From Optometry to Ophthalmology

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

OPM 318: From Optometry to Opthalmology

Session 318

This non-trad is already in their 3rd year of optometry school. Is it too late to switch to medical school?

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from Go ask your questions there and use #OPMquestion.

Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:21] The MCAT Minute

The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.

Understand the process of the MCAT and what you should be doing right now regardless of which part of the journey you’re on. Whether you’re a first-year undergrad, a second, third, or fourth-year student, learn the ropes in preparing for your medical school application by listening to The MCAT Podcast, which we’re doing with Blueprint MCAT.

[02:11] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I’m excited to talk about my story and discuss my plan to apply to medical school after the completion of my optometry degree. Here’s my backstory. 

Optometry School Background

I’m a current third-year student at a well-known optometry school. I’ve genuinely enjoyed my time in optometry school, and would not trade my years of schooling for anything. I’ve learned so much about the visual system. And it all remains fascinating to me every day. I absolutely adore working with patients and being a resource in that they can place complete trust in their care. It is truly the reason I went into the field of health care, to begin with. 

Interest in Becoming an Ophthalmologist

So why am I discussing medical school? I found that what drew me to optometry school (vision therapy and neuro optometry) has really taken a backseat as far as my interest goes. And management of pathology involved with the ocular system has really become what I am passionate about. 

As an optometrist medical management of ocular disease is available but surgical management is done solely by ophthalmology.

I could certainly work alongside ophthalmology in certain modalities of practice. But I worry that not being able to manage cases because they are beyond my training or scope of practice will cause me to feel unfulfilled in my career. 

I’ve also found that I am fascinated by the retina and the systemic diseases that manifest as retinal diseases, diabetes, hypertension, inflammatory conditions, etc. This is by far my favorite aspect of eye care and one that is virtually untouchable by Optometry. 

I’m essentially looking to make a career change from optometry into ophthalmology, specifically a vitreoretinal surgeon as an end goal. I’ve met a few other doctors who have had the same realization as me and have made that transition so I would certainly not be the first. 

Open to Other Possibilities

I also should mention that although this is the front-end goal, I would enter medical school with a completely open mind. And if my life takes me in a different direction due to my interest in other specialties, I would be totally okay with that. My goals have changed throughout my life so far and I’m completely okay with this happening again. 

Preparing for the Application

I graduated from undergrad with an engineering degree and competitive grades 3.77 GPA and 3.75 science. And I’m currently in the top 5% of my class in optometry school. 

I have greater than a thousand hours of patient care directly in the optometry field through various jobs during undergrad and my first summer of optometry school. I will generate hundreds of more hours throughout my last two clinical years in optometry. I also have gained valuable non-clinical volunteer hours and community research during my time as a student in optometry school. I am involved in research at my institution as well, and currently conducting a clinical research study. 

The only prereq that I have not completed is O-Chem 2 which was not required by most optometry schools. 

I have not yet taken the MCAT. My plan is to take the MCAT Spring of 2022 and apply for admission to the class of 2023. Is this goal feasible? Will my patient care only being optometry be an issue? Will having such narrow experiences be seen as a negative to medical schools? Will I need to increase my shadowing experience outside of ophthalmology and truly generate a broader picture of medicine?

[06:01] Switching Interests is Okay

There are students who go to PA school, an optometry school, or a physical therapy school wanting to be physicians. There are lots of careers in health care out there. And there will always be a small percentage of people who want to jump over and apply to medical schools.

Being an optician is considered a terminal degree because you don’t need any more training after this. But there are people who want to jump over another thing because they want to do more. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

[08:23] Possible Issues

You may be asked along the way about why you’re applying to medical school, be prepared to have a solid answer to that. In this case, this student is pretty much straightforward in terms of where her passions lie.

Now, one of the concerns is the MCAT. If you’ve been out of school undergrad for a few years, how much prep is it going to take to get you back up to speed?

The other issue here is whether it will look bad if all of your experiences are related to Optometry. And the simple answer is no. You wanted to be an optometrist and so it just makes sense that all of your experiences are around Optometry. 

In terms of shadowing, there are probably some schools that want to see some primary care shadowing as well. But it’s important to own the fact that you originally wanted to become an Optometrist and now you want to be an ophthalmologist.

Just keep in mind that your personal statement should not be about why you want to be an ophthalmologist, specifically.  A lot of your experiences are going to talk about the exposure that you had to these diseases of the eye and the retina. All signs point to ophthalmology. But you can take a step back, and potentially talk bigger picture in terms of just taking care of the deeper pathophysiology of patients.

[12:00] Final Thoughts

This is a very common concern for nontrads as to how they’re going to be looked upon if they switch to medicine and they get scared. Schools and admissions committee members would love to hear nontrad stories and their life experiences.

Even if you’re not in optometry and you’re in a different healthcare-related field, understand that you’re not at a disadvantage as long as you understand some of those nuances.


Meded Media

The MCAT Podcast

Premed Hangout

Blueprint MCAT