When I began optometry school, I assumed my days would be filled with lectures, labs, or clinic. It didn’t even occur to me that I would have the opportunity to attend optometric conferences. In a sense, I envy those classmates with close ties to optometrists because they had that early exposure to what “beyond optometry school” looked like. I failed to take advantage of these travel opportunities during my first year, but at the beginning of the month I hopped on a bus down to New York to attend my first optometric conference, Vision Expo East!
Now I knew that the event would take place in a convention center, but I wasn’t prepared for how grand and immense Javits Center was. If staff members were not floating around with hard-to-miss “Ask Me” signs, I’m not sure I could have navigated my way around the building. The expo had three large divisions into education, eyewear, and medical/technology. Although most of my time was spent walking around the latter two sections, it was great transitioning from the fashion trends of 2017 to the latest scientific advances in the industry.
The whole scene reminded me of undergraduate job fairs where companies would gather on campus and students would walk from booth to booth inquiring about career opportunities. I remember dreading those fairs – some companies you’ve never heard of or some jobs you weren’t interested in. But at Vision Expo, everything is related to your future career! Representatives would approach you and there was no embarrassment if you weren’t aware of a brand of eyewear. They would tell what makes them stand out among the crowd and how they work in conjunction with optometrists. The atmosphere was very amicable, and there was even a booth selling Optopoetry, a poem book by an optometry student from PCO and drawn by a group of optometry students, one of which currently attends NECO! I recommend checking it out here for $20.20 (haha, get it?).
Ray Ban Caption: Plenty of photo booth opportunities throughout the weekend!
On Saturday morning, there was an educational talk for optometry students. I failed to update myself on the speakers beforehand, but I knew I wanted to take advantage of what Vision Expo had to offer for students. To my surprise, Dr. Jackie Garlich of 20/20 Glance and Dr. Jennifer Lyerly of Eyedolatry were both speaking! These two doctors run a newsletter and blog, respectively, about the latest news and trends of optometry, and I began following them during my first year at NECO. As someone who reads their material from time to time, it was surreal hearing them speak about their success and the beginnings of how they turned a profession that they are passionate about into a pleasant hobby that is informative to students, optometrists, and the public as well.
At the end of the day, students, optometrists, and other attendees had the chance to reconvene at Hard Rock Café in Times Square for a benefit concert by New Eyes for the Needy, a non-profit organization that provides glasses for those in need. The lineup for Rockin’ for New Eyes consisted of five sets – Retrospex, Visionary, The Bass Curve Band, Zonules of Zinn, and Punktum Remotum, each comprised of a group of optometrists gathering together to perform. Optometry puns aside, It was fun to see all the light up glasses and guitar shaped glasses to represent our community and the purpose of the concert – New Eyes raised over $200,000 for their organization, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next year!