Denisonians in Health Professions: Optometry Student

Denisonians in health professions: optometry student - rachel-reed-283x300.png image #0Rachel Reed ’13

Role: 3rd year optometry student

Professional School attended: University of Houston College of Optometry, anticipated graduation in 2019       

Fun Fact: I’ll be making my first trip to India this fall to represent US students as a student liaison at the World Congress of Optometry.

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I majored in Psychology at Denison and truly enjoyed learning about the inner workings of the brain. I had long thought I would enter the medical field in some capacity, but felt stuck in my junior and senior year, torn between pursuing a career in psychology or going after a medical degree. I knew pursuing a graduate degree would mean devoting more years of my life to education, and incurring debt along the way, so I wanted to make sure the choice I made was the right one.  I began shadowing medical professionals in various fields to see what their day-to-day life is like.  At each place I shadowed, I tried to see if I could imagine myself working there, how my life would be, and the challenges and rewards each profession would bring. I finally met Dr. Flood from Granville, who I quickly realized was the doctor who I aspired to be. I loved how Dr. Flood had found a way to combine her passion for service with her professional training, and was able to give back as a doctor through international medical mission trips.  Hearing about these trips, and the lives they changed by giving the gift of sight, confirmed that this was the field I needed to be part of.

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
There are some patient encounters that turn your whole week around. Helping a teenager transition from glasses to contacts so they can continue competing in the sport they love. Helping find the right glasses prescription for a toddler so they can finally see their parents’ faces. Helping a grandmother get glasses so she can pass her driving test and remain an independent member of society. Finding signs of diabetes or high blood pressure in the eye and helping diagnose an unknowing patient with these important systemic conditions.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Patient noncompliance. When you tell a patient they need to use drops, consult another doctor, or make a lifestyle change -or else they might go blind- and they refuse to take action. It’s difficult to watch a patient’s vision decline when there are measures they could take to help preserve it.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.       
As a third year student I split my days between seeing patients in clinic and attending classes. Monday through Friday I’m at school from 8 am until 4 pm with scheduled class and clinic, and then I often stay after to finish patient charts or study. It is a rigorous graduate program, but the program ensures we will be fully prepared to see patients on our own after graduating.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
You don’t have to study the eye before going into optometry. I majored in psychology and I have classmates with backgrounds in art, business, and engineering.  There is a wide variety of backgrounds from students entering the field, which makes each class unique and diverse. As long as you complete the required prerequisite courses, you will be considered for admission, regardless of your area of study.  What is important is showing that you’ve expressed interest in the field (i.e. shadowing a local optometrist) and are passionate and will contribute to your school. Schools appreciate when students have shown dedication to a cause important to them- either community service, research, or organization involvement- as it shows a student is likely to be an active member of the optometry field as well.