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Looking Forward

Maria and group on stairs

Last week I finally tackled one of the biggest challenges facing third year Optometry students everywhere: NBEO Part 1. Part 1 of the National Boards consists of all of the vision science information we have been learning for the past 3 years. To say it is a great deal of information to have to know would be putting it mildly. Optometry students are required to pass this examination, along with Parts 2 and 3, in order to become certified optometrists in the United States.

Walking out of that 9-hour exam felt like emerging from a dark cave back into the light of the real world. For the past 3 months I have been cooped up in my room, trying to cram as much knowledge as possible into my head, in the hopes of obtaining a passing grade. Now that I’ve written the exam, regardless of if I will have to retake it or not, I will be treating my tired brain to lots of sleep, movies, and even mundane tasks like laundry and grocery shopping that I haven’t had time to do in recent weeks. I’m excited to get back on a normal schedule and actually have free time to explore Boston and partake in NECO events.

The best part about overcoming Part 1 of Boards is that I finally have the chance to set my sights on the many opportunities available to me during my last remaining months as an OD3, and my year of externships as an OD4. Before hitting the milestone of starting fourth year rotations, I would like to refine my clinical skills and diagnostic techniques as much as possible. What’s great about NECO’s clinical program is that students start seeing patients in second year, so as a third year I feel I already have a strong foundation when it comes to patient care. I can thus focus more on learning new techniques and broadening my knowledge base.

The thought of finally becoming an OD4 is somewhat overwhelming. As an OD4, I will be working full time as an optometric intern in a variety of clinical settings throughout the city.  Although I am excited to encounter new patient populations and gain more confidence as a future clinician, this will be the last opportunity that I will have to work under the direct supervision of a skilled Optometrist whom I can turn to for assistance and to ask questions. Next year I will still work under the supervision of a clinical preceptor, but I'll be taking on full responsibility for my patients. I am sure the experiences I will gain as an OD4 will make me feel more than well prepared to provide exceptional vision care as an Optometrist.

I also look forward to submitting abstracts about my research to various vision science conferences. I have been enrolled in the MS/OD joint program since the fall of my second year and I would love the opportunity to share my research with a community of well-established vision scientists.

But what I most look forward to, between now and the middle of May, is the chance to spend more time with my fellow OD3s before we all go our separate ways. I’ve met so many amazing, kind people who will become fantastic Optometrists. I am going to make the most of my remaining time as an OD3 by spending it with the best future doctors I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.  

Maria is a Canadian student in her final year of the four year OD/MS dual degree program. For her MS project, she is working with Dr. Vera-Diaz and Dr. Panorgias examining color vision and early age-related macular degeneration.