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Tiffany Nguyen


Oakland, California
University of California, Berkeley

Oh, Mondays. This morning, my alarm went off at 6:45am. And 6:50am. And 7:00am. No, it’s not because I pressed snooze. After finally waking up, I thank myself for having already prepared my pre-clinic appropriate attire the night before. I make a bowl of oatmeal with a sliced banana to eat while I get ready. On my way out, I grab my readily packed lunch box and my freshly brewed extra-caffeinated tea. Because I commute from Oakland, I make sure that I am out the door and in my car by 7:25am. After 15 minutes of driving, I reach my privately-rented parking spot and then walk another 10 minutes to get to my first class of the day which starts at 8:00am.

For the spring semester, first years only have one lecture on Mondays, which is Clinical Examination for the Visual System, AKA pre-clinic. This class covers different techniques performed during the exam sequence in clinic as well as other tests that we may need to perform for special cases. Today, we have Dr. Robert Greer, Chief of Low Vision Clinic, up on stage. I always look forward to his happy, enthusiastic attitude and his impressively detailed power points. He is going over Goldmann Tonometry, a method to measure intraocular pressure, which we get to practice during our respective lab sections later today.

After lecture, I quickly drop by the student lounge in Minor Hall to put my packed lunch into the fridge. Then I make my way over to the first of three labs for the day - Ophthalmic Optics. Today, we are practicing neutralizing lenses of multiple pairs of glasses using lens clocks and lensometers in order to accurately identify the prescription. I’ve always enjoyed the hands on experience that we get in this lab. Glasses are a big part of our profession, so it’s great to be able to confidently identify what the exact prescription a patient is wearing using the various methods that we learn throughout this course.

As soon as Ophthalmic Optics lab ends, I walk over to pre-clinic lab where we get to put this morning’s lecture material into action. Our instructors begin by going further into the performance of the technique. They describe what it is that we expect to see when behind the instrument and what to look out for while performing it. This technique requires us to carefully touch the device directly to the surface of the cornea of the eye. It was pretty nerve-wrecking to know that we would be adding anesthetics to our peers’ eyes in order to measure their intraocular pressure using this little cone-shaped devices connected to the slit lamps. But it’s always fun to jump straight into clinic and try out the new material that we learned about that morning.

After pre-clinic lab, I have a one-hour break for lunch. If I finish eating early, I typically do one of two things: 1) Study or review material; 2) Work for E-Team. As an E-Teamer, I work closely with the clinic downstairs to help with various tasks. Some days, I end up delivering packages throughout the clinic, and other days I am asked to repair equipment in the exam rooms. The tasks can range from simple to complex, which always makes going in to work a bit more exciting. Today, I took a little trip to our clinic at the Tang Center, which is on the other side of campus, to make a small delivery of requested materials.

Next up, Optics lab! During the past few lectures, we had learned the mathematics behind the science of telescopes and magnifiers. Today, we go over how these devices are clinically used to aid low vision patients in their daily lives. After a brief introduction to the lab, we break up into small groups and get hands-on with various telescopes and magnifiers to compare their benefits and calculate their optics.

After all of my classes are done for the day, I spend a little time off campus at one of Berkeley’s local cafes to review over lecture material with a few classmates and prepare for our upcoming quizzes and exams. Better to start early than to get behind! Soon after, I receive an email with a copy of the notes taken by a classmate from lecture this morning. As the Class Co-Op Cop, I had assigned classmates to take notes during the lectures throughout the semester. These notes are uploaded to a privately shared campus website, called bCourses, that all of my classmates have access to. It’s a great way for everyone to have a resource in case they missed something during the lecture.

As I head back to my car and drive to Oakland, I pat myself on the back for getting through the first day of the week. The rest of the day is me-time, when I relax and enjoy what’s left in the day until Tuesday comes along!

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Milan Lockhart


Ann Arbor, Michigan
University of Michigan

The alarm on my phone starts to bellow at 6:40am but I hit the snooze button a few times and don’t take my first steps until 7. Today is Thursday which means that first year students have lectures all day. After I wash up, brush my teeth, and pack my lunch it’s time to walk out of the door at 7:40. My roommate and neighbor are also optometry students, and as we walk to Le Conte Hall for our 8am class, we discuss the problem set we worked on the night before. Optometry truly is on the brain from the crack of dawn.

We start the day off with Physical Optics taught by the one and only Dr. Dan Harvitt. I was never really a physics person in my undergraduate studies, but Dr. Harvitt's casual humor during lecture makes learning about Ramsden circles and ray height equations a lot more tolerable. An hour and a half of optics can be grueling but several of my classmates and I reward ourselves for surviving with a nice tall mug of Caffe Strada coffee after it's over.

Next up is Oculomotor Functions and Neurology; not the most exciting courses in the Berkeley Optometry curriculum but important nonetheless. After 70 minutes of PDF slides, Dr. Schor livens up the end of the lecture with some great videos identifying extraocular motor deficits that get the class excited once again.

After a quick foosball break in the student lounge, the first year students are back at it with optics discussion led by a fantastically knowledgeable vision science PhD candidate. We go over difficult questions from our problem set and do a review worksheet and, before we know it, the hour is over. We have an hour break before our next class so a quick visit to the gym is in order. After a lightning fast set of bench press, leg press, squats, and deadlifts it's time to head back to Minor Hall. My next class is about to start!

We finish off our Thursday schedule with a two-hour ocular anatomy lecture taught by fellow Michigan native, Dr. Richard Van Sluyters. This lecture always flies by because it's one of my favorites. Dr. Van Sluyters is incredibly passionate and intelligent, and it shows in the depth and breadth of topics covered in a single lecture. By the time anatomy is over it's been a full 8 hours since we arrived on campus, but the fun isn't quite over yet. After a quick snack I head over to the pre-clinic with a partner to make sure I have the new techniques we've covered this week down cold; after all, we do have a practical next week.

Once I return home from campus I make a light dinner and my roommates and I watch a bit of the NCAA basketball tournament before heading out to our class' weekly Double Vision social event at the sports bar in town. I try to be in bed by midnight, though, because another busy day is right around the corner.

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Franklin Bui


Garden Grove, California
University of California, Los Angeles

On Saturdays, I typically devote my mornings to sleeping in, however, second year of optometry school at Berkeley is a little different.

It’s spring semester, my alarm goes off at 7am, and I try to sneak in a couple more minutes of sleep. I eventually get up, wash up and get ready; grab a croissant and make a quick ten-minute drive to campus. The streets are empty on a Saturday morning, and I arrive early at 8am for contact lens lab. Yes, that’s right, we have class on a Saturday! Mondays are off to make up for the extended week., however, when I’m learning about a topic I enjoy that is taught by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Corzine, it makes for a nice change.

My class comprises of roughly 65 students, and we are broken into three lab sections. I happen to be in the 8:10-10:00am lab section, while others will come in later in the day. On this particular Saturday, Drs. Corzine, Gan, and Shui demonstrate the proper way of inserting and removing rigid gas permeable contact lenses. After their demonstration, we break up into pairs and practice on each other. We take turns inserting and removing the lenses, trying hard not to tear too much! It’s something to get used to, and I like to think we both did a great job adjusting to rigid lenses in our eyes!

After class, I head over to a Starbucks in nearby Albany, grab myself an iced coffee, and review my lectures from earlier that week. My studying is more productive when I’m outside of my apartment and away from my bed. In fact, I get a good three to four hours in before my stomach begins to growl. I call it a day, return home, and make dinner. I’m craving an Asian dish and decide to make fried rice and orange chicken, my go-to meal. While eating dinner, I watch an episode of “Parks and Recreation” with my roommate. We head over to our classmates’ apartment to hang out and play games. By midnight, I’m back home in my bed and snoring the night away!

My Saturdays are like snowflakes – they are never the same. I try to do something different every week. Other Saturdays I have gone to volunteer at a health fair, walk dogs at the local animal shelter, explore local bars and restaurants around Berkeley, or watch a movie on Netflix. Since I have Mondays off, my Saturday always feel like the start of a long weekend. It’s a great day to unwind from the week as a busy second year!

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Stephanie Jian


Lawrence, Kansas
University of Kansas

I get to campus around 8:30am to set up my exam room for the day. I’m grateful to not have lecture at 8am today, because it gives me a little extra time to sleep in and get ready for the day. On Tuesdays, I work as one of the Team Care teaching assistants. Team Care is when the second year students see patients in clinic in small groups and then as a pair. Patients are overbooked to ensure that the second year students do not have any “no shows,” so my job is to examine the overbooked patients and help the second years with their exams.

I really enjoy being the Team Care teaching assistant, not only because I get paid, but also because it provides more clinical experience and a chance to reflect on how much my classmates and I have progressed since second year. Third year can be busy with class, clinic and studying for national boards, however I appreciate how much I’ve learned since being a second year student. It helps to motivate me and put the challenges of optometry school into perspective. While we still have a ways to go in our clinical development, it is rewarding to acknowledge our progress.

I see two patients in the morning, and during my lunch hour, I go to the Eyewear Center to look at the new shipment of frames that have just arrived. I’ve been looking for a new frame to try the new power boost lens designs we have been recommending to patients.

After finishing exams and making sure the second years’ questions have been answered about electronic health records or their patients, I pack up my equipment and head to a nearby gastro pub, Free House, for some food and drinks with classmates. We discuss our most interesting cases from the day and laugh at ourselves for only being able to discuss topics related to optometry. That being said, I love discussing cases with my classmates; I always try to share clinical pearls that I’ve learned and I so appreciate my classmates who do the same.

We leave for lecture at 5pm, and we’re excited that today’s guest speaker is Dr. Jacobsen, the head of the Medical Eye Clinic and one of our favorite attending doctors. He discusses an angle-closure patient who I had the chance to see in clinic when I was doing clinical observations as a second year. It is another opportunity to appreciate my academic and clinical education and see how it’s all coming together.

After class, some classmates and I stay to volunteer for the Binocular Vision Boot Camp event being held for the second year students. The second years will become third years and start clinic in a matter of weeks, so the Chief of Binocular Vision, Dr. Hoenig, and the Binocular Vision Resident hold evening sessions to help them refine their skills and prepare them for a specialty clinic. This is a way for us to pay it forward since last year we benefited from the generosity of the students in the class ahead of ours.

I head home exhausted at the end of the night and pass out soon after I get home. It’s been a long day on campus!