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Three Year Throwback

Exterior of rural school building in Dominican Republic Our second stop for VOSH - a view of the community and their school.

Happy February! Another month has flown by and it’s crazy to think that in just three weeks, our fourth year students will be starting their last rotation. Now that I have returned to Martha Eliot Community Health Center, I get to work with second and third year students from NECO at clinic again. At Martha Eliot, fourth years work with third year students, often in conjunction with the second years, acting as a one-on-one guide and mentor for the second year students.

I have always felt that my experiences at NECO prepared me well for clinical rotations. I remember how frightened I was to go on my first screening as a first year student and performing visual acuity tests on an inattentive five year old. And now at Martha Eliot, where our main patient demographic is children, grabbing the attention of a child is less of a difficult task and I am able to help the second year students who are struggling with their exam.

An experience I highly recommend to other students is VOSH - Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. Once a year, our chapter travels to a developing country where vision care is underserved. Many of the communities we serve are visually impaired because of the lack of vision care, which is where we try our best to intervene and improve the quality of life in these communities.

I have really learned to consider the quality of vision care in different types of communities by being a part of VOSH, and this has translated into my clinical rotations as well. At Martha Eliot, the clinic director has posed questions for us to consider when figuring out how to manage dry eye in a community health center. She asks us questions such as: “Is the patient a new parent? Do they have time in their day to day life to focus on themselves? Is it possible for the patient to constantly use single vial preservative-free drops or is it easier for the patient to use one bottle of artificial tears?” In class we learn steps on how to manage diagnoses but only in clinic do we consider whether our plan of treatment is plausible for the patient.

Until this year, I hadn’t realized how my work with the Admissions department would also help prepare me for clinic. Since my first year, I have been an Interview Day Ambassador, working as a tour guide and clinic guide for the Admissions Office. Early on in the interview process, there is a student panel I participated on where applicants ask students about living in Boston, school life, extra-curricular activities, and any other topics they are curious about. The ambassadors are available throughout the whole interview day for the prospective students to get more information. Through this experience my first three years, I quickly learned how to speak to people in a more professional setting and describe optometric related terms in a way that both the prospective students and their families would understand.

In clinic, we speak to patients in a similar way. We describe conditions to the patient so that they understand the importance of following a treatment plan. Throughout the past three years in clinic, I have picked up on great analogies by my preceptors on different ways to describe conditions like glaucoma, amblyopia, dry eye syndrome, and much more. 

To see how far we’ve come is a bit of an understatement. Being a mentor to the underclassmen at Martha Eliot has shown me how much we grow as a clinician year to year. From working on our comprehensive eye exam flow as a second year to thinking more like a clinician our third year, I feel accomplished knowing I have become a more confident clinician compared to where I stood two years ago.

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.