BY LILY WANG – Whenever I tell someone I’m a Microbiology major, they always ask, “Are you Pre-Med, Pre-Dental, Pre-PA, etc?” After I tell them that I’m actually Pre-Optometry, they either ask, “What’s optometry?” or “What’s the difference between optometry and ophthalmology?” Optometrists (O.D.) are primary health care professionals that diagnose and treat diseases and disorders relating to the eye, visual system and associated structures. In contrast, ophthalmologists (M.D.) are medical doctors that are trained to perform surgery. Even though optometry is a growing profession, there are still many people who do not know about or have not considered a career in optometry. This article focuses on a pre-optometry student and her path towards optometry school.
Daisy Kipkemboi is a 4th year Biology student at the University of Georgia as well as the current president of the UGA Pre-Optometry Club. She has been accepted to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry for Fall 2017. However, she wasn’t always pre-optometry. Daisy came to college intending on pursuing a career in pharmacy but found that pharmacy was not the route for her and started exploring other fields. It wasn’t until she started working at the vision clinic at the UGA Health Center that she realized: “there are eye doctors.” Through her job, she learned more about the profession, but what attracted her to optometry was the constant positive attitude she noticed from the optometrists at the clinic and how for every patient, they are almost always able to do something to help him/her see better.
Besides working at the vision clinic, Daisy learned more about optometry through her personal research, shadowing and joining the university’s Pre-Optometry Club. She shadowed at private practices, commercial settings and optometrist-ophthalmologist group practices adding up to 45 hours of shadowing. Not only that, on top of being president of the Pre-Optometry club, she is also an exec member for Habitat for Humanity and volunteers for Learning Ally.
After taking her Optometry Admissions Test, it was time to apply to optometry schools. There are only 23 optometry schools in the United States and Puerto Rico. Of those, Daisy heavily considered UAB and the Southern College of Optometry. When asked why those two, she explained how cost was a large factor and that those two schools have contract seats for Georgia students. Contract seats allow students from states without optometry schools the opportunity of attending those schools with in-state tuition; the process of obtaining those seats is very competitive. Daisy explained how she especially liked UAB due to the smaller class size and the healthcare community surrounding UAB since the medical and dental schools in the UAB system are there as well.
The healthcare world is constantly growing, and students like Daisy and I will soon be joined by more and more individuals pursuing a career in optometry. When asked what is her best advice for students considering the pre-optometry track, she replied, “Interview a couple of optometrists, which you can basically accomplish throughout your shadowing experiences which will give you a better idea of the field and whether you could see yourself doing this. Even try to see if you can get more involved in an optometrist office setting, so you can get a feel of the business and operational aspects. I think that this is important in solidifying what you want your role to be as a future optometrist.” For those of you who want to dedicate yourselves to helping others but feel misplaced in other fields, optometry should be a profession you consider.