July 2015 Student in Focus: Varilux Optometry Student Bowl Winner Nicole Rist of PCO!

This year during the Varilux Optometry Student Bowl at Optometry’s Meeting, optometry students from the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico competed in an ultimate showdown to see who was the best of the best! This month, OptometryStudents.com would like to congratulate Ms. Nicole Rist of Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry (class of 2016), the winner of the competition and this month’s Student In Focus!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself! Do you have any extracurricular activities or hobbies you’re involved in?
Right now I’m out on my clinical externships, but while at school I tutored first and second year students in a few classes. I was also a teaching assistant in Optics and Clinical Skills. I attempt to play intramural sports at our school which is always fun…and funny to watch!
I have the best family and the greatest friends so I love spending time with them whenever possible…I love to travel…is eating a hobby? I love to eat.
nicoleIf we were to ask your peers about you, what would they say?
I had to ask them; apparently, I am “always trying to learn and/or figure something out if I don’t know the answer,” I “try to help other students whenever I can,” and I am “confident and hard working.” And no, I did not bribe any of them to answer so nicely!
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
I definitely see myself applying for residency. After that, I would like to practice in a medically based practice–I love how the scope of practice in optometry keeps shifting in that direction. I am also LOVING specialty contact lenses and I feel they definitely have a place in the medical optometry setting as well.
You seem to be the cream of the crop at your school based on your success! Do you have any advice for those wanting to go above and beyond?
Ask questions. I’m surprised to hear my classmates didn’t describe me as “the girl who made lecture run late because she asked too many questions.” But I really think that’s the best way to learn. Ask questions especially in clinic. PCO is great in the sense that we are observing patient care beginning our first week of our first year. That’s when you should start asking questions and soaking it all in. If I was still unsure about certain things I saw in clinic, I would go home and read up on them even if it was just briefly…any bit of information helps! Also, make sure you look at pictures and images while studying, I think that helps in more of a long term way, because after all, we will be seeing REAL patients for the rest of our career. Their signs and symptoms won’t be described in a nicely organized list of bullet points with multiple choice answers.
How was the competition during the student bowl? Take us through your experience from you running up on stage to when you were announced the winner!
quiz bowl 3Well even before I ran up on stage, can we talk about being backstage with a bunch of rowdy optometry students cooped up for 30+ minutes waiting for the competition to start? There was so much cheering I thought I was going to lose my voice before Quiz Bowl even started. Everyone was so energetic and clearly everyone out in the audience was having a great time. But don’t worry, that didn’t last long when I killed the energy by getting the VERY FIRST QUESTION of the whole competition wrong. Oops. People have said it in years past and I’m sure everyone watching thinks “how does she not know that answer?!” but it’s VERY nerve wracking up there! I thought after basically starting the competition with a “-1” that I was done for. But surprisingly, my buzzer worked well and I got enough to finish in first place for the first round. I immediately went over to where our PCO students and doctors were sitting, and everyone was so proud and supportive. But then, of course, things got strategic and it was most important to “play smart” rather than just trying to rack up the most points. So, I answered questions I felt confident about and that brought me to the final question, and ultimately, to holding that shiny crystal trophy.
quiz bowl 1
It was such a fun experience, and I would most definitely tell all students at any school to try to participate! I remember when I interviewed at PCO in 2011, the trophy was there from our last winner, Ian McWherter. I looked online to find out what it was all about and, given my obsession with game shows, I thought “I have to be a part of that.
Do you think it is important for students to attend meetings like the Annual AOA Optometry’s Meeting in the future? And why?Overall, I’m so happy to have made PCO proud. It’s a great feeling to be able to represent our school in such a positive light and to be able to thank all the doctors who have all had a part in molding me into the “student doctor” that I am now. I couldn’t have done it without them all!
Absolutely. These meetings (OM, Academy, Vision Expo, etc.) are some of the best times I’ve had in optometry school! Not to mention, you get to travel to cool cities all over the country. I’ve made friends with students from other schools and connected with doctors that I would never have the opportunity to meet had I not attended these events.
Congratulations to Ms. Nicole Rist on her success! Be on the look out for more students in focus each month as we search the nation for another student to recognize! Do you know an optometry student who goes above and beyond the call of duty and should be recognized for their dedicated effort and achievements? Nominate them to be the next Student in Focus here!
Photo credit: Vitto Mena

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