June beckons in the beginning of summer, and for many people here in San Diego County, it brings the promise of long, beautiful days at the beach, warm evenings at outdoor concerts, barbeques with family and friends, and thrilling times at the County Fair. The days seem lazier and longer. This time of year also marks important graduations of students of all ages and school levels. Almost everyone is touched by a graduation somewhere this month.
For graduating optometrists, June is a month to reflect on all their hard work, on all the endless nights of studying and cramming for tests (remember those board exams?). Having achieved their dream of being called “doctor” and practicing their chosen profession, they can celebrate the end of a long journey and the beginning of a new one. For many of us, these graduation memories are almost palpable; for others, it seems like the beginning of time since we last wore a cap and gown.
Once new OD graduates are formally inducted into our profession, they’re faced with choices: they can proceed to practice optometry right away, for example, or continue on with a residency program. Much nervous anticipation about how they’ll fit into the profession must now be placed into an action plan. These first few transition months can be difficult for new OD graduates—after completing multiple goals, passing so many examinations, and practicing with patients as an intern, the next steps may well be an assortment of unknowns.
If you’re a new OD, the California Optometric Association and San Diego County Optometric Society can help make your summer of planning for the future a little easier. The AOA, COA and SDCOS have a library of Resource Guides to help with obtaining state licensing and DEA and NPI numbers, as well as getting credentialed with the various insurance panels and vision plans in our state. Career resources are also available, such as job search tools and optometric business and career webinars.
COA membership was free of cost as a student, but new ODs may not realize that the free membership continues to the end of the year in which you graduate. This means you can take advantage of membership benefits while you transition to become a working professional. In addition, COA makes membership affordable for new ODs by steeply discounting dues over the first five years following graduation.
Locally, SDCOS offers new graduates a variety of useful resources. You can read the monthly newsletter and log onto our award-winning website at sdcos.org. You’re welcome to attend our membership meetings at the Handlery Hotel, and take advantage of the free continuing education (and included buffet dinner). Be sure to introduce yourself to practicing ODs sitting at your table—there exists real fellowship at our meetings that we hope you tap into.
As stated above, new graduates can join the COA for no cost during the remainder of the year, and after that, there are discounted fees and other opportunities such as Project Keep. Project Keep is a program built to encourage new California optometric licentiates to become involved in the leadership of their society. It’s a local service program that allows you to earn reduced COA membership dues for many years—if you’re a new OD, be sure to inquire about it!
Also at the local level is a classified and job connection list maintained by Dr. John Fitzpatrick. This is a great tool if you’re looking for a job, are looking to hire someone, or are interested in buying a practice. Please reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries. The society website and online newsletter also provides great information for new graduates or new ODs in San Diego. Always feel confident to ask a SDCOS Board member about what resources are available to you as a new OD. The AOA, COA, and SDCOS are here to help.
Stay tuned for your invitation to our annual New OD barbeque to take place on June 15th, hosted by Dr. Eric White and sponsored by the SDCOS Board and VSP. It will be a fun, food-filled event where you can find camaraderie and advice as you imagine what your next career moves will look like. We hope to see you there!