Giving Back One Vision Screening at a Time

Within my first few months of school it was very easy to notice my classmates and I all had one dream: to help those in need and give back to our community. As a first year student at RSO, I did not expect to be given an opportunity to do such so early in the program. After just 28 days from the beginning of classes, I found myself inside a small dim room at a San Antonio church located in the heart of downtown.

This would mark the day of my first vision screening. I was scared and timid at first but my fellow students (second and third years) reassured me that everything I had been learning in my Basic Optometry course was going to be put to good use that night. As soon as the patients started to arrive, my peers and I were continuously busy. From measuring pupil size to testing visual acuity, as a first year student with only a month of school under my belt, I was able to help so much!

There are many organizations and clubs on campus that provide students with hands on experiences through vision screenings. I highly encourage many of my classmates who still haven’t attended a vision screening to do so ASAP. It is a such a great reminder of why we study and work so hard to do well in the classroom. These vision screenings provide us with a real world application of everything we have been learning from the textbook, and it doesn’t get much better than that!

As an RSO student, we are reminded of UIW’s core values, especially one in particular: service. From the first day of orientation, we were prompted to be mindful of our community and give back as much as possible. As students of community engagement, we complete a service learning project within our curriculum, consisting of at least 16 service hours by the end of our third year. My classmates, as well as myself, truly understand how important these moments are. Not only are we fulfilling the mission of UIW, but we are also improving the lives of so many community members.

Pictured below are first-year students and instructor Dr. Narayanan, who volunteered at the 2016 BAPS Charities Health Fair. Which is a day that provides a wide array of health screenings and blood testing for community members.

 

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You too can fulfill your dreams of giving back to the community through vision screenings within just one month of beginning your career as an optometry student at UIWRSO!

The Start of Optometry School

1 out of 70. I am one of seventy students in the UIWRSO class of 2020. When I first got the acceptance letter I couldn’t believe it; it felt like a dream come true. I, like many, have always been asked the age old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to give back through healthcare, but I was never too sure how I would accomplish it, until May of 2015. After spending an afternoon shadowing our family optometrist I had come to the conclusion; this was the perfect profession for me.

After my application had been submitted and verified, I now had to play the dreaded waiting game. The time spent waiting for an interview invite was far from easy but more than worth it. The interview experience was a great opportunity to show the university what I had to offer, but more importantly helped me determine if the university fit my wants and needs. UIWRSO fulfilled all of my expectations and then some.

Once accepted into the program, I could not wait for the first day of school. It was such a relief knowing where I would be headed after undergraduate graduation. The process of moving across country is not necessarily something you are taught in school. What is a lease? And how would I sign it from miles away? All of these questions and concerns started to build up inside my head. Thank goodness UIWRSO provides admitted students with a relocation service to help with all of these technicalities.

A few months’ passed and it was time to make the move! My parents helped me load up my VW Jetta and we hit the road! 1,300 miles and 19 hours later, we made it to the great city of San Antonio. After a few weeks, my apartment is all set up and I have learned the lay of the land, and it is now the first day of orientation. Oh the emotions I felt; anxious, nervous, apprehensive, but overall excited to start this new chapter of my life.

Like any other alteration in life, it takes time to adjust and get acquainted. Three months have passed since the start of year one of optometry school and I am pleased to announce: I am still alive! It isn’t as bad as you might think, it surely is no cake walk but I keep reminding myself, it will all be worth it one day. When I started school I expected the worse, but the faculty and staff at UIWRSO are so helpful and provide great support that makes day-to-day challenges that much easier.

My decision to apply to optometry school and accept a seat in UIWRSO’s class of 2020 is one of the greatest choices of my life. The friends I have made and the experiences I have had only within a short amount of time, reassures me that there are only more great things to come!

Getting Jobs Through Amani Ocular

One advantage to coming to UIWRSO is the excellent faculty who teach here. Many are involved in their own private practices, work outside of the facility, and even have their own businesses. One such former faculty member is Catherine Awad Amani, OD, MPH. Dr. Awad Amani, her husband (Mustafa Amani, MD) and her brother-in-law (Hamed Amani, MD FACS) all founded Amani Ocular Staffing. I wanted to share their website with you all, as it is something I visit frequently as my optometry school career is coming to a close!

Amani Ocular Staffing is a website designed for ODs, opticians, optometric/ophthalmic technicians, and general office staff looking for jobs, as well as employers who are looking for positions to fill, whether they be temporary or permanent. It is an innovative approach to how people find and fill job vacancies by helping both to find matches to their perfect positions and employees. Amani Ocular Staffing “provides the removal of the middleman” which helps both employer and job seeker find what they are looking for more easily and efficiently.

 

I first learned about Amani Ocular Staffing at a career fair we had at UIWRSO. The idea of our own professor helping us to find jobs was such a great idea. Who better to help students find an OD career than an optometrist we trust and work with daily? She explained to the crowd around her booth that their aim and number one goal is to make sure we become successful and gain the employment opportunities we are seeking and deserve. This is a win-win situation for job seekers and prospective employees. She then went into more detail about how it works. Job Seekers (such as current ODs or students who are approaching graduation) go onto the website www.amaniocular.com and click join. You simply have to put in your name, email, create a password, and you can now search for jobs. Dr. Awad Amani suggests completing your profile by adding your education, credentials, licenses, etc. so that potential employers can seek you out! There is never a fee to search job seekers to look for jobs or gain employment, which is great for us, as students! Employers have a similar set-up in which they are able to post positions for temporary or permanent jobs. They can also post exactly what they are looking for including “Job Seeker rank, skill set, background, region of interest and much more.” Employers get the first three matches for free! After that, a reasonable fee comes with each position filled and is based off the nature of the position (OD, office staff, etc.). One aspect that I find very helpful is the fact that you can “rate” the business you worked for once you have completed the job, and employers can do the same for you! It would be nice to be recognized for all your hard work and dedication to the job and have that help for the next time you are seeking a position.

Navigating through the website myself, I found that it was very easy to find what I was looking for. I am already looking at the website frequently, especially as graduation is around the corner for me as a fourth year. One other thing I really like about the website is the fact that they are connected to social media. At the top of their website you can find links for Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Google+ and Instagram. The doctors of Amani Ocular Staffing like to post updates on where they are and how to get more involved with getting the job of your dreams! I highly encourage all current ODs, 3rd and 4th year students (from all schools), technicians, as well as employers to check out the website and see what jobs or employees await you. As I mentioned, UIWRSO is a facility booming with talented faculty, and Dr. Awad Amani’s teaching and business is just one such example!

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Clinical Internship at UIWRSO

As my third year comes to an end, I get a chance to look back and think about how great my clinical internship at UIWRSO was. During your first and second years, you are so busy trying to do well in your classes and sharpen your skills to prepare for clinic. Once you are there, however, everything changes! You rely on your skills that you have practiced countless of hours on, but you learn the most once you are giving examinations to real patients and interacting with your preceptors.

To be completely honest, your first day of clinical internship is so scary. You go through a few days of training and orientation before you actually begin, but it’s a lot of vague information just so you have a foundation to what you need to do once you start. They give you tips on how to use the EMR (electronic medical record), the dos and don’ts in the clinic, and also how to use some of the equipment that you only used a few times before (OCT, Visual Field, etc.).

The night before we started I could barely sleep; I was so anxious! At the moment, our school has two different schedules for third years: you either have Monday and Thursday clinic, or Tuesday and Wednesday clinic, seeing about 5 patients a week with 2 hours of optical experience. We started school (the summer semester) and clinic on the same day! Talk about rough! We also have different locations we go to, either at our school at the Datapoint Eye Clinic, or our two other locations, Bowden Eye Clinic and another clinic on the West side of town. I was happy that I was at the Datapoint clinic, which I was the most familiar with at the time.

At 9:30 am, I showed up to the area where we (my clinic mates and I) were to set up. My hands were shaking so vigorously as I pulled out the equipment I needed from my kit. I am generally not so nervous unless it is time for a proficiency or something of that nature, so you can probably imagine the type of stress this felt like to me! We logged into the EMR and saw that a few patients were ready. For the first day of clinic, the preceptors allow you to work in a pair, so it’s not as intimidating. Two hours are allowed for each patient’s exam, which you definitely need for the first few weeks in clinic. My partner and I walked into the waiting room, picked up the paper with our patient’s name on it and I started thinking, “What if I pronounce their name wrong? What if they don’t like me?” I called out the patient’s name, and luckily a smile ran across their face as they followed us into the exam room.

I honestly can’t remember much about my first patient encounter, other than he was a very nice, older gentleman who was extremely patient with us. We had had some training on ICD9 codes (what you need to bill their insurance), but it was so new to us and nerve wrecking with the patient in the room that I am surprised we had finished everything within two hours! You are not used to using all of your skills in one sitting, and checking in with preceptors frequently, either, so it was a fast-learning environment.

A few weeks in, and it became routine like the back of my hand. Just like with anything, practice makes perfect. The amount of information you receive and pick up from your preceptors, your clinic mates, and even your patients is incredible during the 11 months you are in clinic at UIWRSO. Even though I am about to leave to fourth year externships, I feel like I have even more to learn from outside preceptors and locations. I am so grateful for the experiences and knowledge I have learned over this past year, and the feeling that I will be happy doing this for the rest of my life overjoys me!

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Low Vision with a Twist

As an officer for the LVR (Low Vision and Rehabilitation) Club at RSO, I am very excited to share my experience with a recent event that we held as a fundraiser. Most people have heard about “Painting with a Twist,” which involves a teacher showing you step-by-step how to finish a painting, all while indulging in a BYOB atmosphere. LVR Club wanted to do something similar, but do it with a low vision twist. This was the first time an event like this has ever been held at UIWRSO, so we were very eager to have it go off with a bang!

For our event, we had a teacher (our very own third year and LVR officer Minati Desai) show us how to paint a picture, but with the added difficulty of wearing low vision simulator glasses. Our third year class made these glasses, and they simulated all kinds of low vision diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma, among others. Participants were encouraged to use the glasses and see a small glimpse into the life of someone with one of these eye diseases. I used a pair of cataract glasses and I have to admit that it got difficult when I was trying to use my central vision! Luckily, I was still able to come up with a decent painting.

One of the great things about this event is that more than just RSO students attended. Some pharmacy students from UIW attended, as well as friends of the professors here at UIWRSO. One thing that is very difficult about being an officer in a club is sometimes worrying about the turnout of events. We were very pleased that we had a full turnout with all 30 spots filled. We were also able to have wine service at the school for this specific event. The event was sponsored by Mattingly Low Vision.

Everyone at the event really enjoyed it. Many people told me it was one of the best events we’ve ever had at RSO, which myself and the other officers of the club are very proud of. We were even mentioned in the UIW newsletter! I hope that this event continues next year and even after we graduate. I think it is a great way to educate students who have no prior exposure to low vision and also people who aren’t involved in optometry. I am very proud of what our club has done this year, so what a great event to finish off my third year of optometry school!

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