A series of articles written by SCCO Student Ambassadors, here is Gavin Jaime. To learn more about Gavin, where he is from, and why he chose SCCO, find his bio here listed alphabetically.
Took 2 Gap Years, Applied Late in the Cycle, and Still Got Into My Dream School
by SCCO Student Ambassador, Gavin Jaime
My path to optometry definitely wasn’t perfect.
During my final year of undergrad, I thought that I would pursue a career as either becoming a RN or PA. This intention continued even after I graduated from UCSB. I became a licensed EMT during my senior year and decided this should be my first job out of college. This plan would give me a chance to receive clinical hours as well as get a feel for what patient care is like in the hospital setting. After about 3 months of working with long 12-hour shifts, I realized that this type of work was exhausting and unfortunately for me, not fulfilling.
This experience forced me reconsider what I wanted to do for a career.
While trying to find a new job as an escape from the ambulance profession, fortunately for me an old friend’s father— who happened to be an optometrist—was available to me. I explained my situation to him and he offered to let me get clinical hours by observing his practice as well as working in his office. As I watched how he interacted with his patients, I realized that there was more to his interactions as an optometrist than just the typical patient-doctor interactions; there were also personal relationships there. As I continued to shadow him, I grew more interested in optometry and continued to work at his office until COVID-19 caused mandated quarantines changed this situation in March 2020.
While I did enjoy the work, I was not given enough work hours to make a living. I still wanted to expand my experience with eye care, and took a position in an ophthalmology clinic in Orange County, California. There I was able to gain even more knowledge about eye diseases and how they are treated. What made me love this experience was not only the culture there, but also how knowledgeable and helpful the ophthalmologists and optometrists were. As an assistnat, I was assigned mainly to an optometrist, and she was able to lead me into a deeper understanding of what clinical work is like.
The moment I knew I wanted to become an optometrist came to me because of a particular experience. A young patient came in for an annual eye exam and was seeing perfectly fine (20/20). However, when a photo was taken of the back of his eye, there were hemorhages through the optic nerve. My clinical team had to coordinate referring the patient to the hospital because a systemic illness. Two days later, that patient had life-saving brain surgery. He continues to be the optometrist’s patient to this day. I knew right then how important being an optometrist is because as part of a routine exam, an optometrist detects systemic illness just by looking into the eyes during a routine exam.
From then on, my sights were set on going to optometry school. Due to the timing of when I solidified my decision to pursue optometry, I applied very late in the admissions cycle (which I definitely don’t recommend doing!) Thankfully, everything went well during the application process and interview but because I applied so late I was waitlisted initially. I was anxious as wanted to get into SCCO, and since Eryn Kraning in Admissions said I could check in with her regularly on my status, I called her once a week for nearly a month to check in. One of my best surprises ever was when SHE CALLED ME to admit me to the incoming class! I couldn’t even believe it. I got into my top optometry school at SCCO!
Don’t worry if you do not have a plan right away out of college. For me, it took two years to figure out this was where I am supposed to be.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Categories: Student Ambassador Blog Articles