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New Year, New…Degree?

Sign Living on the Montrose campus was a huge throwback to dorm life back in undergrad.

Happy New Year! We have finally entered the year of graduation and it feels absolutely surreal. These past three and a half years at NECO have been a whirlwind and even though every mentor says “it goes by quickly,” it’s still surprising to watch it go by in real time. Every rotation seems to fly by even faster and at this rate it feels like May is around the corner!

For this blog post, I wanted to dive deeper into my second rotation at the VA in Hudson Valley, NY, since I haven’t spoken about it yet. When I was ranking my VA rotations, I felt like I knew the least about how I wanted to rank these sites. With the elective and the specialty categories, ranking was a bit easier since I had a general idea of what specialties I was interested in.

Reading through the site descriptions for the different VAs, most sounded very similar to each other. Patient population on average was around 60 years of age, male, multi-systemic issues, and our focus was mostly on ocular disease with this demographic. It wasn’t until I was at Hudson Valley VA and discussing cases with other classmates at other VAs that I grasped at how different the VAs really were.

Hudson Valley VA has two clinic sites that students rotate through. The schedule varies week to week for the students, giving them an opportunity to work with different doctors and residents. There are about ten different optometrists between the two sites, one low vision optometrist, and no ophthalmologists. Although working in low vision was not a requirement, students were welcome to be scheduled into low vision should they choose to. Talking with classmates, I discovered that often low vision and vision rehabilitation are an integral part of the rotation.

Coming from rotation one where I was able to work with both ODs and MDs, this second rotation gave me a chance to see what it is like with only ODs in clinic with other different healthcare professionals in the same building. I was able to appreciate the continuity of care and how the VA works with the local ophthalmologists and the referral system with other VAs. I was able to see more ocular disease at Hudson Valley, ranging from end-stage glaucoma to neuromyelitis optica.

One of the most memorable experiences was being able to see one of my patients undergo fluorescein angiography, a procedure in which a fluorescent dye is injected into the bloodstream and photographs of the retina are taken at different time intervals to determine if there are any abnormalities in blood flow to the retina. Although I was able witness the procedure done at University of Maryland, none of the patients were my own. This was the first case where I was able to follow the patient from the start and continue care for a month while I was at Hudson Valley.

University of Maryland and Hudson Valley VA have been quite fast-paced, and I am grateful for the experiences I have had. I have seen cases I never thought I would see during my fourth year and certainly may across again. For anyone deciding on how to choose their VAs, I recommend a thorough investigation and reaching out to current students at the sites. Don’t be afraid to contact us!

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.