The New England College of Optometry always has a large variety of events and clubs in which students of all years can participate. However, it is often much more difficult for fourth year students to attend NECO events. Many OD4s have their clinical rotations outside of the city (or even outside of the country!), and those that are still in Boston usually have very hectic clinic schedules. Even so, I am trying my best to attend as many NECO events and take advantage of as many optometric related opportunities as I can before I graduate.
An event I volunteered for this summer, as well as last summer, was helping perform vision screenings on athletes at the Special Olympics. Although last year I was involved with the Boston screenings, I decided this year to assist with the vision screenings in Burlington, Vermont. Burlington is an adorable city located about a three and a half hour drive from Boston. Because of this distance, we were thankfully given free accommodations for the entire event weekend. In a single day of vision screenings, we performed complete undilated eye examinations on 113 athletes and referred 6 athletes for further evaluation. An interesting aspect of the Burlington vision screenings was that athletes were able to pick out glasses and sunglasses on site. Both years that I assisted with vision screenings at the Special Olympics I was touched by the positive energy and excitement of each and every athlete. It was a great experience working with these athletes again and I hope to have another opportunity to assist with the Special Olympics in the future.
So far this fall semester I have attended two great NECO events: The annual Welcome Back BBQ and the NECO Olympics. The BBQ takes place in the NECO parking lot every September. As a fourth year, it was a good chance to see old friends and peers, as well as catch up with preceptors and professors. Plus, with free food and drinks, it is a NECO event not to be missed. It was great seeing all my classmates again and I’m glad that I got the chance to attend one last time.
I also recently had the opportunity to represent my OD4 class at the annual NECO Olympics. Every year the OD classes compete in a variety of sports and games to decide which class will be crowned winner and have ultimate bragging rights. Although the OD4s did not come out on top, we did extremely well for having such a small team. When I returned home after an exhausting day I was horribly sunburned and every muscle in my body hurt, but it was also the most fun I had had in a very long time.
At NECO there are always many club and school events happening throughout the year. The opportunities we are given at NECO to engage in the field of optometry in unique ways are necessary to really develop a deeper understanding of the profession. I hope to take advantage of as many professional and social events as I can before graduation and, as excited as I am to graduate, I will undoubtedly miss being a part of the NECO community.
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.