From your first semester of optometry school you begin hearing about different optometric conferences and conventions available to attend as a student. Peers that have attended before will all use the same adjectives to describe them: beneficial, fun, valuable, informative, memorable. However, the only way to truly understand the excitement behind the stories is to attend one for yourself. I know what you’re thinking, “But there’s so many! Which one do I attend?” To help you decide, here is my insight and experience attending and pursuing my student fellowship at the American Academy of Optometry this year.
The Academy is a four day event held annually each fall, filled with over 250 hours of available continuing education and unlimited opportunities to connect and network with those in the optometric field. Deciding to pursue a student fellowship is a hot debate among students who attend and after completing it myself, I would highly recommend it. The requirements needed to fulfill your fellowship are listed on the Academy website and are each attainable. The education grid lists all lectures and almost all of them are open to students, giving you endless options. If you’re anything like me, then you may feel overwhelmed at first glance of the education grid. Take a deep breath and don’t let this alarm you—instead start selecting the topics that appeal most to you and begin your scheduling there. The great part about fulfilling your requirements for Student Fellowship is you can complete the majority of them at your own pace. Whether you spread them out throughout the week or complete them within the first two days, the choice is yours to make.
Scheduling and selecting lectures with classmates and friends makes the experience enjoyable, but don’t let your selection of lectures be limited by what lecture everyone else is attending—if that White Dot Syndrome lecture sounds appealing to you, branch out and GO. And besides, it is welcome change to hear a particular disease discussed by someone other than your usual professor back in your school classroom. The different perspective will only aid your knowledge.
The Academy app available for free download is incredibly beneficial in helping you keep on schedule, know where each lecture and seminar is located, and readily provides you with information on the conference. This proves to be a handy tool throughout the week since we are a generation which always has our phones. Any available free food or change in event will automatically update via app, eliminating any possibility of confusion.
CE’s begin every morning and run throughout the day, but as the evenings approach there are more social and networking events for students, including the Optometry Student Network Party and Optometric Insights Party on Thursday night. These provide great opportunity to mingle with students from other optometry schools. Making these connections proves to be enjoyable, valuable and interesting — besides, you may have just met your future business partner.
In pursuing your student fellowship, you are required to attend symposiums in a large lecture hall at specific times. During these you will hear some of the best professionals the field has to offer discuss topics of current popular interest. The research and conversation that is provided during these is given by healthcare professionals from all over the country and world. It really puts into perspective just how large the optometric community is and the amazing opportunity and strides continuously being made.
You will leave Academy with perspective and better insight on the field you will soon be a part of, new friendships, unforgettable memories, and an insatiable hunger for more—more knowledge, more networking, more growth.