What Optometry’s Meeting is Like: A Student’s Perspective
For those of you who may not know, there are a lot of conferences held specifically for optometrists. Some are more specialized than others, but if you become an eye doctor, you will be expected to attend some as part of your Continuing Education.
One of the major conferences for all optometrists is Optometry’s Meeting. This is a conference held by the American Optometric Association (AOA). It usually takes place during the summer. This year, I was very lucky because the conference was held in my hometown: Boston, Massachusetts (#freebrady).
Because I live in Boston, I was able to show some people from ICO around and give them tips such as, “Where should you go for the best cannolis in the city?” (Those of you who know me know I feel very strongly about this. I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Mike’s…) Sure, doing touristy things is fine, but I have always loved traveling when I’m with someone from the area. They really know the good spots, and in Boston, there are a lot of hidden gems. Luckily, the convention center where the conference was held isn’t too far from the fun. If you ever go to Boston, definitely explore the North End, Chinatown, and Boston Commons!
The majority of the sessions are set up for the current doctors. Sometimes, it can get confusing when it comes to determining which sessions are open for everyone and which are not. I recommend doing a little research and setting up an outline of what you want to do at the conference ahead of time. For example, I am very interested in Low Vision, Sports Vision, and Private Practice. I was able to attend some lunches or talks for each. This is also a great opportunity to attend some sessions that you might not know a lot about; you could fall upon something to implement into your mode of practice in the future.
The conference is also an amazing place for networking. There are may current optometrists who are more than happy to chat with students and get to know them. Specialists, in particular, love to help students learn more about their specialty. Almost all schools (ICO for sure!) have an alumni networking dinner or event which gives students a great chance to reach out or maintain connections they have already formed.
The Main Attraction – Quiz Bowl!!
This was my favorite part of the conference. The Varilux Optometry Student Bowl is designed specifically for students. It’s essentially a big Jeopardy game with optometry-related questions. Each optometry school in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada has one representative in the bowl. It gets pretty exciting! Students dress up in costumes based on their school’s theme and cheer as loud as they can for their representative. In addition to a final bowl winner, there is also a spirit award given away to a school that shows the most spirit and sportsmanship.
At the end of the bowl, there is a dinner provided by Essilor with live music, drinks, games, and photo booths. This is a great chance for students from different schools to mingle and get to know one another. Their is also usually an event held after the dinner where students can go out together and continue to have fun!
Photo taken by Diana Chu, one of the winners ICO of the Allergan Photo Contest for a grant to the meeting.
Overall, attending Optometry’s Meeting, especially as a first year, was a positive experience. Although the conference is generally designed for current eye doctors, there were still a lot of sessions and events for students. I was able still to take advantage of outstanding networking opportunities and chance to learn more about the career I am entering into. Each year, the meeting is in a new location. Next year it will be in Washington D.C… I hope to see you there!