My name is David Rosner, and I am a third-year optometry student here at Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University. I graduated from a small college in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, in 2020 with a bachelor’s in biology. You might be thinking, that does not add up given I am currently a third-year student. However, with a strong goal in mind of beginning my optometry journey, I accelerated my path by taking advantage of Salus University’s 3+4 Accelerated Program in Optometry. This meant that I would be leaving undergrad a year early. Leaving my undergraduate friends when everyone else had not yet graduated was a tough undertaking, but the future was looking bright as a soon-to-be optometry student at PCO.
PCO piqued my interest through its strong focus on getting its students into the clinic early on, even if just to shadow during the first year. With COVID-19 putting a damper on our opportunity to see patients early on, we did not get into the clinic as traditionally expected. However, I feel more confident each time I see patients in the clinic as the amount we are there increases each semester. These past two years of optometry school have been a challenge, but as a third-year student, I feel accomplished in how far I have come in my optometry journey.
During my third year, you can find me at The Eye Institute (TEI), where I attend clinic three days a week, at my desk watching lectures or studying for any exams coming up, or at the library with my nose in a board’s textbook. Here is what my schedule on Thursdays looks like:
6:15 a.m.: I get up and get ready for morning clinic. I usually have a hearty breakfast, because, for me, it is the most important meal of the day! I like to take a quick look at the schedule for the day and the upcoming days to see what lectures I plan to go through later after clinic.
7:40 a.m.: I pack up my suitcase and head off to the clinic at The Eye Institute. This takes me only about 12 minutes since I conveniently live right across from the Salus Elkins Park campus. I like to arrive at the clinic early enough, about 15 minutes, to get set up for the day and have some time to look through any patient charts.
8 – noon: I begin clinic in Suite 1. Patients start arriving and we are typically assigned to a patient by the floater. The floater is in charge of assigning patients for the day and keeping track of start, dilation and end times throughout the exams. They also bring the best snacks! About two out of the three days at the clinic during the week, I am in Primary Care. On the other day, which is Wednesday this semester, I am in Specialty Care services. Specialty Care services range from performing diagnostic testing such as visual fields on patients to doing a binocular vision exam on young children in the pediatrics department. Other specialty care services include contact lens, glaucoma, neuro-optometry, low vision, optical, and going to one of the TEI branch sites at Chestnut Hill.
Of the two days I am in the Primary Care service, I am paired up with one of my classmates while seeing patients. It can be advantageous to work with a partner as two heads are better than one. My partner and I split up the exams where one of us is scribing while the other performs the exam. Typically, I see one to two patients during a morning clinic shift, otherwise, I see around three.
Being in the clinic three days a week has certainly given me the opportunity to get plenty of experience working with ocular diseases and apply my knowledge learned through our classes. Since morning clinic days are our shorter days, there is typically not much time to discuss our cases with the doctors. However, on longer days in Suite 1 or if time permits, we have a roundtable discussion. Each student talks about their most thought-provoking case of the day or one of the precepting doctors will take us through an interesting topic or case they encountered. I am grateful to be part of such a dynamic Suite at TEI.
Noon: Time to head home for a lunch break. I like to grab some fuel to keep me energized for an afternoon of studying.
1 – 4 p.m.: I study and watch lectures. If there is an exam coming up, I will typically prioritize studying and taking notes for it, otherwise, I like to catch up on lecture notes. Traditionally, we would have had lectures on campus, but being that we are in COVID times, most lectures are now online and pre-recorded. For me, I always found that my time was better spent watching lectures at my own pace and taking notes accordingly since I am more of a visual and reading/writing learner. Occasionally, there will be a synchronous Blackboard Collaborate recitation during the afternoon in preparation for any upcoming exams for a particular class. These recitations are always helpful in reviewing and condensing the exam material in a more understandable format.
4:30 p.m.: It’s time to work out and get that blood pumping. If it’s a nice day and a lighter week, I will head to the Wissahickon Valley Park to explore the waterfalls and hike along the nature trails. This is always a good way to take a step back from studying and refresh your mind. However, on most days, I head to the apartment gym. For me, it is critical to get some form of exercise each day to get my body moving after sitting at my desk studying for a decent portion of the day.
5:30 p.m.: Time for dinner. Since I enjoy cooking as one of my many pastimes, I make a meal on Sunday to last me throughout the week, until around Friday when I am eager to order a takeout meal.
6:15 – 8 p.m.: I head back to finish up any work I did not get around to earlier in the day or I go through any study guides again if there is an exam coming up.
8 – 11 p.m.: I get out the giant boards textbook and get to work on watching KMK videos, taking notes, and reading through the text. Although I will not be taking Part 1 of boards until March 2022, I always like to prepare far in advance to ensure I will not be cramming for the exam come February. Studying for boards can certainly feel overwhelming, but if you set your mind to it and set a schedule for each day it can be a lot more bearable. If time permits, my roommate and I will watch some shows or movies to relax for the evening. Unfortunately, this is where I do a decent amount of my snacking. I am grateful to have a roommate that is both a great friend and classmate, which has helped to make all the grad school worries less daunting.
11 p.m.: Time to get ready for bed and unwind from a long day. I like to keep a book by my bedside to help get my mind off school for the evening. If there were an exam coming up, I would probably still be studying during this time, but instead, I’m probably in bed on my phone. Time to get some shut-eye!
As you can tell, optometry school takes a lot of physical and mental resilience which is why it is important to be confident in yourself and turn to others when you need help. With perseverance and commitment toward hard work, you will find yourself one step closer to your dream of becoming a full-fledged optometrist.