1. What led to your interest in a career in optometry? Who or what inspired you? My interest in a career in optometry began when I was in high school. I loved science, math, and working with people. I knew I wanted to work in the health field, but was unsure about which profession I wanted to pursue. After several vision problems found their way into my family, I realized helping others to best achieve one of the most coveted human senses would be a rewarding field of work. I shadowed my neighbor, who is an optometrist at a hospital in my town, and instantly felt I could see a future for myself in the field of optometry. After copious amounts of research into the field and after observing many other optometrists, I was attracted to the various types of practice settings and different fields available to optometrists. Through my career at Northeastern, I participated in three co-ops; two of which involved performing research at major biotechnology companies and one of which was at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. It was through these experiences that I solidified my desire to work with people, gained valuable research experience, and realized my desire to become an optometrist. I enjoyed my research experiences, but prefer to work in a clinical setting; yet I will always have the opportunity to supplement my optometric career with vision research. I was encouraged by my family to follow my dreams and inspired by my drive to help others, which could lead to a successful health career.
2. How did you prepare yourself for optometry school? The application process? A lot of outside research was required for figuring out the application process. Starting early is the best advice I can give to anyone. Most schools I applied to were rolling admission, and submitting my application the day the application cycle opened gave me a strong advantage over my peers. I was accepted into my number one school and even offered a scholarship; I confirmed my attendance to their program on October 15th, almost a full year before matriculating. I found most of the optometry school websites for prospective students to be very helpful in regards to the application process. Also, admission counselors at the prospective optometry schools were always willing to answer any questions I had via email and phone. I prepared myself for optometry school by taking advantage of as many observation opportunities as possible to best familiarize myself with the field.
3. What undergraduate experiences were most instrumental to your success? My undergraduate classroom experiences were most instrumental to my success. I developed study habits and a strong work ethic, two components attributing to my success in optometry school thus far. Attending a rigorous institution such as Northeastern University has prepared me for the arduous course load ahead. Also, my co-op experiences have taught me how to work well in a professional setting. I am easily able to work with my preceptors and ask questions in a clinical setting and in a professional manner.
4. What obstacles or hurdles did you overcome in your medical school journey? The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) was the biggest hurdle I faced while applying to optometry school. I overcame this hurdle by taking a Kaplan prep class and studying for 4 months prior to sitting for the exam. Also, I took the exam a full year early in order to have a year to study if I needed to re-take the OAT to improve my score. Luckily, I performed well and confirmed with the schools to which I planned to apply that I had indeed earned a competitive score and did not end up having to re-take the exam.
5. Did you did matriculate directly from NU to optometryschool or did you have a gap year? I matriculated directly from Northeastern to optometry school.
6. Whether you entered directly from NU or had a gap year (or more), looking back, are you happy with the decision you made? Why or why not? Yes, I am happy with the decision I made to begin optometry school directly after receiving my degree from Northeastern. Many students who take a gap year do so to receive valuable work experience, something I already had acquired as a result of the co-op program. The decision to enter directly into optometry school has made my dream of becoming an optometrist seem more attainable with each passing day. Also, information learned in undergraduate courses is still fresh in my memory, supplementing many of the basic science courses that are part of my optometric curriculum.
7. Is optometry school what you thought it would be? Would you share your thoughts? Optometry school seemed daunting as the first day of classes approached. However, my undergraduate studies have greatly impacted my ability to perform well in my classes. Also, it is important to choose an institution that will provide you with early clinical exposure. I have already been afforded the opportunity of performing 5 vision screenings at local elementary schools throughout Boston in just my first semester. This part of my education has greatly strengthened my classroom experiences.
8. What are your career goals right now? Have they changed since you began your medical school studies? My current career goal is to open a small, private practice. My four years of experience as a resident assistant taught me that I delight in working to create small communities. I would like the opportunity to know each one of my patients on a personal level, to develop strong relationships that will ultimately help individuals and strengthen community at the same time. Vision plays a major role in how the world is perceived, and by helping patients attain optimal sight I will be able to positively impact many lives. These are the same career goals I have had since before matriculating into optometry school.
9. What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine? Make sure a career in medicine is something you want to fully commit to, because it is a significant workload. While the workload is intense, I have found that I enjoy studying and putting in the effort because it is bringing me closer to reaching my dreams. You have to be driven and focused, but if you use the study skills and work ethic Northeastern has taught you, you will succeed.