Third Year Already?!


Photo booth pictures from the EyeBall back in February. This image has Anthony (Fanita’s husband), Lakshmi, Mawada, Fanita, Jessica, me, Brandon (my husband).

I cannot believe that I am a third year student now! Before writing this blog, I was looking through my phone pictures to find some interesting things to share with you. When flipping through the my pictures, I had some pictures of PowerPoint slides I had sent my friend, Jessica, asking her questions as we got ready for finals for spring semester. This semester has been such an intense start that those finals feel like they were ancient history. This has probably been the fastest and biggest change I have ever had in school. We finished our second year finals on Monday, April 30 and started as third years on Monday, May 7. I did my best to really soak up the relaxation that week knowing it was going to be an intense transition. Surprisingly, we were all pretty ready to get the semester started. We have passed the halfway point, and we are all realizing that our time here is finite, so we want to savor it, but we also are a bit relieved to know we crossed the halfway mark.

This summer feels a bit like being a first year again where you feel a bit like a fish out of water or maybe a fish falling down a waterfall. Whatever analogy you prefer, it is an uncomfortable time for us. We all have two or three clinics every semester of third year. This summer I have Primary Vision Care clinic one afternoon and one morning a week. I also have Eyewear Gallery (all things related to spectacles) one afternoon a week. I actually love my schedule! I get 3/5 afternoons off a week, which is perfect for summer! We all have one half-day in Primary Vision Care and then one to two other assignments (Eyewear Gallery, Advanced Ocular Care, or Vision Therapy). Later in third year we will have contact lens clinic. We have class every other day of the week, and we have one half day of labs.

The reason we are all uncomfortable right now is because the transition from opt II clinic to opt III clinic is huge. We went from having a four hour time slot to do an exam on a family member/ friend/ volunteer to seeing two patients back to back in 2 hour times slots. I know practicing doctors can see as many as 16 patients a day, so saying 2 patients is hard seems ridiculous. At this phase, it really is challenging for us! The difference is, we do every single technique, we stay with the patient while they dilate, and the attending doctor re-does a lot of the exam to double check us, so it really does take 1.5-2 hours to do an exam. Not to mention, we are still learning, so we want to stop and look at everything for 5 minutes!

A sweet reminder in my mailbox with a pack of M&Ms from our wellness committee.

It is sort of like having a new job right now. Our attending doctors are all different, so we are learning the ways of our new attendings, learning the quarks of the different exam rooms we are assigned to, and adjusting to the pace. It is intimidating yet exciting knowing that every day in clinic you have no idea what to expect. We may have a 16 year old patient who just wants their glasses updated or a 60 year old patient who comes in for blurry vision and we find diabetic retinopathy. You just really don’t know what you are going to see. Our clinic is incredibly diverse, so we are often working with patients who need an interpreter, modifications for wheel chairs, and accommodations for different religions. I have seen five patients so far, and I have already seen multiple conditions I did not expect to see so soon!

The other challenge of this time is that we are all so passionate about providing such perfect care for our patients that we are driving ourselves crazy. We often cannot stop thinking about our patients and obsessing over all the little things we could have done differently or better. It is a true test of your ability to persevere through the discomfort of the growing pains. We are not perfect and we are learning so much all at once, but we all want to be perfect and know everything now. The amazing and humbling part of this is that while in our heads we think about all the things we could have done better, the patients are always so kind and grateful. Even if we take two hours to the do the exam, they are always so patient and appreciative of our services. What I am not sure they know is that we are far more appreciative of their patience and willingness to come support our clinic.

One of my really sweet patients made this for me this week! He cuts and paints them! It is a magnet.

While clinic is predominantly on our minds, we do have other things going on like contact lens lab! I came to optometry school having only had two eye exams in my life (I know. Crazy!). I got my first pair of glasses last summer, so I had no concept of the world of contact lenses. I have always thought they were just something a person preferred for cosmesis, but I am learning they are sometimes a better option for a patient’s vision. I am absolutely loving learning about contact lenses. We have been learning about the evolution of gas permeable lenses and all the material chemistry, which I have found fascinating! Believe it or not, your organic chemistry is useful! We are looking at the different polymer chemistry to explain the properties of the lenses. Dr. Bailey is teaching our course, and she emphasizes the importance of learning the properties and science behind the different lenses because the brands and products change so rapidly. Dr. Lai teaches the corresponding lab, and I am also loving that! We have a project to cut a gas permeable contact lens with particular dimensions from a generic starter lens. Today we learned the technique and worked on practice lenses. Historically optometrists made or modified gas permeable lenses in office fairly regularly. I guess it is not as common now, but we are doing the exercise to help reinforce the concepts behind the lens design and help us learn how to handle the lenses appropriately. Just polishing the lens can modify the power, so it is important to learn the limits of the material.

As per usual, I told myself to just be quick and write this blog, but I just have so much to share! I better stop here, so I can get some work done. I am going to put some pictures with captions to give a glimpse of life. Have a nice evening!

I had the opportunity to discuss a couple of optometry bills with our legislators last month with the Ohio Optometric Association.
My husband took up blacksmithing, so he made me these spectacles for my birthday!
This is what it looks like to make/ modify contact lenses. Joe (closest in image) is working on cutting in his secondary curve using a diamond dusted tool that spins. Beside Joe is Isaiah, who is measuring the different diameters of the curves with his hand magnifier. Beside Isaiah is Kyle who is measuring the base curve (back side) of the lens with a radiuscope.

Spring Transitions


I have a neurophysiology midterm on Thursday that covers about 700 PowerPoint slides that I am in the middle of studying for, but I just had to give a quick update about this exciting time in optometry school! I have learned that some of the most stressful times in life are also some of the most exciting times in life. April as a second year, is one of those times. We came back from spring break to find our clinic schedules in our mailboxes for the next entire year. It was a surreal experience to look at my clinic schedule knowing that I am about to be a third year. The transition we have made over this past school year is absolutely incredible. I see first years with their cover paddles and near cards nervously heading up to clinic to observe, knowing that was us just one year ago. Now we are the ones giving full exams! It happens so fast.

Anyway, getting our clinic schedule is so exciting and also so daunting. It is hard to think about the entire next year of your life and not feel overwhelmed. Truthfully, that was the closest thing to a crystal ball I have ever had. When I was teaching, my schedule could change any time leading up to a school year or even during the school year. Coming to optometry school, I had no idea what each semester would bring. Now, we are given our schedule for classes for the summer, the dates for all the midterms, the holidays, etc. We have to put in our requested clinic leave days for the summer by the end of the week, so life is changing for us. We no longer get extended breaks and are required to be in clinic year round. We are off classes when the rest of the school is off classes (generally), but we are required to come to clinic over all the academic breaks from now on, which for me is no big deal. For out of state students, I think it is more challenging because it may be hard to go home for the holidays.

While thinking about the next year and trying to plan summer, we also have to stay very focused on the present. We just got assigned our final proficiency times, which means we will be graded on a timed, comprehensive eye exam in just a couple of weeks. We also are staring down our last few midterms and finals are creeping up quickly. We took our last proficiency for our advanced ocular care course last week, which felt like a weight was lifted. Normally we have to do our eight clinical skills per week, practice full exams (as much as possible), plus prepare for advanced ocular care proficiencies. It is nice to have one of those things off the list. For this week, we had our pharmacology midterm Monday, neurophysiology midterm Thursday, our clinical skill is to do eight lens, vitreous, fundoscopy, and binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy exams on our classmates (look at lens and retina), and give our last Opt II exam in clinic.

Today we had class all morning, and then we had lab this afternoon. In lab we learned how to do foreign body removals! We had cow eyes with pieces of metal in them to practice using all of our different tools to remove things. It was actually a neat experience. It is hard to imagine what it will be like to have my first patient with a piece of metal in their eye or something, but I know that day is probably coming soon (unless everyone wears safety glasses 24/7 from now on!).

I better get back to studying! My apologies if this blog is haphazard- I told myself to write fast! Have a nice evening!

Last Spring Break


I cannot believe it is spring break, and the semester is nearly over! When I was shadowing optometrists, I remember them all telling me that optometry school will be the hardest thing you will ever do, but it will go by in a snap! They were certainly right. It is so hard to believe that in less than two months we will be opt IIIs and seeing patients regularly!

This semester has definitely been one of my favorites. We have clinic one day a week with a partner, and we see our friends and family as patients. It is such a rewarding experience to tell a family member that their eyes are in perfect health and to watch them breathe a sigh of relief. I also love hearing, “I just love my new glasses!” Optometry is such a wonderful field, and I am so excited to start summer clinic and see patients regularly. While I am excited to start opt III clinic, I am still very much enjoying opt II clinic. I like it because we work very closely with our attending doctor. I have Dr. Ann Morrison, and she is really great about giving immediate feedback, which I appreciate. Seeing patients is so different from practicing on our classmates. All of our classmates know exactly where to look and when. We all have practically memorized each other’s retinas and prescriptions. When you see a normal patient, it can sometimes make you feel that a skill you felt you could practically do in your sleep is suddenly foreign to you. I like having Dr. Morrison in those moments to coach me through ways of modifying the technique to the needs of each patient. I definitely understand why optometry school is four years. I also really enjoy opt II clinic because we are expected to still need help and ask questions. We just had our midterm evaluations, so she filled out a rubric and then provided comments regarding our skill level in clinic. We then went over the rubric together and discussed where I am at with my skills. I appreciate that the culture at OSU encourages asking questions.

We are still in a variety of classes, but we generally spend more time practicing skills than studying. I am still really enjoying my classes this semester. My favorite class is probably our retina class taught by Dr. Fogt. I truly enjoy all of our classes, though. Our diagnosing and prescribing course by Dr. Toole has been tremendously helpful to me in clinic. Much of what we learn in that course has been taught to some degree in a previous course, but bringing it all together in clinical context helps really solidify the concepts and makes it automatic. Our neurophysiology (“neuro”) and perception course taught by Dr. Brown and Dr. Hartwick is absolutely fascinating. Just last week we were learning all about the retinal development of babies and learning the general norms for baby vision. For instance, infants typically do not develop color vision until at least after their first month of life. Generally, all infants have color vision by age three months.

This plane carried President Kennedy’s body back from Texas to DC. It was used for a variety of presidents all the way up to President Clinton.

As for my spring break, things have not gone according to plan. I was originally going to go to Jamaica as part of Fellowship of Christian Optometrists. I decided to not go on the trip for a variety of reasons, which was an extremely hard decision to make. In the end, I am extremely grateful to have not gone on the trip because one of my family members was hospitalized with sepsis, and I have been able to provide care and support to my family. As much as I would have loved to have been able to go to Jamaica and experience mission work in optometry, I would not trade my experience this week caring for my family for anything. My husband also took some time off work, so we could spend extra time together. We took a day to go to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton. Dayton is about 1.5 hours from Columbus, and it has a lot to offer. The Air Force museum is free, and it has some planes from the Wright brothers (first planes), World War planes, Cold War Planes, satellites, and the newest planes including multiple presidential planes that you can go inside.  My break has not been glamorous, but it has been meaningful and somewhat relaxing. It is strange knowing that this is my last spring break. From this point forward, we get short breaks between semesters (less than a week), and holidays off until graduation.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ohio weather, spring break consisted of weather in the 30s and snow most days. March is often described as coming in like a lion and going out like lamb because we often have snow storms early in March but finish with nice spring weather. Have a nice weekend!

Which is better opt 1 or opt 2?

Greetings from the winter wonderland! Today it is like I am living in a snow globe, and it is just beautiful!

Our annual Ohio Optometric Association Dinner picture. Left to Right: Jessica, Amy, Mawada, Fanita, and Taylor. Lakshmi was also there but not in this picture- sorry Lakshmi!

Many of my classmates and I have found ourselves comparing this year to last year trying to decide which is better. I think the overall consensus is that the two years are diabolically different each with their own pros and cons. When making these comparisons I think second year is at a disadvantage because we all started first year with no idea what to expect, so there was nothing else to compare it to. I think second year is a bit more challenging because first year set a standard. First year we had stellar professors, made all new friends, and learned to juggle our huge load of classes by the end. Second year sort of feels like the rug gets pulled out from under you. I found that some of the study techniques that may have worked for first year no longer work for second year. First year we had some of the same professors the entire year, so there was no adjustment period to them for second semester. As a first year, I felt very in control of my routine and my study schedule. Every day was pretty simple in that I went to class nearly all day, sometimes had labs mixed in, and studied nearly all the time.

Second year everything is totally different. There is a constant balance between studying and practicing. While practicing is typically not a very stressful thing, it can be stressful in that it requires coordination between schedules, being at school, and availability of pre-clinic rooms. I have almost always been able to get a pre-clinic practice room when I needed one, but there are times when there are labs or proficiencies going on, and we are not able to practice. Practicing also requires patience with your classmates. There are times when I needed to really practice a particular skill and spend a lot of time on it, so I had to ask somebody to sit for me as a patient. Honestly, I would rather speak in front of 1,000 people than inconvenience somebody or waste their time. Thankfully, all of us are always willing to sit for each other because it is always a fair exchange. It truly is amazing that we are always so patient and understanding with each other even when stress is high. For example, last semester in one day we had a pharmacology midterm, a quiz, and a final proficiency. The night before that day, my friend sat for me as a patient for an hour, and I sat for her for an hour. Even when stress levels are high, everyone is always kind and patient. It is pretty awesome.

Speaking of stress, to compare stress from first year to second year, I would say second year is overall more stressful for me. First year was just taking tests and a few practicals, which is something we have all been doing for years. Second year is taking tests and proficiencies. When I take a test, I know how much I have prepared and studied, and I know that in one hour, it will be over. Proficiencies are a whole different animal. Proficiencies require lots and lots of practice on different people. Every person is different, so I may have done a perfect exam on one person and then the next person has a hard time keeping their eyes open and everything gets derailed. As a novice, any small change from your lab partner’s eyes can derail you, so it is hard to truly feel prepared going into a proficiency. We take proficiencies during our assigned lab time, with a randomly assigned person (not your lab partner) and a random grader. The person grading you will be watching you through the teaching tube on the slit-lamp, through the teaching mirror on Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscopy (BIO), or just watching you. It makes me nervous having someone watch me and taking notes, so I found proficiencies to make me much more nervous than taking tests. Proficiencies also have more pressure involved in that we absolutely have to master these skills. If you fail a proficiency, you will retake it. While it is stressful to know that you have to master that skill, it is also comforting to know you can retake a proficiency (with limitations). The other thing I find to be stressful about clinic skills, is there is not one right technique. It takes time to figure out your own personal technique that works. For example, I found fundoscopy to be extremely challenging. When doing fundoscopy, you hold a relatively small lens (we use a 78D lens) in front of a patient’s eye while looking through the slit lamp. This is a very magnified view of the person’s retina, which means every little move you make causes your view to be in or out of focus. Each of us had to find our own technique for stabilizing our hands while doing this procedure. I thankfully got a tip from some fourth year students to rest my palm on the chin rest and my finger tips on the forehead rest to stabilize my lens. That tip was a game-changer for me!

With all of this talk of practicing, let me explain a bit more what that looks like. For this semester, our class has started a Google doc for people to sign up when they plan to practice to better coordinate our schedules. Last semester we practiced a lot, but it was not as structured. This semester we are required to perform particular techniques on eight different people each week. We are told our assignment Monday morning at 8am and have until the next Monday morning at 8am to complete it. In addition, we are practicing full exams and new techniques we learn in lab. Truthfully, it is a lot of fun to practice and sometimes it can be relaxing. Last week coming back from break, it was fun having nearly the whole class milling about in the pre-clinic practicing. We all had dilated eyes most of the week, but it was fun catching up with classmates and practicing at the same time. This is what I like better about second year compared to first year. Studying can be interesting at times, but it is mostly just sitting in a chair trying to stay awake. Practicing is usually fun and rarely stressful. It is always neat to see someone’s eyes, and you are always doing something different. I also found it relaxing (most of the time) to sit as a patient. It is a time to just sit and relax because you can’t do anything different than sit still and stare straight ahead most of the time. It is nice to be forced to just sit and be still. Anyways, back to what practicing looks like– we practice in the pre-clinic rooms, which are full exam rooms used only for students. Usually you start with a partner, and then once both of you have done the skill you need to do, you find another pair to switch with. It is a good way to learn from each other, get to know each other, and see a variety of eyes.

We had a bunch of little “direct parties” at the end of last semester to prepare for our direct ophthalmoscopy proficiency. This is in the student lounge. Left is Alex and Carly. Right is Todd and Alyssa. We had 15 minutes to examine the retina, draw it, and then pick it out of about 16 retina pictures on the wall.

Another major change I have noticed from first year to second year is that we each tend to have our own schedules this year. First year, nearly everyone is on the same schedule, which is great for group studying, planning meetings, and having lunch with friends. Second year, we all have different clinic and lab times. We also spend much less time in class (probably about ten hours less). I am absolutely loving my schedule this semester. I have no awkward gaps in my day, so I am either all in class, practicing, or studying. I like big blocks of time to do things because I spend less time in transit. For example, if I have all morning off, I can spend the whole morning practicing or studying. Also, as a commuter, it is nice to have everything grouped together. The days we have class, we have all of our classes at once.

In terms of comparisons, I saved the best for last. Clinic is the absolute best thing about second year! I know I am getting my cart before my horse because I have actually only had one day in clinic, but I already know it is going to be awesome! We are assigned a four hour block of time to be in clinic (8-12 or 1-5), assigned our clinic partner, and assigned our clinic attending. For opt II clinic we work in pairs with an attending doctor. We are going to spend these first four weeks learning our way around the clinic and practicing doing exams on our clinic partner. We will spend the rest of the semester examining our friends, family, and volunteers. I am so excited to finally start seeing patients! It is an awesome feeling to be the ones in the clinic hallway with our white coats and equipment bags.

I really feel like this semester is going to be my favorite, so I cannot wait to share more with you as the semester unfolds! Just one week of classes, and I already love all of our professors. It is also exciting for my family members to be asking me when they can call to schedule an appointment to see me! So much to be excited about!

R & R Time!


Opt IIs just finished a long stretch of midterm after midterm, so this weekend has been some much needed rest and relaxation. Before the weekend, though, we had a few alumni events we were invited to attend.

Friday afternoon we had a leadership panel with quite a prestigious panel. I will list them below.

Dr. Carol Alexander, OD, FAAO (’87) Director, Professional Communications at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

Dr. Kevin Alexander, OD, PhD, FAAO (’76) Founding president of Marshall B. Ketchum University in Fullerton, California

Dr. Robert Layman, OD (’82) owner of Pinnacle Eye Group in Lambertville, MI and Great Lakes Vision Care in Monroe, MI

Dr. Mary Jo Stiegemeier, OD, FAAO (’83) founder of Western Reserve Vision Care, Inc. in Beachwood and Hudson, OH where she specializes in therapeutic contact lens fitting.

I am listing only their current title or position, but each of these individuals has a laundry list of outstanding accomplishments with varied career experience. It was a really humbling experience to listen to each one of  the panelists share about the ups and downs in their careers, the role of leadership in their success, and very candid explanations of their careers. One of the most meaningful things I took away from the panel was that they were all students just like us. As a second year, you find yourself questioning your ability a lot because nothing comes easy. Nobody can sit down at the slit lamp and just get it all perfect on the first try. It is intimidating to know that in January, we will be seeing our own patients and have to know how to do all of these skills. It was really comforting to hear from some of the most prestigious optometrists how they faced trials, as well. Another lesson I learned from them is to keep an open mind to where life will lead you. Each of them had very unexpected career transitions that led them to more exciting things than they thought possible. It was valuable, and I am grateful they were willing to spend their afternoon speaking with us.

My friends and I at the concert.

Later that evening, students and alumni were invited to Shadowbox Live in downtown Columbus for a 30 year anniversary concert of Bad Habits- The Eyedocs of Rock. They performed at our white coat ceremony in the spring, so it was a real treat to hear them again. It is neat to have memories of my white coat ceremony attached to songs, so I can relive the feeling every time I hear “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. The concert was really fun! It also never gets old watching professors, including Dean Zadnik, dance!

As for the rest of my weekend, I have honestly taken the whole weekend off from studying. I really needed to recharge my batteries to prevent burn out and improve efficiency, so I decided to spend the weekend doing whatever I wanted. I truthfully enjoyed just being home. I took a nap, did some watercolor painting, watched some of my favorite TV shows, exercised, and spent much needed time with my husband. I feel completely refreshed and ready to go! This week we actually only have class Monday and Tuesday because it is fall break. I decided to take this weekend off knowing that fall break will entail studying. We start back next Monday with an Anterior Segment Ocular Disease midterm.

As I said previously, we just finished a stretch of constant midterms. In a stretch of two weeks, I had two small quizzes, one large quiz, one proficiency, and four midterms. To top it off, many of us got sick, I had car troubles, and lost a family member. It was a really challenging two weeks, but it feels good to look back knowing

that I did it! We all survived!

This is me wearing the BIO simulator “hat” and the virtual patient is the black screen. Through the BIO, it looks like a real person. With the “lenses” on the lower corner of the screen, I could look at the virtual patient’s retina.

This year is a whole new experience with learning skills. Our first proficiency was doing slit lamp on the anterior portion of the eye and Goldmann Tonometry (measuring eye pressure). Since then we have learned how to look at the lens, vitreous, and retina! It is so exciting to see the optic nerve for the first time! I have watched through the teaching tube many times, but it is a whole different experience to be the one driving the slit lamp and suddenly there it is in 3D! Super neat!

We also just started working through our virtual simulations. To help us improve our skills and learn pathology, we have to complete modules using a virtual simulator of a patient. We just started the Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscopy modules, so I decided to try it out on Friday. While it was a struggle to get the hang of it, once I got it, it kind of became addicting. I was only doing basic ones, so I was looking for shapes on the retina, but it kind of feels like a game. As I move through the modules, I will eventually see real pathology with a patient case.

I hope everyone is having a nice fall! Have a great week!


Opt II

Good evening!

I wanted to give a quick update on what it looks like to be an opt II (second year optometry student). It seems like summer didn’t even happen now that we are knee-deep in the semester already. Coming back this year has been a totally different experience than last. I came back with very little nerves because I have done this before, but yet, I am a little apprehensive because I have done this before. I tried to pack in as much as possible this summer while also working for an optometrist four days a week because I knew that school meant going into “hibernation.” Last year I had very little spare time (probably due to my commute). At times, first year feels like you are the person that gets knocked over by a wave at the beach and can’t seem to stand back up, but in the end you are still at the beach, so it is all okay. Even when things were crazy last year, I always knew I was working toward a goal, and eventually would be able to help people with all the knowledge I was acquiring.

I came into this year with some preconceived ideas, but I truly did not think it would be this different from last year. This year is a whole different ball game. Rather than constant class and constant studying, I spend half my days practicing and learning clinic techniques and the other half in class (usually). It is a whole new game of trying to balance practicing clinic skills and studying. Today is a pretty good example of what a typical day looks like.

First, I studied for about an hour before ophthalmic optics lab. In lab, we learned how to remove and insert lenses into the various types of frames (plastic, metal, and semi-rimless). I love ophthalmic optics lab because the instructor is fantastic! I worked in a private practice this summer and did a lot of spectacle repairs and whatnot, but I learn a lot from him still. He also respects the fact that some people have been opticians and doesn’t force them to do things they know how to do. Today we spent most of the lab time practicing putting a lens in a semi-rimless frame with a new cord. At the end of the semester we will take a practical where we have timed stations and have to demonstrate these skills. I know some day it will seem silly, but for today, it was a bit intimidating to know I have to be able to completely redo a semi-rimless in six minutes. I did it in seven in class, so I know I will get it soon.

After lab, I studied/ talked with my friend I usually study with. We had lunch together, and then we went to pre-clinic (practice clinic) to practice slit lamp. So far we have learned how to look at the various layers of the cornea, anterior chamber (space between cornea and lens), and all of the front structures of the eye (lids, lashes, conjunctiva, etc.). After practicing for about an hour, we had four hours of lecture. We had two hours of anterior segment ocular disease, where we learned about dry eye. Then we had ophthalmic optics, where we did some practice problems. Last, we had pharmacology, and we learned about loop diuretics. After lecture, I practiced for about 30 minutes with another friend.

At 6:00 nearly the whole college went to the first Ocular Disease Club meeting, which is a new club this year. Dr. Brian Mathie was the guest who spoke about 10 of his most interesting cases of ocular disease from his practice. Dr. Mathie’s practice is one of the extern sites for fourth year students in Canton, Ohio. He was a wonderful speaker! He shared his tips and tricks for dealing with unusual things like super glued eyes. He was incredibly kind because he bought all of us Graeter’s Ice Cream after the talk. It was one of those talks that made all of us second year students realize just how much we have learned in such a short time.

I currently leave my house about 5:45am to beat traffic and get a good parking spot, so 10:00pm is getting late for me! Have a great rest of the week!

Life as a Commuter


Another lengthy blog post I have been meaning to write is about my life as a commuter. As my previous post said, I am a non-traditional student. My husband and I bought our house three years ago with the intention of it being between both of our jobs. At the time, I was a teacher and he was a police officer. Well, now I drive to OSU and he drives to Wright State. We literally saved every dime we had to prepare for this time because we knew we would be living on a prayer. We were both full time students this past year with him working a part time job. Believe it or not, we never worried about money and everything turned out fine.

As a disclaimer, I really do not recommend commuting more than 30 minutes unless your circumstances warrant it. I genuinely do not believe this year of commuting impacted my ability to do well in school, but it definitely is not fun. I truthfully would have moved if I did not own my house. Owning makes the situation trickier because we have to downsize into an apartment, pay a lot higher rent than we do for our mortgage, and take the time to go through the process of selling our home.

My commute is about an hour and 15 minutes in good traffic. It takes me a little under 10 minutes to walk from my car to my building. In total, I commute just shy of 3 hours a day. Obviously I do not have 3 hours of time to “waste” every day, so I have to make that time meaningful. I use this time to listen to lectures or do audio flash cards. Thankfully an optometry student in the class above me makes Quizlet flash cards for nearly every class we take. I used to make my own, but it took way too much time. Quizlet has a feature that will read the card to you, which can sometimes be tough to listen to at 6am. I have found the flashcards are most beneficial for subjects that I have already attentively studied on my own first.

I missed one day of school in the spring and only two lectures in the fall, so I almost never need to re-play our lectures. Every now and then when I am sick of doing flashcards, I will play the audio to lectures in the car. I do not prefer doing this because pronouns become quite confusing. A professor will be explaining a concept using a picture and use “it” over and over, so you are lost with just audio. Also, the program the school uses to record lectures does not play on my phone. I have to download the lecture the night before, save it, and play it from my laptop in the car. It is kind of a hassle.

Commuting nearly 3 hours definitely comes with some sacrifices. While we study a tremendous amount in optometry school, if you are focused while studying, a typical weeknight only allows for 2-4 hours of studying if there is not an exam the next day. Most people spend a few hours a night watching shows, hanging out with friends, exercising, etc. I unfortunately have to sacrifice much of that in order to commute. I still have friends and still do fun things, but I probably get to do less. The thing I miss the most with commuting is exercising. I try to get my exercise by walking during the 10 minutes between classes and taking the stairs.

I still get to be involved in the clubs and attend meetings, but I have to plan accordingly. On days that I have a meeting, I go straight from class to the library or go to my friend’s apartment to study before the meeting. If the meeting does not include food, I have to pack both lunch and dinner.

If the weather is bad or I plan to study really late, I have stayed at my friend’s apartment. During the winter, I kept an emergency bag in my car in case I needed to stay the night unexpectedly. Thankfully, we did not have much of a winter this year. Much of my drive is country roads, so winter can be an issue.

The two largest challenges with commuting is planning and construction. It is exhausting sometimes to always plan when to come and go from school. Due to traffic and parking, I aim to be at school by 7am to get a parking spot. It is stressful because any sort of traffic jam can compromise your ability to be at your 8am class. If I have an 8am exam, I have to get to school even earlier. If I need/want to stay late at school, I have to pack breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also have to make sure everything I could need throughout the day is with me. When to leave school is an ongoing challenge because traffic gets heavy from 4pm to 6:30pm. I am always debating in my head if I want to literally run to my car and risk getting caught in traffic or just stay at school the rest of the evening.

Construction is my other challenge. The major highway I take has been under construction since I have been at OSU, which increases the traffic problems. Since I drive country roads, I also get stuck behind things like grain trucks and tractors, which is frustrating. This upcoming school year, I am very nervous about construction because OSU is doing a huge construction project on Cannon Drive that may result in some major parking challenges. To accommodate, I have scoped out all my parking options, and I found an alternative route to school to avoid Cannon Drive. I bought a C parking pass last year and again this year.

The best way to deal with traffic problems is to watch the traffic online. I use to see what the traffic looks like before leaving school. I also check on construction projects using the Ohio Department of Transportation’s website

While commuting is stressful and challenging, it has a lot of perks. For instance, I am sitting in my sun-room as we speak watching the hummingbirds at my feeder. I have oodles of flowers in bloom right now, and I hear nothing but nature. My house is very peaceful and quiet, which is great for studying and sleeping. I also enjoy getting away from the stress of school. I am a nature lover, and I love that I get to drive out of the city and into the beautiful countryside every day. I also have the benefit of a whole home with a beautiful yard for much cheaper than even a small apartment in Columbus. The other major benefit to commuting is time management. I know that my time is restricted more, so I am focused when I need to be, and I try not to waste time. Another benefit is the stability of my house. I don’t have to worry about finding roommates, leases, changes in rent, where to do laundry, etc. I also enjoy that my family is only 30 minutes away. Most students go stay with their parents over breaks, which is not usually conducive to studying.

Being a commuter is probably easier with a support system. My husband helps me a lot. He cooks, cleans, and does all the things that I often do not have time for. We usually take turns depending who has the most going on. Other commuter students live with their parents, which provides a similar support system.

One last thing, when I knew I was going to be commuting to school, I posted in our class’s Facebook page about commuting to see if anyone else was in my position. I was fortunately put in touch with a student in the class above me who commutes the same distance and has a similar background as me. She requested me as her little sib, so I have fortunately been able to get a lot of advice from her. A similar thing happened to me, so my upcoming little sib is a student commuting an hour, as well.

I hope to have answered most questions regarding commuting- for better or for worse! Thanks for reading!


From Teacher to Optometrist

Hello, all!

I thought it was time to finally explain a little bit about how I became an optometry student. I am writing this blog mostly to encourage all those who fall under the umbrella of “Non-traditional Student” and are a little scared to take the plunge. I am here to tell you that it is possible! This blog is quite long, but I felt it was necessary to write the details because I remember all of the insecurities and questions I had as a “non-traditional” student.

No better place to start, I suppose, than at the beginning. I graduated from high school in 2009 thinking I was interested in going into medicine. I loved science and wanted to help people, so it seemed like an obvious choice. I started my first semester at the University of Dayton as a biology major with a course just for biology majors about all the things that can be done with a biology major. Of course, there was much emphasis on the medical field. Through this course, I realized that becoming a physician was not interesting to me.

I was one of those kids that had a fake classroom in my basement where my sister and I would play school all the time. I always thought about being a teacher, and I thought teaching would be just as rewarding as medicine because I could educate the world’s future doctors and scientists. I ended up graduating in 2013 with a dual degree (2 bachelor’s degrees), so I have a B.S. in biology and a B.S.E in adolescent to young adult integrated science education (grades 7-12). Try typing that degree name on OptomCAS….Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed my education classes, and I enjoyed going to my field placements every semester to a variety of Dayton area schools. Doing a dual degree meant that I had to take 19 credit hours a semester and summer classes to graduate on time with also losing a semester to student teaching. In hindsight, I can say that taking that many credit hours was good preparation for the 23+ hours we take in optometry school.

I always wanted to keep all my options open, so I took as many biology electives as I had time for. I will never forget my senior year at UD. My fall semester I was taking all biology electives and teaching half days at a high school. I was taking a course called “Genetics of Human Disease” by Dr. Kango-Signh, who is a Drosophila researcher. It was her class that made me start to question my decision to teach. During that semester, I went to the optometrist for what I believe to be the first time (gasp!). I remember leaving my optometrist’s office thinking, “What a cool job! I wish I could do that!” Well, I put those thoughts away and decided to stay the course to teach. I had a great time student teaching and graduated with a teaching job for the fall.

My first year as a teacher I taught 2 classes of physical science (freshmen), 2 classes of physics with lab (sophomores through seniors), and 1 class of AP Physics B with lab. I loved the students that I taught, and I generally had really good days. It was the nights/ mornings that made the job rough. I would get home from school around 5:00pm, eat, take a 20-minute nap, and begin lesson-planning. Teaching AP physics was what really wore me out because I had not done physics for 2 years and some of the content in the course was beyond what I had in my coursework as a biology major. I would work on lessons until about 9 or 10pm, get up the next morning at 4am, and finish the lessons I could not finish the night before. I would teach students from 7:35am to 2:30pm and then repeat. I never actually took my lunch hour but twice that whole year because there just wasn’t enough time in the day. I spent my Friday nights sleeping or grading. I would work all weekend and never had time for family or friends. I finished this year believing that teaching could only get easier because that year was incredibly challenging.

I was fortunate enough my second year to teach sophomore biology and design my own courses as electives, so I taught ecology and genetics, as well. I loved teaching concepts that I was more passionate about and felt more comfortable with, but this year came with its own set of challenges. I had about 50 more students than the year before, and I was responsible for preparing all the sophomores for the state test at the time (the OGT). I absolutely love biology, and I loved teaching biology, but it was tough to teach it in a “box.” I did my best to teach the students where they were and at a level they could understand. Teaching to a test does not always allow room for fostering passion and inspiring teenagers. It is also challenging teaching sophomores because they often begin tracking themselves (for better or for worse) at this point, and you feel helpless. I felt like some days my job was to torture kids into caring about their life, which was absolutely not what I ever set out to do.

While my regular biology classes had their ups and downs, my ecology and genetics classes kept my spirit going. While teaching genetics, I found myself staying up late at night reading about all these different genetic diseases that appear in the eye. I would start researching the disease and the anatomy of the eye to better understand the disease, and I could not get enough of it. I was teaching my class with inspiration from Dr. Kango-Singh’s course.

All while I was teaching, there was a part of me that always felt off. I had this desire to learn more than what I could teach myself. I knew my work gave my life tremendous meaning, but it was also leaving me feeling like I was aging in dog years and watching life pass me by. As the saying goes among teachers, “the highs are high and the lows are low.” You have really amazing experiences and you have ones that still literally give you nightmares. I realized that I was ready to go back to school again.

I started researching Dr. Kango-Singh’s research and decided to meet up with a friend of mine who got a master’s degree with this professor and is now in medical school. We met for dinner, and I told her all the things that I loved about teaching and the topics over the years that I found most interesting. She said, “Amy, why are you not going to school to be an optometrist? You would be perfect at that!” That night I went home and began researching optometry, contacted a friend of mine who just graduated from OSU’s optometry school, and set up a time to shadow my optometrist immediately. I was immediately hooked! I fell in love with every aspect of optometry and could not get enough of it.

I will never forget scurrying out the door after work one day to shadow my optometrist. I watched him give a couple of eye exams, and I was absolutely fascinated. The thing that appealed to me most was, his ability fix each person’s problem in only a few minutes. As a teacher, many of my students’ problems were beyond anything I could fix. I loved how he could improve each person’s quality of life in an instant!

Shortly after shadowing, I signed up to go to an admission’s day at OSU. I remember feeling so out of place because most of the prospective students were still in undergrad and came with their parents, whereas I had been out on my own for two years and came with my husband. The whole experience felt weird until the end. I asked a question during the question and answer session, “My favorite part of teaching is getting to see my students every day and ask how they are doing. Will I still have the same relationships with patients?” Dr. Earley answered with some variation of, “Your practice lives and dies with your ability to teach and form relationships with patients.” He brought tears to my eyes, and I knew I had to give my all to become an optometrist.

I had decided I was going to go to optometry school, but I had not decided when. My husband was in the middle of a chemistry degree at Wright State (he was a police officer), and we had bought our house within the last year. I was thinking I would wait for my husband to finish school before I started optometry, but I truly believe God had a different plan. Sunday after Sunday I would go to Mass (I am Catholic), and the readings would be about Jesus healing a blind man. I am convinced every reference to blindness in the Bible came up during this time. I decided to take a leap of faith and begin my application on July 1, 2015 (the day it opened).

I knew I had to take the OAT before I started teaching that fall, so I scheduled it for the day before my first day of school. I studied literally all day every day for about six weeks using the Kaplan book supplemented with my old textbooks. I finished up my application by about September, and then the waiting game began. I interviewed in December and got accepted that day. I still remember my interview day because I remember feeling just as out of place as I did at the admissions day. I had to take the day off work, I drove to OSU, and I walked into a room full of parents. There were about five of us interviewing that day and four parents in the room. Between events for the day, the other students were all talking about the other schools they applied to and interviewed at and I did not even know the names of the other schools. I knew that with my husband being in college, OSU was my only option, so I put all my eggs in one basket. Thankfully it worked out! I was accepted on the condition that I took physiology and biochemistry before starting school. Thankfully, I took hybrid classes at Columbus State last summer. The lecture component was online, but the labs were on campus. I am grateful for those two classes because it helped me to transition back from teacher mode to student mode.

I am commonly asked if I regret taking the non-traditional path I took, but I am truthfully glad things worked out as they did. Many of my classmates were battling burn out. They took rigorous course loads all through undergrad and went straight into an even more rigorous course load. I had the benefit of working for a few years, and I am grateful every single day to be the student rather than the teacher. I developed a lot of stamina and discipline as a teacher that made it not as hard for me to spend my entire weekend studying. While I wake up at 5am to commute to school, it is still better than 4am to write lesson plans. I am fortunate to have a perspective that really helped me get through the tough times this past year, and I hope will continue to get me through the tough times.

If you are worried about being a non-traditional student, do not worry. I am 26, married, and live over an hour away from school, yet I have plenty of friends and love every bit of it. A handful of students in my class have children (some born this year, some are expecting now). Whatever your circumstances are, you will fit in at OSU’s optometry program, and you will love it!



Professors at OSU

Hello, all! Just as a disclaimer, I am writing this post neuroanatomy practical, so please forgive my typos.

I wanted to write a quick post about our wonderful professors at Ohio State. I have always loved my teachers growing up, my undergraduate professors at the University of Dayton, and now my optometry professors at OSU. A couple of weeks ago we had to vote on the professors to put our white coats on us (one month from today!), and the list included all of our professors we have had this year. I believe we have had 11 professors this year, and I found it very hard to choose just two to be part of our white coat ceremony. I am also reminded how much I love my professors when we fill out their evaluations for the year. I love the opportunity to reflect on the year and all that each person has taught me. I also find it impressive that our professors genuinely take our advice to heart. Several of my professors have made changes throughout the year to better accommodate us.

To explain my point, here are some examples of what our professors do for us. Our professors always print images for us if we have something we need to draw out. They could easily tell us to print it before class, but they go out of their way to print it. Last semester Dr. Chandler bought us some insane amount of Tim Horton’s Tim Bits because we had her class for four hours straight. Dr. VDN (Dr. Delgado-Nixon) has brought us breakfast and cookies several times throughout the year. Surprisingly, I could list others who have also brought us treats this year. Dr. Earley seems to always need to be in five places at once, but he scheduled two review sessions from 7-9am to review for our brain practical this week. Dr. Plageman has scheduled multiple review sessions for Friday at 5pm to ensure it allows all of us to come, which is time he could take to be home with his family. All of my professors email me back within the day, and they always do everything they can to accommodate our schedules for office hours. This list could go on and on!

We also become one big family with not just our classmates but our professors, too. Since there are only 66 of us in the class, our professors really get to know us. For instance, yesterday one of my classmates missed the first hour of Dr. VDN’s class and it was his birthday. Dr. VDN said we should call him to sing happy birthday, so somebody called him, put her on the phone, and then we all sang. Once was not enough, so then our epidemiology professor (Professor Mitchell) made sure we sang to him, again.

This is what studying neuroanatomy looks like.

In addition to spending many hours with us in class, our professors also like to participate in many of the events that are after regular school hours. A couple of weeks ago the Private Practice Club had a trivia night at the student union, which I sadly didn’t get to go to. It looked super fun, though! Anyways, Dean Zadnik, Dr. Mutti, and Dr. Earley had a trivia team, so of course they won. We also are having a spelling bee this Thursday for fun and there are a variety of professors participating in that. As a former teacher, I know that by Friday night, I was usually pretty exhausted, and I think it is awesome that our professors are willing to spend their evenings with us.

I know this sounds so ridiculous, but I am just so grateful to have the professors we have here at Ohio State.

So many brainstems!

In other news, today I took the ominous brain practical that we have been worrying about since the start of the semester. In all honesty, I think that was the most stressed I have ever been for a test. I think it was really stressful because the amount of material is pretty overwhelming and the concept of a practical is just intimidating. It is scary to know you only have a small amount of time to look at something, identify it, and answer questions about what might happen if that structure is damaged or something. While that scares us now, it is an important thing to get used to. Soon we will be seeing patients, have to identify something, and know what happens when something goes wrong. Anyways, I am happy to report that I survived. It is always the weirdest feeling after a test you are really worried about because you want to celebrate and sleep all at the same time. For me, I was so caught up in neuroanatomy this week that finishing the practical made me realize, finals are coming!

It is a beautiful day so I think I will do my physical optics homework outside!

Equipment Day!

Hello, all!

Monday of this week was like a second Christmas- EQUIPMENT DAY! We have been learning about all of this equipment, hearing from various representatives from different companies, trying out the different brands, obsessing over the type of handles and color of lenses to get, and finally the big day came! Monday we got our BIO, direct ophthalmoscope, retinoscope, and the first year kit full of all sorts of neat things like a trial fr

Bridget and Nate trying out direct ophthalmoscopy.

ame and “flipper” lenses.

Dr. Mutti perfectly timed our optics lab, so we could try out our new equipment in lab this week. We practiced doing ophalmoscopy and retinoscopy on each other and a model eye set up with an image of a retina.

Before optics lab today, we had our last Fellowship of Christian Optometrists meeting of the semester during lunch.  They had lunch provided, and we heard from all those who went on the trip to Jamaica. I really hope to go on the trip next  year! They shared stories of patients who walked in with help because they could not see and left with no help because they were able to restore their vision! They were involved in about 97 pterygium surgeries, so the second year students got to do exams including pre and post operation care. The first years helped out with more preliminary testing. Looks like it was pretty life-changing experience for the students and the patients!

During our lunch, we also learned our positions for next year in FCO. I am partnering with one of my classmates to be fellowship chair. This year we had weekly devotionals during a lunch hour one day a week. Next year we hope to continue the devotions, but we also hope to incorporate a small group for men and a group for women for additional fellowship. I am excited to see what comes of it!

In addition to Monday being equipment day, it was also my group’s SocialEyes day. We all went to Dr. Walline’s house for dinner and played games. I originally planned to only stay until about 7:30 because my commute is so long home. Well, I had so much fun I didn’t end up leaving until almost 9. We plan to do one more outing after our last final exam. The cool thing is, we will stay with this same group until we graduate, so we have many more gatherings to come.

We are at the point in the semester where it feels like you are looking up at a mountain to climb with a tsunami behind you. We have three exams next week, a brain practical the following week, and then it is finals week. The nice thing is, I have done this before, so it is much less stressful than it was the first semester. You know that even though the mountain seems like an obstacle too large for you, you will make it.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!