Andrea Walker, a 2011 University of the Ozarks graduate, recently returned to campus to speak about her experiences as a third-year optometry student at Southern College of Optometry (SCO) in Memphis, Tenn.
Walker, originally from Ozark, Ark., studied biology and math at Ozarks.
"I knew coming into undergrad that I was interested in the medical field. My mom is a nurse, so I’ve been around medicine my whole life," Walker explained. "As a student at Ozarks, I had the opportunity to shadow an optometrist, and I thought it was really cool. I loved getting to see him interacting with patients. Optometry can be a bit of a puzzle. Eyes are so complex, and vision is incredibly important to people. I thought that helping people see better would be something really awesome to do."
As part of her presentation at Ozarks, Walker explained the admission process for optometry school. She emphasized that Ozarks prepared her well for the rigors of professional school.
"I did not have any deficiencies coming from Ozarks to optometry school. I didn’t have any problem at all meeting the pre-requisites," she said.
"To get into SCO, I had to take the Optometric Admissions Test. I also had to write an essay and interview with faculty members. I took a professional preparation class with Dr. [Frank] Knight, and we had to write a personal statement, which was great training for my admission essay. To be honest, the interview with the optometry school was way easier than the mock interview I had to do for Dr. Knight’s class," Walker added.
Walker is currently in her third year at SCO, a pivotal year for optometry students.
"The third year in optometry school is when you start seeing your first patients in the clinic. That is exciting and terrifying and awesome," she explained. "I still take a few classes, but the schedule is a lot lighter because I’m seeing patients three days a week. As a third-year student, I’m also studying for the first part of my boards and preparing for my externships."
Walker will take the first of three board exams in the spring and will begin a series of externships during her fourth and final year at SCO.
"During my fourth year, I’ll have three rotations of externships. I’ll do one rotation at the clinic at SCO, one at a private practice, and one in an institutional setting like a hospital. I will be in Delaware for the private practice externship, and next fall I’ll be going to Colorado Springs working at the Air Force Academy for my institutional rotation," Walker explained.
Walker’s advice for other students is straight forward: learn how to study now.
"The most difficult thing about optometry school is that you are learning a large volume of material very, very fast," she said. "My advice for students is to develop the best study habits you can now. If you get behind in graduate school, it just compounds. So, develop good study habits and stick to them."
After completing her clinical rotations and passing her board examinations, Walker plans to join a private optometry practice as a junior partner.
"Optometry is an area that is growing," Walker said. "There are plenty of job opportunities for optometrists."
Andrea Walker, a 2011 graduate who is in optometry school in Memphis, visited with one of her former Ozarks professors, Dr. Sean Coleman, during a recent visit back to the University. Walker spoke to current Ozarks students about how the University prepared her for optometry school.