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First Look Into Optometry

Tiffany and Tina standing by table at club fair. Helping the COVD club at NECO’s very own Club Fair with Tina K.!

Halfway into my second rotation at the VA Hudson Valley, multiple patients have inquired into how I got started in optometry. Most assume I knew going into undergraduate school, but that was most definitely not the case. Although I knew I wanted to go into a healthcare field, I was not quite sure what I wanted to practice.

When I was at University of Maryland, I attended their annual First Look Fair, where hundreds and hundreds of their clubs and organizations gather together to show students how they can get involved on campus. I remember going to so many first general meetings that it was overwhelming. College was all about “finding your place,” and bouncing around from meeting to meeting made me feel like I was speed dating different career options. 

When I went to the Pre-Optometry Society’s first meeting, I walked away without wanting to return. The meeting focused on differences between optometry school and medical school rather than on what optometry was. Upper year students were telling me I would be able to have a family and a career simultaneously, how it was a shorter amount of time in school/residency relative to medical school, and how much less stressful life would be if I went to optometry school versus medical school. But at the meeting, I was so disappointed that I stepped out without understanding what optometry was about. Even though I knew these were answers other people were looking for, they weren’t mine, so I decided to find my answers elsewhere.

In my first two years at UMD, I was a part of the Scholars Life Sciences program. A part of the program required an internship at a field that you were interested in. This was my chance to learn about optometry! Luckily enough, the first practice I called was Modern Eyes, and Dr. Mark Borsuk graciously agreed to let me intern at his practice for a semester. His private practice focused on primary care as well as vision therapy. Every Friday evening, I would visit his practice during his vision therapy sessions with his patients, and every Saturday I would shadow a more regulated primary care schedule. 

The very first patient I shadowed was an established patient with Down’s syndrome. Rather than booking the appointment for a regular slot, Dr. Borsuk had his staff allot more time for the patient and didn’t allow for a second patient to be booked during that period. Watching Dr. Borsuk interact with the patient made me think about all my experiences with my doctors. I have always really appreciated the doctor-patient relationship with my own optometrist. She had always listened carefully to my visual concerns, and rather than being rushed out of the exam room, her patients were always her priority, much like Dr. Borsuk treated his patients.

For me, the tipping point was seeing Dr. Borsuk’s vision therapy patients gradually improve their eye teaming, tracking, or focusing skills over time. Had I just shadowed for one or two days, I wouldn’t have noted their progress. But I was able to work with these patients weekly for four months, and the excited look on a patient’s face when they were able to complete a task they couldn’t before was absolutely gratifying. 

I was grateful to have a mentor like Dr. Borsuk thoroughly inform me about the field, even diving into the different specialties of optometry. He was a true inspiration in my decision to move forward with optometry, and I was able to take what I learned and pass it along to other students in the Pre-Optometry Society. Looking back, it was a very roundabout way into this path towards optometry, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Tiffany is a fourth 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.