Pre-Optometry Clubs are an excellent way for prospective optometry students to learn more about the optometry field and develop their interests. Pre-Optometry clubs can help undergraduate students in their application processes as well as help them gain mentors who share their same passions. Often, Pre-Optometry clubs can provide opportunities for students to make lasting impacts on their campus, in their local communities, or in communities around the globe. Senior Jackie Nguyen of University of California San Diego (UCSD) and sophomore Bibi Barase of San Diego State University (SDSU) shared with ASCO how their clubs are making a difference in their communities.
Jackie Nguyen is a senior at UCSD who plans on attending optometry school next year. She is the current president of UCSD Insight Pre-Optometry Club, a club that she describes as “a mix between informational, professional, and social for individuals interested in optometry.” Jackie’s club hosts general body meetings with themes, such as “Road to Optometry,” which focused on the steps to applying for optometry school. The club visits optometry schools in the area and they even have an alumni database for current members to reach out to alumni. Jackie describes the club as a “tool for anyone interested in optometry.” The club connects its members to local optometrists, which is how Jackie got her current job. Jackie also enjoys the “Families program,” which puts each student in a “family” with older and younger club members to establish close-knit friendships and mentorship.
When club members are not advancing themselves professionally or attending club social events, such as bowling or hiking, they are volunteering their time in the community. They volunteer at local vision screenings, and they partner with local service clubs like Lion’s Club or Rotaract. UCSD Insight Pre-Optometry Club has a Volunteer Coordinator who helps plan volunteer events. They also volunteer at Vision Walk as well as at a blind community center called Braille Institute San Diego. They have also fundraised money for Braille Institute San Diego by hosting profit-shares with California Pizza Kitchen. The club visits Tecate, Mexico a few times a year to help a clinic with vision screenings and triaging.
Jackie says her favorite thing about her club is its members. “We all came in as strangers but I have gotten so close to so many members and call some of them my best friends. I love how tight-knit we are as a club.” Jackie is happy she joined the club because the club is great at helping students make connections, and she found the club extremely helpful in guiding her in what she needed to do to get to optometry school. Jackie believes that older members have served as strong mentors and she has found her club’s ability to connect students with college admission representatives to be very helpful.
Bibi Barase is a sophomore majoring in biology and minoring in psychology at SDSU. She will be graduating early next spring and will be taking a gap year after she graduates to study for the OAT and gain experience in optometry. Bibi is the secretary of Focus, SDSU’s Pre-Optometry club, and she will be the co-president next year. Bibi’s club has bi-weekly meetings that guide students in the right direction towards optometry school by going over OAT questions, hosting optometrists as speakers, and discussing next steps and plans for students. Bibi’s club also visits Western University College of Optometry to attend their open house and explore the campus.
While Focus works hard to prepare students to be ready for optometry school, this club also aims to give back to its community. Once a year, at least one student goes to Tecate, Mexico, approximately 40 minutes from their campus. Just like UCSD Insight Pre-Optometry Club, Focus volunteers at a clinic located in Tecate for those cannot afford medical care. Students will volunteer their time at this clinic and perform activities such as giving out glasses, checking patients’ eyes, and performing vision therapy to those who need it. When asked what makes her club unique, Bibi said, “It’s definitely the fact that we are able to go Tijuana and Tecate and get hands-on experience.” Focus also hosted a blood drive last month with another student organization.
Bibi believes that Focus has influenced her pathway to optometry school. Bibi says, “Just being a part of Focus has helped me receive so much important information. It’s nice to have others encouraging you along the way, in addition to visiting schools, listening to speakers, and other things.” Bibi, just like Jackie, has really enjoyed her experiences in her Pre-Optometry Club, not only learning more about the field of optometry but also helping improve and influence eye care in her community.