1) My name is Rebecca Aquije and I am currently a 4th year student at the SUNY College of Optometry
2) I am Peruvian.
3) How does your Latina heritage motivate you to give back in optometry? I unfortunately grew up struggling with speaking Spanish. When I first encountered Spanish-speaking patients, I was terrified. That’s when I saw the impact of overcoming the language barrier, even if it’s with my broken Spanglish. Even though I stumbled with speaking, my patients would fill in the blanks, smile, and nod with understanding. I found a drive to educate this population who just wants a doctor who can be more familiar to them. The results, I’ve found, have been immensely satisfying.
4) Talk about your journey to optometry school: I was extremely indecisive with going to medical school. As other students of immigrant families may relate to, becoming an M.D. was a hot topic at the dinner table. Doing research on the curriculum of medical school, I realized that I didn’t have to drive to dedicate 100% of my being into the education. I still wanted to exercise my creative side and was afraid I would lose a part of myself if I stuck to it.
At the time, I was working at a science museum in charge of doing cow eye dissections for an audience. I thought, “Hey, eyeballs are pretty cool. Is there anything I can do with that?” which led to “Well, my eyes are pretty messed up so maybe I could relate to people who have bad eyesight like me?” And so, at the end of my sophomore year of college, I decided I wanted to pursue optometry.
There are many programs that optometry schools offer that cater towards minority students which helped me take the first steps into the field.
5) What are some of your passions in optometry? I’ve grown a fondness for vision therapy and the fun interactions you can have with your patients, whether they’re children or adults. I like how different it is from primary care and how every appointment is never the same. You create a program that’s catered for a patient’s specific needs and be their cheerleader on the side. There’s nothing like the bond you end up making with your patients when you see them every week.
I am hoping to apply for residency in vision therapy. Ideally, I would keep providing primary care while introducing vision therapy into my practice, wherever I end up in the future.
6) If you could speak to your first year self, what advice would you give: I would tell my 1st year self to stop caring so much about grades! Yes, you want to do the best you can but beating yourself up over not reaching your own expectations will really drag you down. Stop comparing yourself to the rest of your classmates because it literally doesn’t matter. Who cares? You’re here for yourself! Most of all, get involved with student life early because you will come to treasure the people you’ve met through that.