Jessica Haynes, a 4th year student at the Southern College of Optometry, was recently named as the 2014 recipient of the Dr. Norman E. Wallis Award for Excellence in recognition of receiving the highest score on Part 1 of the National Boards Examination! It’s not surprising that Jessica is an excellent student, member of the BSK honor society and tutors underclassmen. Jessica has traveled to Jamaca with SVOSH, and is currently the secretary of the Student Society of the Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians. She enjoys spending her spare time with her husband and younger sister (who is a 3rd year student at SCO!).
OS: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What got you interested in a career as an optometrist? How did you wind up at SCO?
Jessica: I’m from Manchester, TN, and went to Coffee County High School. The Anatomy teacher at my high school, Mr. Bingham, was amazing, and it was while taking his class that I first decided to pursue a career in the medical field. After high school I went to Middle Tennessee State University where I majored in Chemistry with a focus on pre-medicine. For the first two years of college I was focused on going to medical school. I happened across optometry during my junior year of college…until then, optometry wasn’t even on my radar. I have never worn glasses or contact lenses, and I never even had an eye exam until I had to get one before going to optometry school! I started shadowing optometrists in Murfreesboro during the spring of my junior year of college, and I loved it. I applied to SCO, and when I went there, the faculty and staff were amazing and the clinic blew me away. I’ve had an amazing experience at SCO, so I feel like I definitely made the right choice.
OS: What’s your favorite part of optometry school and what clubs or organizations are you most involved in?
Jessica: My favorite part of optometry school has been being involved in clubs and organizations with my friends and fellow classmates. First year, I did a SVOSH trip to May Pen, Jamaica, which was an amazing experience. I have also enjoyed being active in the Student Society of the Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians and serving as the secretary of the organization. It has been an exciting year to be involved in organized optometry and the legislative process, with the recent bill that was passed in Tennessee allowing the use of injections of local anesthetic for the removal of chalazion. I am also a member of the honors society BSK, and have had a blast being involved in intramural sports such as co-ed basketball and co-ed flag football.
OS: What are your other interests outside of optometry? Any interesting facts about yourself?
Jessica: Outside of optometry school, I enjoy finding fun things to do around Memphis with my friends and my husband. I like to play sports and be physically active. I really enjoy playing tennis, which is something that I have enjoyed picking back up now that I have more free time in fourth year. Unfortunately for my husband, I now have more time to play than he does, so he is currently 0-4 against me this summer 🙂
OS: Your Board scores are outstanding. How did you prepare for Boards? What do you think might have given you an edge? Did you prepare early? Did you try learning on more of a conceptual level during first and second year of school?
Jessica: In preparation for boards, I did most of my studying through the KMK course and their study materials. I also pulled out some of my old notes in some of the big subject areas like ophthalmic optics and skimmed back through those. I did start preparing pretty early. I began studying over Christmas break, mostly because I was still in Memphis while most of my friends had gone home, and my husband was at work, so I didn’t have much else to do. I think that starting a bit early gave me a slight edge, but I think the thing that gave me the biggest edge was tutoring younger students. Since second year I have tutored in things like optics, contact lens, pharmacology, binocular vision, vision science and perception, and many others. Before each tutoring session, I would always try to go over the subject material to refresh myself with it, and then explaining it to someone else really made it stick long term for me.
OS: You have made significant achievements while at SCO. What are you most proud of during your time in optometry school? What advice do you have for students to get the most out of school?
Jessica: While I’ve done well, made good grades on tests, etc., in the end, what I am most proud of is that I have done so without sacrificing (at least not too much) the relationships that I have with my husband, my family, and my friends. I got married right before I started second year of optometry school, and my husband started his career as an air traffic controller right before I started third year. I am very proud that we have been able to build a loving and successful marriage with each other. I also have a little sister who is a third year student at SCO, and I am glad that I have been able to take time to help her when she needed me, and also just spend time with her because we are very close. I also have the best friends that you could possibly imagine at school, and I am so glad I took the time to get to know them! The biggest piece of advice I would give to students to get the most out of optometry school is to take time to have some fun! If you spend all your time studying and worrying about grades, you miss out on four years of your life. If you stay on top of things and stay organized, I really think you can have time to learn a lot, do well in school, and enjoy yourself as well.
OS: What are your future plans as an optometric physician? Where and in what mode of practice do you see yourself in?
Jessica: Right now I am very interested in doing a residency, possibly in primary care. If I can achieve that goal, then I will see what opportunities I have next. I am very interested in working in academia. I love tutoring and helping other students. Being able to get someone to that “aha” moment where something just clicks for them is really rewarding for me.
OS: Any advice to aspiring and current optometry students?
Jessica: Never give up. At some point in your journey as an optometry student, you will experience some type of failure, and you have to keep going anyway. If a concept or a skill doesn’t click for you right away, don’t let it get you down. Keep trying, and continue to believe in yourself. Not everyone progresses at the same pace. It may take you a few more weeks to get a skill down, you may not pass that practical the first time around, you may not understand that concept in optics as quickly as your classmates, but keep working hard at it, keep asking questions, and you will get it.
Feel free to congratulate Jessica below in the comments!