This week we talked with Western University Optometry student, Fayiz Mahgoub about his experience being a student in a new program (Western gained accreditation in 2013) and on getting involved right from the start with his profession. If you are a student already, or considering applying to optometry school, here’s some tips for making the most of your time!
- Carefully consider your school of choice. With 23 schools in the US, simply going to the nearest school or the school your hometown doctor went to decades before may not be the right choice for you. Many optometry schools have differentiated themselves by offering niche program opportunities. Fayiz chose his school, Western University, because of its focus on vision therapy and neurorehabilitative services. UC Berkeley has a myopia control clinic. Ferris State has an optometric research focus. Look at the unique opportunities each school offers to make the best choice.
- Go to conferences. We know spending money is the opposite of what most optometry students like to do with the amount of debt adding up, but travel vouchers are often available to attend meetings and industry events. Showing up and making connections can give you a number of opportunities, and may even get you that dream job! Besides networking, the education events at conferences often get you exposure to concepts and new technology that might be different than what you’ve seen so far at school. You’re now interacting with doctors from all over the country, and it can open your mind to new possibilities in patient care and career path options!
- Volunteer to lead. Studying takes up a lot of your time, but don’t let it take up all of it! Leadership positions in clubs, student body organizations, and even industry outreach collaborations gives you access to a network of mentors. What’s more, our profession is desperate for new voices. 70% of the class of 2020 will be female, but industry leaders, speakers and practice owners are still overwhelmingly male. Ten years ago only 3.5% of optometry students we’re African American. We need more diversity in the opinions, practice philosophies, and strategies for success in leadership, and getting involved now is your fast track to being heard! Eyecare industry leaders know they need to reach millennial patients, and you are the expert on millennials, even if you don’t have your degree yet. Sign up for industry events and ambassador programs to start sharing your experience to share the way we market to your generation. For example, Fayiz is a member of the Transitions Change Agent ambassador program, an opportunity he learned about attending the NOA meeting last year as a student!
- Prioritize Friendship. Personally, the friends I made in optometry school are the biggest highlight of my experience. These friendships will last even after you move to different cities or states, even with marriages and kids and work taking up 99.9% of your time. Sometimes you even start a business together, despite living in different countries (yes, Darryl and I actually aren’t even on the same continent when we record a podcast most of the time!). When you arrive at school, pretty much no one knows anyone else. Within 4 years you’ll know that neither time nor distance will ever shake the foundation these friendships were built on.