained most from this meeting is how fortunate I am to be a part of optometry. It’s not unusual for many optometry students to discuss and compare our salaries with other health practitioners or talk about how saturated optometry can be. But after attending meetings and talking to current doctors, I can say that I am very happy with the profession that I have chosen for myself. It is hard to find another career that gives us such versatility to do what we want, affords us the ability to give and improve people’s most precious sense, all the while allowing us to have a balance in our personal lives. I met so many people that I am happy to be calling colleagues in a few years—they are some of the most caring and happy people I know. All in all, I encourage everyone to attend these meetings to learn, to be pro-active, and to be empowered. It is this sort of atmosphere and collaboration that produces the kind of success we all hope to have one day for not only ourselves, but for our profession.
SUNY Optometry C/O 2013
AOSA Trustee Elect