Go to conferences. This was the advice I’d gotten since my first year of Optometry school. Not necessarily from all of my teachers, but from speakers and other students. During my three years of school, I’d attended a variety of conferences and conventions- including IAUPR’s own convention, the Island of Enchantment, which allows students to network with community sponsors, corporations, and alumni. Getting to the National Optometric Association, however, proved a bit more difficult but, wow, was it worth the effort.
Having joined my school’s NOSA chapter for its commitment to diversity in optometry as well as community service, I had hoped to attend the NOA at some point during my time at school. I had even made plans last year, in July of 2018. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend but my friend and NOSA Vice President, Nicki Desai, did go and came back with a wealth of knowledge, tips and inspiration. Together, Nicki and I sat down after the conference to brainstorm ideas and it was then that I committed myself to attending NOA 2019.
Fast-forward to July of 2019 and I had not only made plans to attend the NOA with fellow student and future IAUPR-NOSA Co-President Missy Batth but had also applied for various scholarships. After a short plane ride, Missy and I were in Atlanta and excited to meet all of the other NOSA, and NOA, members.
The feeling of community, and family, was immediately evident. Even as early as eight am on my first day I noticed women, in some seriously stylish heels, rush over to greet friends whom they hadn’t seen since last year- even students from different schools seemed to know each other and want to catch up. The event even allowed me the opportunity to meet with IAUPR alumni and NOSA founder Janice James- whose speech at the school this past spring had proven to be one of the most successful events of the year.
It was a busy meeting with an amazing schedule of workshops and activities for students, but there was time to exchange ideas and meet new people as well. After an already amazing first day, it turned out that Missy and I both received awards from National Vision for their essay competition. It felt amazing to be recognized- especially because it is a challenge for students from IAUPR to attend events. After all, we are on an island.
In addition to helpful workshops and activities, Missy and I were also able to learn a bit about how other NOSA chapters operated as well as how the NOSA committee operated on the national level. As an existing president, I was actually inspired to continue my involvement by joining the NOSA Political Action Committee.
In the end, I came back to the island with a ton of new ideas, several projects, and countless new friends. I cannot wait to get started with NOSA PAC while continuing to support the IAUPR-NOSA as we keep working towards diversity in optometry.
CooperVision is proud to sponsor the NOA and three NOSA student scholarships annually.
Irina Yakubin is a 4th year optometry student at IAUPR.