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May the Fourth Year Be With You

Four students outside at EyeBall

It has been more than a month since I wrote Part 1 of the National Board Examinations and the stress from intensively studying for 3 months straight has finally faded away. So have, unfortunately, many of the ocular facts I crammed into my head in preparation for this exam.

I will know whether or not I passed Part 1 very soon, but for better or for worse, knowing the result will at least allow me to move forward. If I did not pass, I will be able to begin studying more efficiently in order to pass Part 1 the second time around. If I did pass, then I can focus my full attention on preparing for Part 2 and 3 of the National Board Exams and for the Canadian Board Examinations.  With only about two weeks of the semester left, I will be focusing my remaining energy on finishing outstanding assignments, preparing for NECO examinations, and most importantly, mentally preparing myself for fourth year rotations.

My first fourth year rotation is in Massachusetts at a Veteran’s Affairs hospital, which I’m excited about because I have yet to experience this type of clinical site. I anticipate that I will gain a great deal of experience in ocular disease and that I will also have the opportunity provide care for a very unique clinical population.  Still, going from two clinic days a week as an OD3 to working full time as an OD4 Optometry intern will undoubtedly be a bit of a learning curve. But having such an intensive clinical schedule will make me a more confident and knowledgeable clinician when I finally get my OD degree.

Not having to study for Part 1 of Boards means I finally have the time to participate in NECO events. Mid April, NECO held its 15th annual Visionaries Day. Visionaries is comprised of a number of events including a poster contest showcasing the public health projects created by the OD1s, special guest speakers, and the OD3 Business Plan competition. The Business Plan Competition involves five OD3 finalist groups presenting the innovative optometric business plans they created to a panel of judges. My group was lucky enough to be one of the top five teams chosen to present, and ultimately ended up winning the competition. We put a lot of work into the project and it was a great feeling holding up that giant, winning check.

Maria and group receiving oversized check for prize

The best part of having free time in April was getting to attend NECO’s 87th annual Eye Ball at the Aquarium. This Eye Ball was particularly special because almost the entire OD3 class was in attendance . Also, the food was fantastic and nearly the entire Aquarium was open for exploring by guests. In a nice change of pace to past Eye Balls I’ve attended. The dinner was done buffet style with food available on almost every level of the Aquarium. I was able to eat food, walk around and look at fish, and then get more food. It was definitely my most memorable Eye Ball.

It is hard to believe that in two short weeks I will be saying goodbye to many of my friends as they leave Boston and head to their first OD4 rotation sites.  I may not see many of them until we return to Boston for graduation, which promises to be a bittersweet affair. Even though it will be hard to say goodbye to the classmates I have spent so much time with, it is still very exciting and gratifying to be entering the final chapter of my Optometry education at NECO. Even though I will miss my fellow OD3s, I’m really looking forward to the coming challenges, opportunities, and lessons my classmates and I will encounter when we start our journeys as OD4s in two short weeks. Fourth year promises to be a truly “eye-opening” experience!

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.