What will it be like when you transition from Optometry school to becoming an OD and what can you expect? In today’s article, Dr. Frank Won gives us an in depth look at his transition from Optometry School to a practicing OD. -Dr. Won incorporates tips that helped him get his foot in the door of a practice along with some of the feelings he had during his graduation day. This article is a 2 part series so be sure to read the full story. Be sure to leave comments for Dr. Won below!
Let me first start by qualifying myself to write such an article. My name is Frank Won, an Optometrist graduate of the State University of New York College of Optometry (we just call it SUNY). After finishing up 4 of the best and most difficult years of my life in 2006, I had to figure out a way to start whittling away at the formidable educational debt I had incurred between undergrad and graduate school. I looked into several different practice modalities and ways to work, eventually stumbling upon the job I have been holding for the last 4 years. Here, I will discuss my experiences entering the working world of Optometry, my practice modality, the benefits and drawbacks to such a modality, and how it affects my lifestyle.
The first thought that ran through my mind after 4 straight years of high school followed by 4 straight years of undergrad, then followed by another 4 straight years of graduate school at SUNY was: “I need a friggin’ vacation.” My second thought was, “I’m friggin’ poor.” So I did what any determined/desperate post-grad student would do: forced myself to take a vacation. Believe me, this was time well spent, and the only reason I could afford to do so was because of my loving and supportive wife-to-be (who had a job). During this time, I recuperated from the ordeal that was my education and near the end, I began to test the waters of the job market. Here are a few realizations I made:
1) Getting your foot in the door is incredibly valuable because it creates opportunities.
2) Getting your foot in the door is a whole lot easier than you’d think.
3) There are a great number of ways to work as a doctor.
4) There are a great number of ways I didn’t want to work as a doctor.
Networking with existing O.D.’s while in school has great merit for opening doors for you after graduation. During my 4 year tenure at SUNY, I was the state student optometric society president/representative. I had a chance to meet with doctors from all over the state and even had the opportunity to visit different practices as a result. In a peculiar turn of events, I ended up meeting the optometrist (we’ll refer to him as “Dr. B”) who I had been seeing through high school (as a patient). It wasn’t long before I started working in his office as a technician. Yes, I was working during my first, second, AND third years. I sacrificed most of my summers to work in this office learning its operation and even keeping some of my skills sharp. I also worked most Saturdays during the school year, but had to quit by the end of my third year as it just became too difficult. It was’t easy, but this relationship ended up becoming a powerful aid later in my job hunt. After graduation, I naturally asked this doctor if he had any positions or hours I could fill in to start working. After a disappointing “no”, I was forced to keep looking. I responded to a part-time job posting I heard about through some classmates and went in for an interview. It was a private O.D.’s office within a Costco. The idea didn’t thrill me, but I went anyway to see what the experience was like. After 3 months working there, I had enough. There was a complete lack of staffing, protocol, and even medical equipment. We didn’t even have a Visual Field analyzer! The longer I worked there, the less of a physician I felt like. I had to refer out for any suspicion of glaucoma I encountered, and while working where I was, this was every few patients. Furthermore, many of the patients didn’t take their medical diagnoses seriously because all they seemed to want was their glasses. I realized quickly that this was neither the patient population nor the office type that I would want to work in. This may have been true only of that Costco location, I’m really not sure exactly how the rest function. This particular location, however, was not a good match for me and there’s only so much Costco pizza you can eat for lunch before your heart turns into a lump of butter.
As fate would have it, Dr. B would give my information to a colleague of his, working in southern Westchester at a chance meeting they had. She told him that one of her docs was going on maternity leave and that she would need someone to cover. She called me, I interviewed, and the following month, I quit working at Costco and I started at 4 days a week in her office. I understood that this was only a temporary position, as the doctor I was “filling in” for would eventually return. As fate would have it again, the doctor would end up having premature twins and decide that she would need to quit her position entirely and fill her maternal destiny. I was granted her full-time associates position and I’ve been working there ever since.
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