Part two of our “Meet the OptometryStudents.com Team” spotlights one of the most involved optometry students in existence, Christopher Lopez. Chris is a fourth year student at the University of Houston College of Optometry. He is involved in many student organizations, clinical research, and organized optometric groups. At 6’2” and 200lbs of pure muscle, he somehow still finds time to hit the gym. I got a chance to sit down with Chris and ask him a few questions about optometry, OptometryStudents.com, and life in general. Here’s what he had to say:
Let’s start off with the classic “what brought you to write for OptometryStudents.com”?
I always thought of OS.com as a great resource for current and pre-optometry students. Articles include helpful information and also some fun and humor. I wanted to be a part of something that could contribute to improving the lives of optometry students.
Are you involved with any other optometric organizations?
I’ve been involved in quite a few organizations since starting optometry school. I am the Immediate Past National Liaison of the American Academy of Optometry, current Student Representative for OptoPrep, Immediate Past President of Beta Sigma Kappa, Past Vice-President of the National Optometric Student Association, and AOA-PAC Liaison, to name a few. Involvement is crucial to gaining and developing leadership skills and other key traits I hope to carry on in future involvement in optometry organizations.
What are your professional goals post-graduation?
I’m almost certain I want to do a residency after graduation. My two key areas of interest are Cornea and Contact Lens (CCL), and Ocular Disease; however, I’m leaning more towards CCL. Based on current and past residents, a CCL residency seems to open many doors and provide lots of opportunities for employment and higher earning potential. Not only that, but have you ever fit specialty contact lenses? It’s a unique skill and we can really help a large group of patients with irregular anterior segment disorders.
After the residency, I hope to join a private practice in any setting (referral center, OD/MD, etc.), but I’m open to any opportunity, including consulting, teaching, or corporate!
You are also getting your Master of Science degree along with your O.D. degree. What is it that draws you to research?
That’s a great question and it’ll be tough to keep it short. Scientific research is the lifeblood of any medical/healthcare field in the world. As optometrists, we ought to practice evidence-based medicine, meaning that our treatment strategies should be backed by sound scientific support. Without research, we would not have effective treatment options for our patients. Realizing the importance of research and evidence-based practice, I wanted to do my part to contribute to the knowledge base of eye care providers nationwide. My current master’s thesis focuses on quick, non-invasive, objective techniques to evaluate and assess dry eye status in people with and without ocular surface disease.
Where are you from, what was your undergraduate degree in, and from where?
I’m a first-generation Mexican-American born and raised in the desert of southern California, about 15 minutes from the U.S./Mexico border. I received my undergraduate degree from Cornell College in Iowa (the heart of America!). I double majored in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Spanish. It’s funny because by Iowa standards I’m fluent in Spanish, but every time I go back home my family teases me because they say I don’t speak Spanish very well. Being in Houston and seeing lots of Spanish-speaking patients sure does help!
Wow you’ve been all over the place – California, Iowa, Texas. Which place is your favorite and where do you want to end up?
I would say the best food is back home (Cali), the nicest people were in Iowa, and a good mix of both is in Texas. I’m not sure where I’ll end up yet because it depends on the scope of practice of the state and opportunities, but I’m keeping my options open.
Which year in school was the hardest for you and why?
I would have to say that second year was by far the worst. First year of optometry school wasn’t too bad because a good chunk of class material was review for me (Biochem and Molecular Bio degree), and third year had a reduced class load because we spent more time in clinic. Second year included taking over 20 credit hours along with scheduled clinic days, compounded on organizational involvement, all the while trying to maintain good grades. It was a rough year and I spent a lot of time studying, but it’s definitely doable if you work hard!
Any tips for incoming optometry students about how to get the most out of optometry school?
What drew you to optometry as a profession?
I always knew since I was a kid that I wanted to be a doctor, I just wasn’t sure what route I would pursue. I thought a lot about different medical/healthcare fields my junior and senior year of college, and I just felt that optometry would allow me to be a doctor, help people, make a good living, and enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle than other medical fields (mostly 40 hour work weeks, rarely on-call duties, etc.). Family and lifestyle have always been important to me and I believe that optometry can accommodate those.
What’s your favorite memory of optometry school?
I have the time of my life at optometry conferences, haha. There’s loads of activities to do, great CE courses/lectures, free food, free dranks, and lots of “social” events. I’ve been to four so far, the most recent being AOA+/Optometry’s Meeting in Washington D.C. Next up is Academy in Chicago. Reach out if you want to get together! Other OS.com members and I are always up for meeting new people.
What’s your favorite thing about OptometryStudents.com?
At OS.com, we have an amazing team and we all have one thing in common – we want to help people. OS.com has a great group of writers and editors that work hard to provide useful, informative content to our audience. We hold our content to a high standard and are always looking for ways to improve. The feedback we get from our readers makes it all worth it.
Awesome, looking forward to meeting up with you at Academy this year!
Same, it’s going to be a blast!
Thanks for all you do Chris, it’s amazing that you’re so involved and dedicated to the profession! We at OptometryStudents.com wish you luck in all of your post-graduate endeavors!