Virginia Eye Consultants
Upon entering college, I already had the goal of becoming an optometrist someday. I picked optometry because of my experiences with my own poor vision, which began in third grade when I was sent to the eye doctor because I couldn’t read the chalkboard from far away. When I was deciding what kind of career path I wanted to follow in college, I thought back to all the times my eye doctor explained the science behind my eyesight and how fascinating it was to me. Upon arriving at UVA, I didn’t think there would be many others who had this career goal, but I was pleased and surprised to find a Pre-Optometry Club table at the Fall Club Fair during my first semester. I quickly became involved with the Pre-Optometry Club in order learn from other students who were older than me and to find ways to get involved in order to enhance my application. The Pre-Optometry Club regularly hosts recruiters from different optometry schools who make presentations about what they are looking for in an applicant. From these presentations I’ve learned that a big part of what medical and health schools look for is experience and knowledge of the field, and today in this blog post I am going to talk about a summer work experience that contributed to both of these areas.
After my second year, I knew that summer I had to work to make money, but I didn’t think I could find a job that was health-related and one that I actually enjoyed. It was through a friend that I first heard about Virginia Eye Consultants—she had worked there the previous summer. I reached out to human resources inquiring about available positions, and after sending my resume and doing a phone interview, I was hired in the position of Client Support Specialist for the summer. When applying for a position like this, the process could vary depending on the company, but a good start is to contact someone human resources and see what they are looking for. If a friend puts in a good word for you, the process usually goes very smoothly. A lot of times it’s less stressful and intense than you think!
Virginia Eye Consultants is a large ophthalmology practice that sees and treats patients for all kinds of eye related issues, including surgery for glaucoma, cataracts, eye trauma, and LASIK vision correction. My position was on the clinical side where patients were seen before and after surgery and for check-ups. It was a large clinic and I guided the patients through each step of the process, set-up the rooms for the doctors, and even got to assist the doctors sometimes during their examinations. I learned so much about the health field that I didn’t know before because I was right there in the middle of all of the patient-doctor interactions. On a daily-basis, my roles really varied depending on who needed help that day. Sometimes my whole day would be accompanying patients to the different stages of their appointment, and other times it would be rotating between the different rooms and getting whatever the doctors needed during their examinations, like making phone calls to other clinics or running upstairs to the surgery clinic to check schedule availability if a patient needed an emergency surgery. Towards the end of my summer there, I even got to be trained on how to take different images of the eyes and was able to take pictures for doctors all on my own. The diversity of my role was a huge reason why I enjoyed this job so much—every day had different tasks and different patients and physicians to interact with.
I also learned how it takes the cooperation of many employees in different roles working together to give a patient the best experience. Not only was it a great learning experience, but also an invaluable networking opportunity. Through working there, I met over ten ophthalmologists and optometrists that I know I could contact if I ever wanted to shadow them. This was such a great experience and it just goes to show that there are so many opportunities out there, you just have to find them! UVA students with the same career interests are great resources for finding out about jobs, shadowing, or other ways to get involved in the field, so I definitely recommend finding a club that has students you can talk to about their experiences and get ideas for your own path. The Career Center also puts on a lot of programs with representatives from different companies that are really relaxed and fun, so I would check those out too to find out about different employment opportunities. The summer is a great time to use internships, jobs, or shadowing to enhance your application because schools will see how dedicated you are outside of the classroom.
Kalie Leone is a 4th year pre-optometry student in the College majoring in Biology. She is the President for the Pre-Optometry Club and has been a member of the Pre-Health Student Leadership Advisory Board for the last two years.