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    Growing up in optometry and carving my own path

    The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.


    Hey, friends! New kid on the block, here! I’m Shelby May, an incoming third-year student at Southern College of Optometry (SCO). For students, the overarching goal of this blog is to offer perspective, advice pieces, and a bit of tale-telling. For ODs, I’m hoping these writings trigger at least some reminiscent humor of studenthood.

    This initial blog falls squarely into the tale-telling category of “why I love optometry,” but I feel this particular tale is a great way to introduce myself.

    Related: How patient care resembles parenting

    Growing up in optometry

    There are few memories of my childhood that do not involve optometry. My dad was a student at SCO, and we ate, slept, and breathed based on Dad’s school schedule. Dad took Mom and me to SECO every year because, bluntly, family vacations as a grad student are expensive and conventions cost less.

    I would be introduced to a few hundred people with tiny handshakes and many, many pieces of candy. Dad would let me wear his name tag with the shiny, soft ribbons hanging off the bottom. I said next to nothing, my head on a swivel, taking in all that the booths offered in what my parents called “record mode.” Back at the hotel, I would talk non-stop about everything I had seen. I loved every moment, but ultimately the experiences were tailored to Dad.

    My father never pushed me into optometry, but like so many other children of optometrists, I found myself disappointed with anything else. Still, I worried about seeming like an heir to the title.

    When I started at SCO, I never felt as if SCO owed me anything. I kept quiet to avoid seeming haughty or entitled. It felt (and sometimes still feels) like I was standing in a long shadow. Throughout the first and second year, school felt like a dream played at Mach speeds.

    The words I lived by were:

    • Just learn the task, pass the test, practice, repeat.

    • Keep your head down; there will be time to decide later what you think later.

    • For now, get the grade.

    I finally looked up to find myself halfway through school, past clinical checkouts, and in an exam room with a breathing, living, actively complaining patient. That, too, passed like a blur, though (It took  two hours, but who’s counting). I was glad to be seeing real patients, but it still didn’t feel like my own success.

    Related: Overcoming our fear of change

    My turn to shine

    I held the head-down mentality even through packing my bags for the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Optometry's Meeting without much thought about the future. When I arrived, I realized I wasn’t sure how to attend the convention as myself instead of as my father’s daughter.

    I can pinpoint the exact moment my viewpoint shifted. I had just registered and received my nametag, and I was walking over to the ribbon board. I pulled a student ribbon, a school ribbon, and an American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) ribbon from a colorful wall of achievements.

    Shelby May
    Shelby is a third-year student at Southern College of Optometry. She is particularly interested in Vision Therapy and Pediatrics. Any ...


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