Thursday, April 28, 2011

Amigos Trip Update: The Philippines (Guest Post: Meg Richardson)

AMIGOS Eye Care is a non-profit organization of students, doctors and lay people affiliated with Pacific. AMIGOS is dedicated to providing quality vision care at no cost to underserved people in the Portland area and throughout the world. Since its establishment in 1975, AMIGOS has grown to become one of the largest eye care providing organizations in the world, bringing services to thousands of people at home and abroad.

Because so many prospective students are interested in AMIGOS, I have decided to ask 4 current students, who went on recent AMIGOS trips over Spring Break, to share their stories.  I hope you enjoy the series, the second of which is being written by current student, and AMIGOS member, Meg Richardson!

Hellloooo future (and current) optometry students!! My name is Meg and I am a fourth year student here at PUCO. That’s right, just a few short weeks left for me. No, I don’t have a job lined up yet, but will be moving back to my home state of Wisconsin in June to find one. Before I launch into my Amigos trip, let me just say that PUCO is a great school and I have truly enjoyed my years here in the great Pacific Northwest. (And no, Janelle did not pay me to say that J ).
There were a LOT of stray doggies in the Philippines

One of the best parts about PUCO (and optometry school in general) is being able to help people with their visual problems. I have participated in three Amigos trips during my time here, and for me, it has been the best way to relate classroom learning to real-world experiences. It may seem difficult once you enter school to find time to do a trip, but I would encourage every single student to participate in one if possible. The experience is worth so much more than a letter grade, and will without a doubt put you ahead of classmates in terms of clinical skills.
The town set up a tent where people could wait to be seen in our clinic

So, you want to hear about the Philippines trip? Well…first of all, in case you are clueless like I was, the Philippines is (are?) VERY far away from the United States. Like, an 11-hour flight followed by a 5-hour flight. Oh, wait, you wanted to help people living in a rural area of the Philippines? Add another 1-hour flight plus 5-hour drive on unpaved mountain roads. Yeah. It’s far.
All of us taking a break during the 5-hour drive up the mountain. The vehicle we rode in is called a “Jeepney"

Needless to say, when our crew finally made it to the clinic site in Balbalan, we were delighted to find that our beds, food, and clinic were all going to be located in one building. No more traveling around, thank goodness. Once we were set up we began to see patients immediately, and worked for the next 3.5 days straight. There were 10 students, 2 optometrists, and a few Philipino surgeons on our team. It was really nice to have the surgeons there because we were actually able to get cataract surgeries for some of the patients. Cataracts are rampant in these rural areas because people do not have access to surgeons, and it can be frustrating when we are unable to help them. 
Rowena performing autorefraction on a patient. This gives us an idea of the patient’s prescription.

We ended up seeing about 1,200 patients during our time in Balbalan. Some of the cool things we saw included: Cataracts, congenital macular dystrophies, corneal keratinization, colobomas, nystagmus…the list goes on. I realize all of you reading may not know what these are, but let me tell you, it is some cool stuff to see, especially as a first or second year. We gave away over 1,100 pairs of glasses, which had been donated to us by various organizations, but mostly from the Lions Club. Many of the glasses are not-so-stylish, so it is kind of an amigos tradition to take a group picture with the funniest of these.
yep, that’s me on the left.

Well, I could go on, but what I would like to convey most is how much my experiences on Amigos trips have meant to me, and how important it is for us as students and doctors to continue providing care to poorer areas of the world. It is something we can truly feel great about doing with our education.

And if you have any questions about Amigos or PUCO in general, don’t hesitate to email me! I am always happy to answer questions from prospective students.

P.S. I encourage everyone to make a donation to AMIGOS today. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


This month, the College of Optometry hosted a Dodgeball tournament as a fundraiser for the Amigos club.   The tournament was a huge success, and a lot of fun!  A total of 21 teams played, composed of students, community members, families and faculty (yes, even the faculty here at Pacific do don the occasional costume).  Prizes were awarded for the Most Spirit, Best Costumes and the winning team. 

The costumes made me laugh.
Although we strive for a non-competitive environment in the classroom, things can get rather intense on the dodgeball court. 
In the end, a great time was had by all- and most importantly, funds were raised to help support Amigos work around the world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Acres of Tulips

Did you have a nice Easter weekend?  We did.  We spent Saturday at the local Wooden Shoe tulip festival.  It was so amazingly wholesome.  Who knew 40 acres of tulips could be so much fun?
The tulip festival is a good example of why I love living in Oregon.  We only drove about 40 minutes to get to it, and it was like being in another world.  The weather was perfect (mid-70's), and it was a completely inexpensive fun day.  It cost $10 per car for admission, and that was it.  You could wander, take pictures, and there were even rides for the kids.  While there, I ate a hamburger and fries and an elephant ear (oh my goodness, is there anything more delicious than fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar after a few hours walking among the tulips?  I think not).  

On an aside, the festival was held in Woodburn, which is home to the Woodburn Company Stores, a huge mall of amazing outlet stores (including, among many others, Columbia, Nike, BCBGMAXAZRIA, J. Crew, Kenneth Cole and many, many more).  If you are visiting the area and staying through the weekend, I highly recommend a trip down there- remember, there is no sales tax in the entire state of Oregon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Meet Opto-Girl!


Have you been following the blog of opto-girl, Adventures in Optometry School?  If not, you should start.  A current first-year, she provides you a glimpse inside student life here at Pacific. Some of my favorite posts are about the annual Pacific University College of Optometry Ski Trip, and the importance of maintaining balance as a student.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Inside the Yellow File: Reviewing OAT Scores

Here at Pacific, all applications get put into a yellow file folder.  It is one of the ways we identify that the application we are working with is, in fact, for the College of Optometry (and not, for example, the School of Pharmacy or Physical Therapy, who have different colored folders).  So with the series of posts called "Inside the Yellow File", we will be explaining some common areas of confusion caused by the application.

I received three emails yesterday with the same question, so I thought others might be wondering as well.  The question is: "if I have taken the OAT multiple times, do you take the most recent set of scores, or do you take the highest score in each section?"

The truth is, we look at all the scores for each time you took the OAT.  Generally, we tend to give you the benefit of the doubt with the higher score; if, for example, you got a 320 in O Chem the first time you took the OAT, and a 300 the second time, we generally assume you have the knowledge and ability reflected in the 320 score.

As a rule, we do prefer to see scores go up the second (or third) time you've taken the exam.  For example, if you received 280 Total Science the first time, we would like to see at least 300 Total Science the second time. 

And lastly- taking the OAT twice is not a big deal. We understand that sometimes applicants struggle with test anxiety or just had a bad day.  Taking it three times is a little concerning for us.  Four or more times, you are really going to want to prepare to discuss your test-taking abilities with the admissions committee.

And as always, if you aren't sure whether you should retake or not, call me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Restaurant Round-Up: Screen Door

There is much to learn about the food culture in Portland, but the first is this: Portland is a breakfast city.  There are amazing breakfast options all over town.  Not the least of which is Screen Door.  Perhaps one of Zach and my favorite places to go, we went there for breakfast (well, brunch by the time we got in) on Saturday.  And once again, we were not disappointed.

Things to know before you decide to try Screen Door:
  1. You are going to wait an hour.  It is the way of the Screen Door world.  And if you end up waiting less than an hour, consider yourself lucky.
  2. Look for a little white "Coffee" sign next door when you arrive.  That is where you go to get a latte and a muffin and a seat while you wait the hour for your name to be called at Screen Door.
  3. You will get enough food for you and a friend.  But you won't want to share.  So prepare yourself for leftovers.
  4. You may see a celebrity.  I can prove it by the fact that Zach and I once saw Gretchen, winner of Project Runway (and Portland native) eating breakfast there.  And she had to wait in line just like everybody else.
Ok, so now that you know the basics, you must be wondering what could possibly be delicious enough to warrant an hour long wait for breakfast.  In this instance, I think a picture is worth a thousand words...
(bananas-foster french toast with rum-flamed caramalized bananas, whipped cream and cinnamon)

(fried oyster benedict: crisp cornmeal fried oysters w/ poached eggs and bacon over english muffins w/ hollandaise & potatoes.  Also, lurking in the back is a serving of praline bacon.)
(Zach's favorite- fried chicken with a sweet potato waffle)
(cathead biscuit sandwich:  fried chicken, smothered in gravy, on a cathead biscuit)

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Floor Hockey

Friends, Adam Reid makes me laugh. He will make you laugh too.  Read on to learn more about his experiences with Pacific's super-intense, super-competitive (ok, super-fun!) floor hockey team. 
Hello prospective students/future optometrists!

I know what you are thinking. You want nothing more than to attend optometry school. You have your application ready, your mom has read over and approved it, and you think you have a pretty good shot at getting accepted. But you know that there is just one thing missing from every school out there. You have spent your whole life training to be a floor hockey superstar, but none of the schools seem to have a floor hockey program that is on par with your abilities. Look no further! Here at Pacific, Thursday nights in the Stoller Center will be the highlight of your week (aside from your classes and labs of course). In my extensive research on the subject, (googling “optometry floor hockey”), we are the only optometry school in the history of the world to have a world class floor hockey team.
For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have been exposed to floor hockey at a young age, it is similar to ice hockey, except instead of ice, skates and helmets, we have gym floors, running shoes and perfect hair. Every Thursday, a group of students get together, grab hockey sticks, make some teams and chase an orange ball around for an hour. We get a wide variety of skill levels, everything from a guy who has a brother in the NHL (seriously), to...well...yours truly. Everyone is welcome to attend (we are usually about half guys and half girls) and high fives are given out with impressive regularity.
The only people who aren’t permitted to attend are people who steal the ball from me. It is my ball, and I’m not afraid to take it home. So as long as you remember this simple rule, floor hockey will surely be a great addition to your optometry career.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tate is One!

Tate turned one last Wednesday (isn't he cute?)! We hosted his first birthday party on Saturday.  It was a pirate theme.  On Thursday night, I spent about 2 hours driving around the entire city looking for pirate eyepatches, to no avail.  Wouldn't you have thought your local Target would have pirate eyepatches?  Me too.

There are many, many reasons why I love working for an optometry program. But on Friday, the top reason was that I  was able to walk into the clinic and beg my way into getting 10 eyepatches (normally used for patients) for all the party attendees.
Party saved!  After all, what kind of pirate party doesn't have eye patches?

P.S.  These eyepatches were so ridiculously nice.  They were super durable and sturdy.  A couple parents even commented on the quality.  Not just your everyday party supply store eyepatches, I tell you.  These ones were professional. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giving Some Love to Costa Rica (Guest Post: Kevy Simmons)

AMIGOS Eye Care is a non-profit organization of students, doctors and lay people affiliated with Pacific. AMIGOS is dedicated to providing quality vision care at no cost to underserved people in the Portland area and throughout the world. Since its establishment in 1975, AMIGOS has grown to become one of the largest eye care providing organizations in the world, bringing services to thousands of people at home and abroad.

Because so many prospective students are interested in AMIGOS, I have decided to ask 4 current students, who went on recent AMIGOS trips over Spring Break, to share their stories.  I hope you enjoy the series, the first of which is being written by current student, and AMIGOS member, Kevy Simmons!

In my opinion, spring break exists for spring skiing. Flowing on slush through the ’park in an oversized hoodie with good friends on a low-40’s, bluebird day is my Garden of Eden. As obvious as the decision may be for you fair weather fans, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to commit to spending my entire break in a country where snow is as foreign as my red hair. Having served on similar AMIGOS trips to Central America in years past, however, I felt pretty good about trading in the skis for a week in Costa Rica.

AMIGOS trips are typically divided into relaxing getaways and busy, long winded clinics. If the pure educational thrill of seeing a new ocular condition first-hand doesn’t get you delightfully geeked out on optometry, the vacation days alone are worth missing a week of whatever you thought you’d rather be doing. And of course, I can’t forget the essential ingredient, an inevitable result of returning clarity to the functionally blurred, a product of rendering service freely given, that mushy euphoria hidden deep in the soul which you would never admit to feeling until you’re caught writing in verse and smiling to yourself without a reasonable excuse. I’ll spare you the poetry for now, but I hope that by the end of this post, all three of you who read to the end will be able to share in my enthusiasm for providing eyecare to the underserved residents of San Jose.

The four days of clinic were fast-paced and high-volume. There’s no better opportunity to refine clinical skills and gain exposure to abnormal findings. As a clinic team, we saw 960 patients and identified the following:
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • congenital nystagmus
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome
  • basal cell carcinoma
  • Duane’s syndrome, type I
  • amblyopia
  • glaucoma
  • toxoplasmosis
  • latent nystagmus
  • 3rd nerve palsy
  • prosthetic eye
  • choroidal atrophy
  • optic nerve pallor
  • macular degeneration
  • familial drusen
  • traumatic cataract
  • afferent pupillary defect
  • asteroid hyalosis
  • iris coloboma
  • downbeat nystagmus
  • ataxia telangiectasia
  • optic nerve drusen
  • degenerative myopia
  • bilateral 6th nerve palsy
  • angle-closure glaucoma
Jon Hughes feels the difference between normal and extremely high eye pressure.

In addition to seeing patients with ocular disease, we screened kids from the surrounding schools. With their easily distractable, energetic nature, they challenged us to increase our efficiency and take as much information as possible from a single glimpse of an optic nerve or retinal reflex. Even our brave first-years, having little experience with retinoscopy or opthalmoscopy, stuck it out through stifling heat and strained muscles to get the job done:
Our non-clinic adventures included a guided tour by horseback and zipline, a nature walk through the national park, sight-seeing in downtown San Jose, a free jazz concert, and a night out on the city’s club scene. And a vacation to Central America is not complete without a swim in the tropical, blue-green, 80-degree waters.
Emily on the superman zipline.
 Manuel Antonio Beach
Clinic was not the only place for new sights, as illustrated by this river of crocodiles. I had never seen a sloth either, but since this one never moved, I’m not entirely sure it was real…
Costa Rica gave me an abundance of writing material, some of which is more difficult to photo-document, but certainly much more than I could post on a blog without exhausting you or myself. I could tell you in a hundred different ways how rewarding and life-changing it has been for me to help deliver eyecare to the masses in Honduras, Guatemala, and now Costa Rica, but it’s just one of those things you really have to experience for yourself to truly understand what a privilege it is.

P.S. If you want to see more of Kevy's adventures in Costa Rica, check out his video here.  I also encourage everyone to make a donation to AMIGOS today.  Questions or feedback for Kevy?  Leave them in the Comments section!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Blogger: Fran Smith, 3rd Year

Fran Smith is a current third year student.  In her time at Pacific, she has been one of five student members of the Admissions Committee.  Student members of the Admissions Committee read applications, conduct interviews, and vote.  They are highly influential.  In 2010, Fran was also selected as the Graduate Assistant in the Office of Admissions, working more closely with prospective students, arranging interview days, and much, much more.  Fran has two dogs who are adorable.  Her husband is pretty great too.

In this article, Fran mentions OptoRock.  OptoRock is the College of Optometry's annual talent show.  Both serious and non-serious acts are welcomed.  And it is a ton of fun.

When someone said that time flies faster with each successive year in graduate school – they certainly were right.  With only a month left before I start my fourth year rotation at the Salt Lake City VA, I can’t help but reflect over the past three years.  As a person that loves to keep busy, I’ve managed to do just that with my involvement in the Admissions Committee for the past two years, and more recently, as Janelle’s Graduate Assistant. 

Working with the other members of the Committee has given me so much to be thankful for. After all, how many other optometry schools can boast that their students have equal voices and voting power on which applicants get admitted?  I’ve been given the privilege of helping to decide which applicants make up the incoming class, and while doing so I’ve had the chance to get to know our wonderful faculty members, fellow students, and student services directors (not to mention the amazing applicants).  Being on the inside track to the admissions process has allowed me to develop a full appreciation for the hard work and dedication that each individual puts in.  In addition, the Committee continually strives to improve the admissions process, so ideas are brought forward at each meetings as to what we can do better or how we can change so that we continue to recruit the best future optometrists for Pacific.

After being “wowed” at the performances at OptoRock this year, I couldn’t help but reflect on the exceptional talent that was displayed by Pacific’s optometry students.  I think that the artistic and creative talent that our students showed us on Friday night is a direct reflection of the type of well-rounded, interesting, and fun students that make it through our stringent admissions criteria.  Our students have consistently rocked the national boards each year; in addition they’ve proven that they can be stars on the stage as well!

I would certainly encourage anyone interested in working with admissions to apply both for the Committee and the Graduate Assistant position.  In particular, it’s been so much fun getting to know Janelle on a personal level; she’s a multi-talented people person who can communicate as well in writing as she does in person.  She’s definitely the most laid back boss I’ve ever had – and yet she is the driving force behind Pacific’s optometry recruitment.  If anyone needs tips on how to balance work, family, and simultaneous multiple projects, just ask her!

Ahh, thanks Fran (and for all you readers out there, I swear I didn't tell her to say all those nice things). Just a reminder to prospective students- we always have a current student like Fran working in the Graduate Admissions Office, specifically to help you answer questions that require a student perspective.  Feel free to contact the Grad Assistant any time.  I also recommend contacting some of our student ambassadors.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On the Subject of Fairs

I spent most of the day today meeting with prospective students at Washington State University Vancouver's Graduate Health Fair.  I love fairs (of all kinds! especially those with cotton candy), but as I interacted with student after student, it struck me how some students left a lasting, and very positive, impression.  And how others- well, they didn't stand out.  So during lunch, I started brainstorming my advice for how prospective students can put their best possible foot forward at a grad school fair, where you will be meeting admissions representatives from schools you want to attend.
  1. Wear appropriate attire.  It was amazing to me that a student actually came by wearing pajama bottoms.  Not impressive.
  2. Don't bring your parents.  I spoke to 7 parents today.  Many of whom attended with their son or daughter.  If you absolutely have to bring your parent (maybe its Parent's Weekend, or Mom and Dad insist), you should do all the talking.  Don't let them eclipse you.
  3. Introduce yourself.  This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how many students forget to say their name when they arrive at a table.  If you don't introduce yourself, even if I like you, you will not make a lasting impression.
  4. Fill out an information card.  Even if you know you are receiving the mailings from the school, take the time to fill out the information card.  It not only enforces your name, but some schools keep track of if you attended a fair- a great way to make a positive impression.
  5. Give context.  A lot of students will come up and say something like "I want to apply to your optometry program" or "I am thinking about optometry".  As an admissions counselor, it is hard to respond to this.  By giving the representative some context ("Hi, my name is Ashley.  I am a sophomore and I am thinking about optometry, specifically Pacific.  Anything I should be thinking about now?"), I am able to provide you much more specific (and helpful) information.
  6. Keep in mind that the people you are meeting have a lot of influence.  Sometimes I see students treating the representatives at tables like information-givers only, forgetting that the people they are meeting are often very influential on who gets admitted.  In fact, some of them are the actual decision-makers.
  7. Don't (just) grab the swag.  Many representatives will have pens, pads of paper, keychains, candy, and other types of swag on display.  For you.  And we do want you to take it.  But nothing is more annoying than someone literally just walking up and down the rows grabbing handfuls of swag.  If you want to grab the swag, wait until the end of the fair (when we are dying for people to take it so we don't have to lug it home).  Otherwise, at least take a minute or two to talk to the representative at the table.
  8. Follow up.  If you interacted with a program you are interested in, email the representative within 48 hours of the fair with a good follow-up question.  Mention that you met and enjoyed the conversation.  This helps cement you in our mind and differentiates you from others we met at the fair that day.
Hope that helps.  May your next Grad School Fair be fruitful!

Friday, April 1, 2011


FGC_07 by Pacific University
FGC_07, a photo by Pacific University on Flickr.
The trees on campus are blooming! Spring must have arrived. Happy Friday!

Sports Vision

One of the areas of study that Pacific is particularly involved in is sports vision.  Sports vision is a specific discipline of optometric practice focused on the evaluation, remediation, and enhancement of the visual performance of athletes. Sports vision optometrists provide special vision services and materials to help patients maximize their visual abilities, enabling them to perform and enjoy their sport to the fullest.

Through sports vision training, many visual abilities can be improved. Increased depth perception, peripheral awareness, eye-hand coordination, ability to track a moving object, and being able to concentrate and perform consistently, even when under pressure, are a few examples. Protective and specialty eyewear is also an important consideration in the sports vision examination. Not only can it be crucial for safety but often can be a key to maximum performance.

We have a number of faculty who are incredibly involved in the world of sports vision, including Dr. Graham Erickson.  Dr. Erickson has authored the text Sports Vision: Vision Care for the Enhancement of Sports Performance, currently the only resource both for the student learning about the field, and the practitioner seeking a deeper understanding and application of Sports Vision.   In addition to learning about sports vision through our faculty, our Sports Vision Club and our Sports Vision Elective course (OPT 746 Sports and Recreational Vision), students at Pacific have also participated in research with Nike (Nike's World Headquarters are conveniently located about 15 minutes from Pacific's campus!).  The video above is one of the sports vision projects Nike is currently working on.  Check it out to learn more about this exciting optometric specialty!