Like any other school, NECO students have the opportunity to get involved in student organizations. On interview day, a lot of prospective students ask, “How do you participate in these organizations with the workload you’re given?” And the truth is, what you take from these experiences correlates with the amount of effort you put in to them.
The student organizations at NECO are designed to enhance your experience as an optometry student. If you want to learn more about Vision Therapy, College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is perfect for you. If you want to become an advocate for legislation, you can join Massachusetts Society of Optometrists (MSO). If you want to help the local community during your free time, you can join the Lions Club on their mission. Although NECO does not offer Spanish learning courses, there is a Spanish club dedicated to learning how to talk to a patient in Spanish in a clinical environment.
Basic science courses are heaviest during first year. Students go on vision screenings to local schools, but there is little emphasis on specialties within the field. These student organizations help bring specialties within optometry to the students earlier on. They host events, trips, or talks to bring awareness to these fields or issues that students may not have known about prior to beginning school. And what’s great about these organizations is that they are all very welcoming. Most events are open to all students, and for events with limited seats organizations may offer to their members first but then will welcome other students to participate as well.
Although I have dabbled in many of the events during my first year, I am now most active in COVD, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), and Private Practice Club (PPC). Vision Therapy is what first piqued my interest in optometry, so I instantly signed up for COVD. Every year, COVD sends an optometrist in the organization to come speak to the school and to the students for their Tour de Optometry, and this year we had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Penelope Sutter and hearing her experiences on neuro-optometric rehabilitation.
PPC also held three wonderful speaker events in April – Dr. Pete Kehoe on optical success in a practice, Stephen Shawler from Essilor on performance management, and Dr. Kristin O’Brien on opening cold and what to expect post-boards with an appearance from Vernon Dela Cruz from VSP. The lessons and advice that we receive from these speakers is not something that we can always get from sitting in a lecture. It’s great to know that these speakers want to visit our students to talk about their purpose, their life lessons, and give us words of encouragement when our focus leans towards exams in the short term rather than post-optometry school down the line.
The NECO branch of VOSH aims to provide vision care to populations in other countries that do not have easy access to eye care. This mission trip is not the only one available to students, but it is the only one that is completely fundraised for by the students once they fulfill fundraising requirements by the spring semester of their third year. I highly encourage incoming students to go for it! The requirements seem numerous at first and turns some students away from the idea, but when you have three years to complete them, it is plausible at your own pace. I began volunteering with VOSH during my second semester of my first year, and by now I am nearly done! This time next year I will be in another country helping the underserved with my other classmates. How often will this chance arise again? There are plenty of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that these student organizations may provide, and you don’t want to miss out!
Photo Caption: Private Practice Club's executive board with Dr. Kristin O'Brien and Vernon Dela Cruz. Image by Janne Chuang, Class of 2018.
Tiffany is a third year student at New England College of Optometry. Born and raised in Maryland, she graduated from the University of Maryland in both Biological Sciences and Psychology. Her initial interest in optometry stems from shadowing and working in practices that provide vision therapy.