3 Valuable Lessons I Learned Attending a CE Course at Vision Expo West

Do you ever feel like you have so much you want to do but not enough time to get it all done?  Vision Expo West  had a lot to offer – between exploring the exhibition halls, getting free swag, networking with doctors and exhibitors, and partying the nights away, it seemed impossible to cram in anything else.  However, I was able to make time to attend one of the clinical continuing education courses called “Glaucoma Pearls and Grand Rounds.” As the only optometry student in the course, not only did I walk away with some expert clinical pearls in treatment and management of glaucoma, but I also gained several valuable lessons on how to develop myself as an efficient student and a future doctor! Here are my top 3 lessons that I would like to share:

1.    Understand the value of information presented to you in school.

Vision Expo WestAs a 2nd year student at SUNY, the farthest I have gotten to treating a patient was in the form of a written exam. As much as every one says that grades don’t really matter in optometry school, they do reflect how knowledgeable you are in a certain subject and how good of a clinician you will be, and it’s important have that self-awareness of where you stand intellectually frequently.  Yes, you may get a question wrong on a test and all that is affected is your letter grade, but once you graduate and you see the patient with the same condition in real life, it may be too much of a price to pay to “learn from your mistakes.” Sitting in this CE surrounded by doctors forced me to transition my perspective about studying. Now, not only do I want to pass the test, but I want to be able to understand the subject as much as possible so I can provide the best quality care I can.

2.    Every doctor manages the patient a little differently, and that’s okay.

In this CE course, the panel was created to discuss different treatment options in the management of glaucoma. Such a panel was created because of the fact that doctors have different opinions on how they would manage their patients, especially when it comes to rare and difficult cases.  For example, some doctors may prescribe medications more often than others, and other doctors may emphasize changes in diet and lifestyle to treat the disease. As long as it’s for the overall benefit of the patient, and the doctors can justify their treatments with credibility and confidence, the difference in management is completely fine.  The important lesson here is to know and understand why you are choosing a particular mode of treatment for your patient, but still be open-minded to listen to different opinions from your colleagues to reevaluate the way you treat.

3.    It’s not always about knowing everything, it’s about knowing where to look.

This was a recurring lesson in conversations with my OS team, my peers, and with doctors throughout the conference. I found it no surprise that this common theme was reflected in my CE course as well. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and there is no Vision Expo Westway we are capable of being experts in every specialty. Even if you don’t know of a disease or a treatment very well, the management can get much easier when you know where to look. Be aware of the excellent and credible references available to you out there, whether they are people, books, or web sites. OS provides some awesome resources, such as Top 10 Things I Keep in My White Coat by Lawrence Yu, 100 Commonly Prescribed Drugs: Clinical Pocket Reference by Joan Browne, or even the new Optometry Clinical Photo Database created by myself.

Trade shows are filled with opportunities to help you grow personally and professionally. Actively networking is just one valuable ingredient for a successful path, but often just making an appearance at certain events can be helpful too. By simply attending a CE course and surrounding myself with intelligent and successful doctors, I became more self-aware of where I currently stand and what I need to reevaluate to get to where I would like to be. So the next time you attend a trade show, force yourself to do something different that you wouldn’t normally expect yourself to do and go in with an open mind. You never know what you’ll walk out with!

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