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Loving to Learn, and Learning to Live!

Group photo at BBQ Class of 2020 at the NECO BBQ

After a quiet summer semester at New England College of Optometry, 424 Beacon Street is a full house again! With first year students acclimating to the newness of grad school, second year students attending their first clinic orientations, and third year students still in disbelief that they’re less than a year away from starting their 4th year rotations, September is an exciting month for the NECO community.

This past weekend, NECO hosted its annual Welcome Back BBQ, our school’s favorite way to welcome new students. There was a huge turn out and I was happy to spend the day with my classmates and faculty members, people who just 2 years ago were strangers and new faces to me. I left the BBQ feeling nostalgic, realizing how quickly the first two years had flown by and wondering if I had done my NECO experience justice so far. Had I maximized the countless hours spent in class, lab, and clinic? Could I live up to be the inquisitive, thorough, and thoughtful doctor that our dedicated professors and preceptors had prepared us to be? 

Taking a break from studying and running a 5K with friends.
I think reflective moments like this are really critical as optometry students. They encourage us to identify the areas we fall short as clinicians-in-training, motivating us to a adopt a renewed willingness to learn. Recently, my preceptor at Charles River Community Health Center, Dr. Lyons, asked us what being “efficient” meant. “Easy”, I thought in my head. “It means getting to dilation in 20 minutes.” I completely missed the mark, as the answer Dr. Lyons was looking for was: “Doing the right tests, at the right time, the right way.” As obvious as the answer sounds now, I had become so complacent with this notion that working quickly was what my preceptors expected from me. It was refreshing to be reminded of this perspective on efficiency, one that didn’t involve a time limit, but rather, one that depended on our ability to cater our exam to the specific complaints of the patient, and to think critically about our objective findings. One that reminded us to think. 

As third years, I believe that this is certainly a fair expectation for our preceptors to have of us. Now that I have 2 years under my belt, I want to expand my scope beyond simply identifying abnormal findings, to building a whole clinical picture of the patient by making sense of the objective findings, and using the patient’s case history to support them. How lucky we are as NECO students to get to work with preceptors who are patient and fully committed to accompanying us through our journey in optometry. All we have to do as students is show up, learn, and be persistent. 

The humbling learning moments are paralleled by the times that make me realize how much I’ve learned over the course of two years. Whether it’s the first time getting far out enough on BIO (binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy) to finally see white without pressure, or recognizing a concerning ocular side effect of a drug that the patient is taking and informing the preceptor, I love getting excited about these small, silent victories, even as a third year. As I enter my last didactic year at NECO, I hope to be attentive to what I lack, what I am good at, and what I can continue to improve in clinic.

Beyond the realm of clinic, I also just really want to enjoy my OD3 year, as this is probably the last time all of my classmates and I will be in Boston together, before we leave for different cities during our 4th year. After all, many monumental and exciting things are awaiting us this year – hearing back about which rotation sites we’ll be at next year, taking Part 1 of boards, going to our last Casino Night and Eye Ball, just to name a few. Let’s make every moment count, because before we know it, we’ll find ourselves as practicing OD’s, reminiscing about our time as NECO students and how good we had it. Between the beautiful city and supportive community of students and professors, I anticipate a very rewarding yet emotional final year at the 424 Beacon street campus!

Hannah is a third year Korean American student who is originally from Rochester, NY. She is a 2016 graduate of Boston College, where she studied Behavioral Neuroscience and minored in Medical Humanities. Some of her most formative experiences at BC include volunteering weekly at a children’s hospital, traveling to Nicaragua on a service and cultural immersion trip, and studying the neurobiology of eating and eating disorders through an undergraduate research fellowship. Hannah's decision to pursue optometry wasn’t completely made until the summer before her senior year at BC. Despite this relatively late start, she believes that her Jesuit education at BC has cultivated a deep sense of social responsibility to serve communities as an optometrist, perhaps by participating in vision science research adapted towards treatments for rare ocular conditions or by providing basic eye exams to underprivileged communities in the US and Latin America. She is thrilled to be spending another 4 years in the historically rich city of Boston, but this time, as a graduate student and living in the heart of Boston with 2 other roommates! She cannot wait to see where the next four years at NECO will lead her, as well as her classmates in the class of 2020!