When I moved into student housing on the campus of the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Complex the weekend of November 11, the first sign I saw was, “Chillicothe VA Medical Center, The Price of Freedom is Visible Here.” At that moment, I was intrigued by the statement and wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the rotation. Now, on my last night here, I am extremely sad to leave but very humbled by the experiences I had with every veteran I encountered.
I once again cannot believe how much time has passed since my last blog. To sum up the past six months: I finished my advanced practice rotation (first rotation of my fourth year); started my in-house rotation (second rotation of my fourth year); took Boards Part III in Charlotte, North Carolina; found out that I passed Part III; finished my final rotation ever at the College of Optometry; started my third rotation of my fourth year at the Chillicothe VA; took Boards Part II; recently found out that I passed Boards Part II; and wrapped up my final week at Chillicothe. Life has once again been quite the whirlwind, but these have been some of the most exciting months yet!
At the beginning of November, I had my last day at the College of Optometry, which was very bittersweet. I have absolutely loved my time at the college and at The Ohio State University, but I was also very excited to branch outside of the college and expand my knowledge base in ocular disease. I moved to Chillicothe and have lived in on-campus VA student housing with my classmate, Kelsey. It has been great to have Kelsey here with me, as we always walk to clinic together and we have been able to explore the Chillicothe area together.
Overall, my experience here at the VA has been an amazing one. It has been such a humbling experience to serve and care for the veterans. I am always so proud to end my eye exam with a special thank you to them for their service, but what I was surprised to hear back more often than not “no, thank you for your service to us, we truly appreciate it.” They have all been so grateful right back to me. I am truly going to miss working with the veterans, as I have so greatly enjoyed the many stories, but especially the abundance of marriage advice that I have received. The average age of my patients, if I would have to guess, is about 65-70 years old, so as you can imagine these veterans have been through quite a lot and they have the bodies to show for it. Therefore, it is because of this, that I have learned a great deal about the treatment and management of ocular disease. This has been such a valuable experience that I am thankful to have had. Some of my classmates are currently applying for residencies (which is something that I will explain in my next post), but that means that some of my classmates will be returning to a VA hospital to immerse themselves in the treatment and management of ocular disease for an extra year after graduation. Although I did consider this option, I am very excited to move home. Therefore, I am very excited to say that I have officially accepted jobs and I will dedicate my next post to this announcement and how that process went for me.
For tonight though, I am enjoying reflecting on how much I have grown as a clinician over the past three months. I will forever be grateful for the experiences I have had with the veterans and the staff optometrists and residents here at the Chillicothe VA. Kelsey and I just got back from dinner, where we went to downtown Chillicothe to have one more celebratory meal together. As we pulled back into the VA complex, we both commented on the sign that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. We both agree how much that saying explains what we have seen during this rotation and how grateful we both are for the experience we have had here. It takes something special to serve in the military, they give sacrifices that I will never be able to fully understand, but it is something that I will forever be grateful for.
Overall, I am so grateful for the wonderful staff optometrists, optometric technicians, and residents who have all been so wonderful to work with and learn from, here at the Chillicothe VA. I am so grateful for the amazing experiences I had with each and every veteran. And I am forever grateful to all veterans for their great service and sacrifice that they give for our country.