Are you interested in fulfilling a residency after completing optometry school? In the sixth part of this series focused on the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University's Accelerated Scholars Doctor of Optometry Program, three on-campus residents – Kiera Jeschke, OD ‘21, Chandni Patel, OD '21, and Natalee Rackus, OD '21, discuss how and why they chose PCO/Salus for their specific interests.

According to one, "a residency is the equivalence to five years of practicing on your own.” She acquired this knowledge while fulfilling her externship and it sold her on considering a residency following her Doctor of Optometry degree. The quality of PCO’s residency programs are among the very highest available, either academically or institutionally based. 

PCO/Salus’ in-house residency programs are all housed at The Eye Institute (TEI), the patient care facility of PCO/Salus and include: Primary Eye Care/Ocular Disease; Pediatric Optometry/Vision Therapy; Low Vision Rehabilitation; Cornea and Contact Lenses; and Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease. PCO/Salus’ affiliated residency programs offer challenging clinical education and training in Ocular Disease and/or Primary Care in various practice modalities. 

Q: Can you please introduce yourself and tell us which residency you are completing?

Jeschke: Hi, my name is Kiera Jeschke. I am from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I went to Messiah College, or I guess it's now Messiah University for undergrad. And, then I went to PCO/Salus for optometry school. I actually just graduated from the Accelerated Scholars Class of 2021, and I am the first-year Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease resident.

Patel: Hi, I'm Chandni Patel. I'm from Edison, New Jersey. I went to Rutgers University and I majored in psychology. I recently graduated from the Accelerated Scholars program in 2021 and my residency is in the Primary Care/Ocular Disease.

Rackus: My name is Natalee Rackus. I am the Low Vision resident. I also graduated from the Scholars Program in 2021 so we were all classmates. I went to Penn State for undergrad, I majored in biology and I'm originally from Whitehall, Pennsylvania.

Q: Why piqued your interest about your specific residency?

Jeschke: I chose to do the Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease residency because I had a strong passion for learning about neuro-ophthalmic disease. I think that passion started in my undergrad when I took a human anatomy cadaver course, I learned about the intricacies of the human body and developed this appreciation for how we are designed.

When I entered optometry school, we took several courses, and had neck anatomy in neuroscience courses that focused in neuro-ophthalmic disease. I fell in love with that material as well. It was challenging - I felt like I was learning a lot and it was also very fulfilling information I could really help my patients with.
Then when my third year came and we rotated through The Eye Institute, I chose to rotate through the neuro-ophthalmic disease service. And, again, I fell in love with the service. I felt like I was being the best possible clinician I could be for my patients. The information I was learning and the way I was practicing was very fulfilling. So, deciding to apply for residency felt natural. It felt like it was the next step in my journey.

Q: How did your externships affect choosing a residency?

Patel: I chose to do a residency, mainly when I went off to my externships. I'd seen a lot of different conditions while I was there. Although I did graduate from the Scholars program which was a really good educational experience for me, it gave me a good backbone. When it comes to my knowledge base, I did want to pursue my career a little further by making things a little bit more solidified when it comes to how I want to practice as a clinician in the future.

Especially when I went off on my externships, one of the residents there told me one year of a residency is equivalent to five years of practicing on your own, that sold me. Basically at that point, because I felt like I would be a stronger and more confident doctor once I was done my residency. Right now, I'm pretty happy with the choice that I've made.

I love all the doctors who I work with. I like hearing all their different perspectives and how they like to treat and manage different conditions.

Q: How did the Scholars program at PCO/Salus prepare you for a residency?

Rackus: From the Scholars program, I felt really prepared to do a residency. A lot of people questioned if you felt like you needed to do one, because you were only in school for three years. And, I would say, "No." I felt really prepared to go out and practice when I was done with school. I've had more pressure on myself, I feel like to do a residency, because I didn't want to limit any of my opportunities after I graduated.
I wanted to give myself the widest potential in terms of jobs. And, I know sometimes younger students or even some people that were applying to the Scholars program, they would ask if you felt like you were at the same level of other students in the four year program. And, I would definitely say so. There's actually one time on my fourth... it's my third year rotation, but it's with the fourth years in the four-year program, that one doctor was trying to find my patient log, because they grade you based on your patient logs.
And, she couldn't find it because mine was with the Scholars third years and she's like, "I didn't even know you were in Scholars." So it just goes to show that the doctors can't really tell the difference and the program does what it's supposed to and it keeps you equal in terms of ability and skills to the four-year program.
That being said, I felt really prepared to do a residency and I also felt really prepared to go out into the world when I was done with the program.