Paving New Paths: An Eye-Opening Shadowing Experience

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Left to right: Dr. Jennifer Palombi, Dr. Michele Andrews and Irina Yakubin

By Irina Yakubin

As a fourth-year optometry student at IAUPR School of Optometry, I’m still learning about my profession both clinically and in terms of opportunities. So what was I doing at Media Roundtable full of distinguished doctors discussing research and the future of optometry? That opportunity, and many more, were all thanks to Jennifer Palombi, OD.

The story begins several months earlier when I learned that Cooper Vision has an amazing doctor on their staff who, like myself, has a passion writing and patient education. Despite being nervous, I reached out to Dr. Palombi with a few questions and an offer to pick up any extra writing assignments available. Reaching out to others is always a risk, but this time, it definitely paid off. Not only was Dr. Palombi willing to answer my questions, she also offered to have me shadow her at Academy 2019.

The Experience

This wasn’t my first time shadowing an optometrist, but it was the first time that I wouldn’t be doing it at a clinic. Dr. Palombi and I met several times during Academy, and, thanks to her generosity, I was able to meet individuals who were not only passionate about optometry but who were doing research and educating other doctors and patients alike.

Another wonderful aspect about shadowing Dr. Palombi was the fact that I was able to meet amazing women within the field of optometry. These were brilliant professionals who seemed to be seamlessly balancing personal lives and careers while adding on extra projects that they were passionate about. It was thanks to Dr. Palombi that I was able to meet and chat with Michele Andrews, OD, who had just received Women in Optometry’s Theia Excellence Award. It seemed that every time I was with Dr. Palombi, something amazing was happening. For instance, was also able to chat with Anne Sulley, OD, about her research on the tolerance range of soft contact lenses to temperature changes.

The Takeaways

For a long time, I was under the impression that I had to choose between clinical optometry, advocacy, writing, patient education and research. However, having met these amazing women, I know now that I don’t have to choose. This experience also gave me new perspectives on how I can still use my knowledge of optometry to help others without necessarily spending time seeing patients. In fact, I learned that I may be able to make more of a difference by engaging in the larger professional network and offering my skills, both clinical and written.

The Cherry on Top

While at Academy, I signed up for a drawing to win tuition to the Dry Eye Institute hosted by Crystal Brimer, OD, and, a few weeks later, I learned that I’d won! This allowed my yet another opportunity to learn from a talented woman in optometry.

What I Learned

The American Academy of Optometry Meeting always has amazing educational opportunities to offer. Academy 2019, however, proved to be a particularly unforgettable learning experience because I had the opportunity to shadow and work with Dr. Jennifer Palombi.

• There is always more to learn
• Optometry is not limited to a clinical setting and it certainly has plenty of use for skilled writers and speakers who can educate other doctors and patients about new ideas, research and products
• Always take the opportunity to learn from others in your profession, especially women
• A little initiative goes a long way! If I hadn’t sent that first email to Dr. Palombi, I would never have had this opportunity.