Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Young

Ben Young and another faculty overseeing a lab course.

The first in a series to allow prospective and current students to come to know the faculty of NECO on a deeper level and build up the community! Please enjoy this interview.

Dr. Benjamin Young is a professor involved heavily in the OD1 curriculum and will be one of the first faces you come to know at NECO. His energy is infectious and his approach to teaching is beloved by many.

aao meeting pics 2022

Recently, Dr. Young participated in the following interview:

Q – To open, as with many interviews it’s nice to know, who are you today?

I’m Dr. Young, and I’ve been teaching various optometry courses at NECO for 5 years now. I’m an unabashed nerd with a love for books and music, and few things in life bring me greater joy than an amazing pun! The team names and posters I make for the extra credit game in my course is a nice window into my sense of humor, and I secretly root for the Billie Eyelash team to win every year because I am particularly proud of that one.

Q – What led you to NECO and where were you prior to being here?

I actually went to NECO for optometry school, and I guess you could say I loved it so much I never left (except for my 1 year stint at the West Roxbury VA where I completed my residency in ocular disease). Before that, I grew up in South Dakota before going to UConn for undergrad (Huskies basketball is still the only team and sport I keep up with). I was sold on NECO from the moment I walked through the door; from the beautiful building, impressive faculty, and community-oriented patient care model, everything felt to be in alignment with my personality and values.

Q – What moment(s) in your life/career helped you realize Optometry was the correct path for you?

I actually had orbital cellulitis when I was very young. According to my parents, I was sick in the hospital for quite some time, and it wasn’t until a doctor made the connection between my body and my eye that my treatment changed and I began to recover. Without eye doctors and IV antibiotics, I probably wouldn’t be here today! So the idea that I could be that person for someone else and have the knowledge base to make a potentially life-altering diagnosis and treatment plan based upon their eyes has always had a personal significance.

Q – What’s one piece of advice you would give yourself if you were restarting your education/career today?

Use your time like a resource just like you would with money. Spend it wisely by syncing your computer and phone calendar and putting everything you want to do on it: assignments, exams, lectures, study blocks, gym, concerts, work shifts, literally anything that isn’t eating or sleeping. Make time for study breaks and non-optometry-related activities to keep yourself sane, but taking the time to schedule out your day/week/month will keep you on track and set you up for success.

Q – What personal characteristic makes for the best OD?

Intellectual curiosity. There is so much to know about the eyes! They are truly an extension of the brain, so in many ways, you need to consider the brain and how it’s intricately wired to the visual system to truly appreciate how vision works. I find everything about it so interesting, and knowing that one day you’ll be an expert in how that works should excite you too! It’s a tough, long road, but the rewards are worth it if you have the curiosity to drive you through it.

Q – Optometry school is a significant and stressful step for students. What is one piece of advice you would share for handling the adversity of first year and beyond?

Actively force yourself to have a positive attitude. I say this a lot, but graduating Optometry school is a lot like trying to run a marathon. It’s a formidable challenge but it absolutely can be done with enough preparation, practice, repetition, hard work, and a commitment to staying positive. Just because it’s a lot of work doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun to learn at the same time. Write down a list of reasons that you want to be an eye doctor, and revisit this list to remind yourself why you’re in this profession to lift your spirits.

Q – What can incoming students expect from your classes and teaching style?

I try to structure my classes as a conversation and use humor to break up the monotony of lecture. We begin by breaking things down to their most basic component parts, and then we talk about what makes them work individually before putting the pieces back together. I also continuously offer a new way to digest information to keep things interesting, such as my own home-grown animation videos, colorful slide decks, and some friendly low-stakes competition.

Q –  Is there anything else you would like to say to prospective students and incoming OD1’s?

Don’t expect to find a silver bullet or shortcut to easily get you through Optometry school. Learning and retaining information takes a lot of time and energy, and it honestly should feel at least a little difficult and exhausting if you want to remember and apply information in the long run. Cramming is not an effective strategy for Optometry school, so dedicate the time and effort early on not just for yourself as a future doctor, but for the patients that will one day trust you with their vision and ocular health.

We would love to thank Dr. Young very much for his participation and contribution to building the NECO community further! We are #NECOProud!