“What did you study and how did you prepare to apply?”
Across the roundtable from me sat a second year college student–wide-eyed, curious and ambitious. She was considering applying to healthcare professional schools and was seeking my advice. In response to her question, I told her and everyone listening in that I majored in biological sciences and took classes to fulfill my prerequisites that included biology, chemistry, calculus and so on. In addition to the required courses, I took other classes that interested me like theatre and virology. She followed up by asking about the clubs I participated in and other commitments I had while in undergrad. I was in Mission for Vision, a club focused on eye care. Outside of school, I worked in a corporate eye care center and later in a private practice to further immerse myself within the field.
After answering the student’s questions, I was met by the nods of eight others seated with us at the large dining table where we shared lunch. We were all taking part in a program last month called Taking the Next Step, an annual event hosted by my alma mater, the University of Chicago. During the event, alums of the university like myself interact with second and third year students and talk about life after graduation–what we’re doing now and how we got there. Students at the event attend two sessions: a formal lunch where they share a table with one or two alumni, and a group panel where they can ask established professionals about their career paths.
While in undergrad, I enjoyed the formality of the luncheon and the diversity of the panelists. I remember feeling awed by the recent and older alumni that came from all over the nation to bestow their wisdom on us. Now, two years after graduating from the University of Chicago, the tables were turned.
As a current student at ICO, I was given the task of leading a lunchtime roundtable. Several of the college students at my table had their minds made up about the careers they wanted to pursue, while others just knew they wanted to be in healthcare. We shared our background with one another and why each of us chose healthcare. Some of the questions I answered included the following:
“What was your interview like?” My interview day also included a tour of the college, lunch with current students, and essay writing. Everyone interviews with someone different. My interview was very laid-back.
“What is your daily schedule?” As a second year, I’m in clinic or eyewear once a week, and have lecture from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m.
“How does optometry school compare to medical school?” Like medical school, optometry school is an intense four-year program. Unlike medical school, residency is one-year long and is not required.
“Are the first two years classroom-based and the last two years just clinic?” Mostly. During first and second year, we have a schedule filled with classes, five or six courses a quarter. We’re also in clinic once a week during second year. Third year includes a few courses with more clinic commitments and fourth year is rotations.
Though we mostly talked about school and healthcare, we also chatted about things they love and what I loved about life at UChicago. The lunch ended with a humorous keynote by Tami Sagher, an alumna and television writer for shows including How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock. Once the meal was over and the students’ questions were answered, I said my goodbyes. It was neat discussing how I got where I am, and I hope I was helpful I was helpful in some small way as those undergrads weigh their next step.