Recently I’ve been applying to optometry schools, which has made me think about why I want to become an optometrist. When looking back as to why I want to become an optometrist, Dr. Colin Hobson is the first person that comes to mind. He’s in his late 20’s with a great sense of humor. I wanted to tell his story so that everyone applying to optometry school can get a better idea of what someone who has recently graduated went through, and how he is handling his own practice.
Here’s Dr. Hobson’s personal story: I have a very different story then most optometry students as mine begins in elementary school. When I was about eight years old I had asked my father what he would have been instead of a police officer, and he said he would have become an optometrist. I asked him why and he said he loved the community-based work they did. A few days later I was taken in to my yearly eye exam and my optometrist continued to keep me intrigued with magic tricks and games. As soon as that day passed I was determined to become an optometrist. After I decided that optometry was for me, I did some research and what I found cemented my decision. Optometrists work 5 days a week with hours of 9-5. With this routine optometrists have time for family, volunteering and being an active member of the community, all while making a comfortable living.
Why did you choose Waterloo to go to school? What did you enjoy about Waterloo and do you wish they would have incorporated anything different into their schooling?
The main reason I chose Waterloo for a school was that it was the least expensive option as a Canadian. The research that I had done on the school indicated that it had an excellent academic program. I had an excellent experience, and although the clinical program did not begin until later than some of the schools in the states, I personally believe that it was for the better. I believe that you should have a fundamental understanding of what you will be completing in the clinical aspect before you actually start applying your clinical knowledge.
What other activities did you enjoy at Waterloo?
My favorite experience with Waterloo was participating with VOSH. VOSH stands for Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, which is an excellent way to travel around the world and to see different cultures. I also think this is an important program to take advantage of because you get a sense of different health care programs all over the world, and a chance to provide optical services to those who greatly need it. My personal experience was in Morocco where I was able to provide a child with a -8 prescription with glasses to correct it and allow them to see. I was also able to see a little girl who was born with congenital cataracts and was able to refer her out for cataract surgery at a hospital in a larger city. Along with helping these individuals I was also able to swim in the Nile, backpack Egypt and eat interesting food with locals in their tent! I would recommend this program to any optometry student.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were an undergraduate?
More knowledge about business!
This is an important aspect of optometry no matter what area of practice you are in. I still consider pursuing an MBA, as there is so much information that you should know when running your own business or practice. Most schools provide you with a practice management course about how to run a business, and this is a great beginning program, however, it will not provide you with all of the information you may need. I suggest taking some continuing education business classes to understand your practice and finances.
In general do you have any advice to pre-optometry students?
The first thing you should determine before you go to optometry school is why you want to become an optometrist. The second most common area in which people get discouraged is during the application process. Most students applying always seem to be concerned with one area of their application not being as strong as the other areas, whether it’s their OAT scores, GPA, or optometric experiences. Application committees look at the whole picture to see if you are a well-rounded individual and to see if you are suitable for optometry. One last tidbit is that schools are looking to see your drive and passion to become an optometrist so don’t forget to show them!
For more on how to choose a mode of practice, difficulties you may encounter, and how to expand your patient base, read Part II here!