This November, a contingent of my fellow third-year optometry students from the New England College of Optometry and I set sail for the 93rd annual American Academy of Optometry (AAO) Meeting in Denver, Colorado. At this conference, student members of the Academy as well as full-fledged professionals are encouraged to attend and experience the multitude of lectures on various optometry-related topics as well as symposia, workshops, paper and poster presentations, and exciting exhibits by vendors displaying the newest products and services pertaining to optometry. On top of this, the meeting organizers also planned many awesome social events for all attendees to enjoy!
Wednesday: Touchdown in Denver
Our adventure began as the airplane wheels skidded to a stop at Denver International Airport on Wednesday afternoon. How different to be greeted by the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies instead of the familiar skyline of Boston! The scenery was so breathtaking that Inearly left my poster in the overhead bin of the plane. Acceptance of my research as a poster presentation won me the Elmer H. Eger Memorial Student Travel Fellowship to attend the Academy meeting! This is one of a number of Academy-administered travel fellowships for which students can apply to offset expenses once their submissions have been accepted for presentation. Suffice it to say that the first day of the conference came to a successful conclusion at the Luxottica-sponsored student party where students enjoyed fine food, dancing, and drinks to the tunes of the dueling piano players on stage.
Thursday: Student Fellowship
Thursday was the most action packed day at the conference. The day began with the Student Fellowship Orientation Breakfast (at 7:00 am!) at which Dr. Etty Bitton, Chair of the AAO Faculty-Student Liaison Committee, welcomed us to Denver and reviewed the list of requirements to receive our Student Fellowship (a recognition given to students who participate in a certain number of specified events at the conference). It was challenging to keep my mind off the impending poster presentation of my research in Dr. Rucker’s lab entitled: “Atropine Confers More Protection Against Myopia Progression with Luminance Flicker,” which was scheduled from 4:00-6:00 pm as part of the Evening Poster Special Event. During the event, research presenters at all levels attended to their posters, eager to discuss their findings and answer any questions posed by visitors stopping at their station.
Friday: Student Networking
Friday was occupied by more education sessions, discussions with vendors in the exhibit hall, and a fun Student Networking Luncheon, which gave us the opportunity to meet and interact with students from other optometry schools. At 9:00 pm, it was time for relaxation and good times at the Australia party, where we partied to flowing Fosters and a live band of optometrists!
Saturday: Fellowship Banquet
On Saturday, we explored the city of Denver, inasmuch as we dared to venture outside in the below-freezing temperatures. Fortunately, a local optometrist recommended a great local restaurant called “Vine Street Pub” featuring Mexican-inspired fare. The highlight of the day arrived in the afternoon in the form of a text message informing us that we had won tickets in a student raffle to the Fellowship Banquet concluding the convention. This was a particular honor as the banquet is normally open only to practicing optometrists and honorees of the Academy. As we enjoyed a wonderful three-course dinner, we enthusiastically applauded the over 250 optometrists inducted into the hallowed halls of fellowship. A fellow is someone who completes a list of requirements after graduation from an optometry program which includes posters, papers, case studies, an oral exam, and, in some cases, residency.
Before long, we found ourselves back on the plane returning to our day-to-day student lives. Left with a glowing sense of accomplishment, we were already making plans for the next optometry event. On that happy note, stay well until we meet again in Denver at the 2015 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting and/or at the 2015 AAO meeting in New Orleans. Let the good times roll!