I am woken by the sun shining through my dorm room window at SUNY Albany. Crawling out of bed, I rub my eyes and bring my day into focus. It is the fall semester of my sophomore year in undergrad and I am headed to a personal meeting with SUNY Optometry’s Dr. Johnston that will go on to change my life. I reach the meeting room and a firm handshake is exchanged, followed by a detailed discussion about the world of optometry. I am enthralled by all the information about the career, and like a sponge I am eagerly soaking up all the information about how optometrists give individuals the gift of sight. It is in this moment that the loose ends of my life snap together and I align with my core purpose as a human being. It is the first moment that I know I will become an optometry doctor.
One month later, I embark on my first optometric shadowing experience as I push open the door to Davis Vision and meet Dr. Natasha Louis-Charles. Commenting on my enthusiasm and determination, Dr. Charles allows me to take a peek through her slit lamp to examine an 82 year old woman with signs of glaucoma, evident from the cupping on her optic nerve. Hours later I walk out of the office with my pre-optometry journal packed with detailed notes and an even stronger determination to succeed. Over the next 2 years I spend more than 70 hours shadowing 7 different optometry doctors in both private and commercial settings. During these experiences, I witness everything from eye tumors to contact lens emergencies combined with severe Pinguecula. I even get a chance to shadow Dr. Sachin Nagar, an optometrist working at one of England’s largest and busiest hospitals, the U.K Queens Medical Center. The more shadowing I take part in the more I realize that my long term career goal is to open my own independent family eye care practice. This type of practice fulfills my core passion to have a career in a very social environment, one that I can customize with my own personal creativity to allow for an interesting and educational experience for my patients.
I am now a few months into my sophomore year, shortly after my meeting with my advisor, and I’m sitting in the library drawing up detailed plans for the new SUNY Albany Pre-Optometry Club with fellow student and teammate Rob Register. As we discuss the mission and purpose of the club, it becomes apparent that we are taking on the responsibility of being the number one source of optometry information for students at our school. The prospect of success only fuels my ambition. Three years after the library meeting, I stand in front of 20 students as the Vice President of SUNY Albany Pre-Optometry. My voice resonates through the lecture center as I deliver information about the OAT exam, optometry schools, eye glass prescriptions, types of practices, the AOSA and eye diseases. As a founder and leader of the Pre-Optometry club, my primary objective is to set a positive example by taking action. When the club’s weekly Wednesday meeting comes to an end, I can’t help but contemplate the possibilities of a leadership position within the AOSA, and later in life with the AOA. My 3 years with the Pre-Optometry club showed me that I possess creative intelligence and strong leadership skills that apply directly to my career path.