When thinking about my future, I imagine myself leading a successful optometric career. Success looks different for everyone, but for me this means making a difference in the community where I choose to practice. If there is one theme that prevails in optometry school, it’s that patients are more than just a set of eyes for us to treat. Patients are whole human beings who need their health care managed not as a set of separate parts, but in a wholistic manner. The way to do this efficiently is by co-management with other health care professionals. Many health professional schools try to incorporate inter-professional education in their curriculums, but somehow never really hit the nail on the head…and this is where I come in!
I noticed that there was a lack of communication between the professional students in Memphis, for seemingly no reason at all. To facilitate some interaction, I worked with some wonderful SCO professors to organize a Student Interprofessional Networking (SIP’n) Happy Hour at High Cotton Taproom. The Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) graciously gave me a grant to pay for the expenses. This event brought together professional students from Christian Brothers University, Southern College of Optometry, UTHSC, and University of Memphis for an evening of mingling and fun. We rented out High Cotton and enlisted Edge Alley to cater (everyone loves food and drinks!) To entice people even further, we gave everyone a free beer and I also worked with local businesses in the Medical District to secure raffle prizes. In my mind, this served as a Memphis-wide call for students to get involved in inter-professional networking. The best way to encourage students to feel comfortable working together with other professionals is exposure.
Picture: This is a photo taken at SIP’n Happy Hour. What I love about this photo is that I can see people getting to know others who I know for sure don’t know each other. (Photo by Pheba Shibu)
I’ve never been much of an event planner. Being detail oriented and coordinating something like this was completely out of my comfort zone. The reason I decided to make it a reality was because I felt the community could truly benefit from an event like this. I moment Iknew it was a success was when I had people I didn’t know from other schools coming up to me thanking me for hosting this and asking when the next one would occur. I imagined we might get 70-100 students to participate. Imagine my happiness when 200 people registered! It was a feeling like no other. The overwhelmingly positive response that I received not only confirmed my hunch that students were yearning for something like this, but also fueled my passion to continue working to legitimize student interprofessional collaboration in Memphis during my time at SCO.
Picture: This is a photo of me speaking to everyone about how the event came together and why future collaboration is important. I was very nervous beforehand, but once I got up there it wasn’t so bad! (Photo by Pheba Shibu)
My goal was to plant the seed that it is okay—more than okay, it is imperative—that we start acting like a team when it comes to patient care and true collaboration. Patient care will not reach its full potential until we do. During this planning process, one of the most valuable things I learned that this can be a student driven initiative. It all doesn’t need to come from our schools planning opportunities for us to engage in interprofessional education. Those two pieces: student-driven and institution-driven interprofessional networking/education opportunities will be what catapults us forward into the next level of patient care. As for me, I’m just happy that I was able to be a part of getting the ball rolling! Spearheading this process helped me grow and realize that if you want something, it’s up to you to make change happen in your community.
Lauren Watson is rising third-year student from Baltimore, Maryland. She earned a Biology degree from the University of Maryland (go Terps!) Her optometric interests include helping underserved populations and community-based health programs. In her limited spare time, she loves watching literally any documentary she can find with her kitten Finn by her side.