Choosing a career path can be one of the most intimidating tasks a student faces. With more job options than ever before, it’s easy to get lost trying to make a decision. Jenifer Bui, a fourth-year student at New England College of Optometry, shares why she believes optometry is a rewarding field and imparts some advice to prospective students.
Jenifer began her journey knowing she wanted to go into medicine but was unsure what specialty piqued her interest the most. She landed upon optometry when asking herself what type of medical appointments she enjoyed the most– “I knew the answer was my annual eye exams.” She explored the idea further by shadowing her optometrist for a summer, working at a retail optical as a sales associate, and taking the required undergraduate courses to satisfy prerequisites for optometry school. From these experiences, her interest in optometry continued to grow.
Taking time during her undergraduate studies to check out potential career options was pivotal in helping Jenifer realize optometry was the ideal choice. She says, “you may be set on a certain career because the idea of it is appealing just to find out that once you make it to the job, it may not be what you imagined. I would definitely tell all students that getting exposure during undergraduate, and before you need to make any huge decisions, is very important.” She also encourages students to “utilize as many resources as possible to get a sense of what you like and what you dislike.”
Upon entering optometry school, Jenifer discovered that optometry embodies so much more than glasses, contacts, and refractions. She was pleasantly surprised to learn about optometrists' role in managing ocular disease and triaging ocular emergencies. Jenifer draws satisfaction from knowing that “with a doctorate in optometry, I will be able to treat glaucoma, manage acute ocular problems, and co-manage conditions such as macular degeneration. As an optometrist, I can do low vision exams, run vision therapy sessions, and even fit hard lenses for keratoconus patients.”
Now that she has a few years of optometry school under her belt, Jenifer feels reassured about her decision and finds gratification in her new career. She says, “I love being able to finish an exam and hearing things like ‘that was the most thorough exam I’ve ever received,’ or ‘don’t go anywhere.’ It is those moments that allow me to realize I chose the right career. It is one where I know I can make a difference and I can provide the care that I think everyone deserves. It is rewarding to know that your hard work and genuine care for your patients’ eye health is greatly appreciated.”
Jenifer’s advice on making it through four years of optometry school? “Take things one day at a time. Some days may be more overwhelming than others but take each day as a new one. One bad day doesn’t determine the outcome of the next day.” She also advises students to prepare themselves for a curriculum that is much more challenging than undergraduate courses. “The information taught to you is information you need to know for the remainder of your career. The information is more high-yield, so making sure you start off strong is important.”
Above all, she encourages optometry students to push on when feeling overwhelmed or disheartened. “Things will begin to make sense eventually, and you’ll feel more confident each day.”