When I wrote up the title for this article, I couldn’t help but sit back and smile for a moment. Pacific University College of Optometry’s class of 2015 has come a long way, and it feels great to take a second to look back at where we’ve been.
From my conversations with students from other schools, I have gathered that first year is pretty similar across most of the optometry schools. It’s basically undergrad on steroids. Granted, the onslaught of 20+ units of lectures and labs is tempered by the fact that your classes are mercifully relevant (no more underwater basket weaving!). Still, there is no denying that you spend a whole lot of your first year getting very familiar with the geography of the library.
Second year was a whole other animal. Suddenly, I found myself wondering who I’d have to talk to about getting a cot set up in the procedures rooms. We had learned quite a few things during first year, but second year was all about refining those skills – retinoscopy, slit lamp, BIO, direct ophthalmoscopy, case history – while tacking on all the other skills we’d need to be able to run that first “21-point” exam in summer clinic. And to top things off, we were being assessed in a practical capacity more and more often. Multiple-choice exams don’t seem so bad after you’ve sweated out a few time-crunched, one-shot-only clinical skills checkouts! Not to mention, gutting your way through injections lab…
But those situations helped me hone my ability to keep my cool in stressful situations, which has been a key part of surviving my first summer of clinic. Plus, all those hours of practicing and stress united the class of 2015 in a type of camaraderie that can only come from attacking something difficult and coming out alive on the other side – together.
Now, down to the actual namesake of the article: third year summer semester. Something about donning that coveted white coat at the beginning of this summer gave me a very much-needed (although not entirely justified) dose of confidence for seeing my patients. In reality I have spent most of this summer feeling like that chemistry dog meme. All kidding aside though, this summer has been the best semester of optometry school to date. I have found a renewed sense of excitement for optometry as I see patients and feel my clinical skills and diagnostic thinking improve. My hand skills can always use work, but I find myself being able to chew gum and walk at the same time – I’m able to think a little bit about what questions to ask and which tests to run as I employ all those skills I learned in first and second year. It is awesome! I’m looking forward to a time when my thoughts more often lead to following the correct path, but for now I’m just taking my best shot and grabbing every opportunity to soak up whatever knowledge and experience that I can.
The other awesome thing about this semester at Pacific is the Oregon summer. As a group, the class of 2015 has silently made a pact to tone down the library hours a bit in order to get out and enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest. In June, a few classmates and I spent a weekend in Tacoma, Washington performing eye exams at the Special Olympics. We completed 332 eye exams on the athletes, and most of the glasses were made on-site. In addition to being extremely rewarding, this was also the first time I had the chance to attend a vision screening as a big bad third-year student. The doctors at the event delegated most tasks to us and it felt good to see how far we’d come since our first vision screenings in our first year of school.
Later in June, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in another screening – this time, its focus was on the inter-professional care of diabetic patients. I was able to take on a patient, administer an eye exam, and then follow them to other disciplines to see how other healthcare fields take care of diabetic patients. We were able to discuss the cases in the afternoon, which helped me understand how to best co-manage patients with the help of specialists in all areas of healthcare.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing time I had with my Pacific classmates and OptometryStudents.com colleagues at this year’s AOA Optometry’s Meeting in San Diego! All of you students did an outstanding job of cataloging the event, by the way. I think the best part of the meeting for me was feeling the pride and passion of students and doctors alike for our profession. Interacting with long-time doctors made me feel confident that I’ll be just as excited about optometry as I am now. And, just maybe, I’ll know a little bit more about it when I’m in their shoes!
The summer has also offered the perfect opportunity to get out of our small town and take the short drive to Portland. One of my two half-days in clinic takes place in the Portland clinic, and it has been great to spend a little bit more time in the city. Our Portland clinic is nestled among one of the bigger food cart hubs in the city, which means I’m guaranteed to find a delicious meal for lunch on the cheap. The clinic is also a short walk or quick ride on the MAX (a light rail system) away from popular stops like VooDoo Donuts, Deschutes Brewery, the Portland Rose Garden, and the zoo. There are festivals of one form or another (last weekend was the Blues festival!) pretty much every weekend, as well as endless music events (Weird Al played at the zoo last week!) and ways to enjoy the summer sun. One of my favorite things to do is find a patio at one of Portland’s many outstanding restaurants or breweries and watch the city move by. Portland isn’t as eccentric as it is made out to be on “Portlandia,” but most of the clips I’ve seen from the show are rooted in some grain of truth!
Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to branch out and enjoy my hobbies outside of school and the city of Portland. I’ve been lucky enough to get out fairly often for hikes with friends and beach trips with my dog. I also got to attend my first ever pro soccer match (and the Portland Timbers won!). And, after a rough spring semester completely devoid of my favorite hobby – riding motorcycles – I’ve been lucky enough to get out for a couple of camping trips and was able to check out the national Motocross race in Washougal, WA.
Anyway, it looks like we’re moving on to the next adventure! One of our class officers just sent out a survey to ask the class when we’d prefer to take the KMK class to help prepare for Part 1 Boards. I can’t believe the exam is less than a year away! If you have any questions about life at Pacific, don’t hesitate to leave a comment, shoot me an email, or head over to the Student Ambassadors page for Pacific University.