Meet MCO Student Natasha Switchuk
What is your educational background? When and where did you graduate undergrad? Tell us a bit about your family and background as you feel comfortable.
I am a Canadian and completed my undergraduate studies at McMaster University in Hamilton,
Ontario. As a Life Science student, I completed 3 years of undergrad (I entered MCO
as part of the 3+4 program). By taking a few summer courses I was able to complete
all my required courses for optometry school. I am 2 credits short of obtaining my
Life Science degree.
I come from a very close and supportive family. My parents are both business owners: my mother is a general practitioner and runs a wellness centre in Ontario and my father is an upholsterer and has a very successful upholstery business. I have a younger sister who is at college and currently studying Hairstyling.
Tell us a little about your path into Optometry school.
Since I have worn glasses since grade 5 and enjoyed visiting the optometrist, becoming
an optometrist feels right. I have excelled in all my academic science courses and
really enjoyed the physics of lenses.
Seeing as my mother is a medical doctor, she suggested optometry as a profession for me. I have never been good around blood and needles, so optometry was a more suitable for me and my personality.
I applied to the only Canadian Optometry college (English-speaking) along with several US Optometry programs. I was fortunate to be accepted to MCO on my first try. While moving to another country was daunting, Michigan is very similar in many ways to Ontario and, for the most part, Americans understand my accent.
Why did you choose to attend MCO?
A few reasons: small class sizes, fantastic state of the art facility (I absolutely loved the building, it really was love at first sight), great NBEO scores, closest U.S. optometry school to Canada, most reasonable tuition costs. Overall, I have been extremely happy with my decision; I have no regrets.
What are some fond memories that you have of optometry school so far?
My favourite memories have been spending time and getting through optometry school with my close friends. Optometry school has been hard, and I honestly don’t know if I would’ve made it through without them. Some of my favourite times have been when we get together to study; the act of studying itself was never particularly enjoyable but going through things together made it fun and enjoyable (and more often than not helped me remember things way better). When we weren’t studying, it was great to even just have a relaxing time watching a movie or going to dinner.
I have also loved clinic, and some of my fondest memories have been from helping patients. It has been so amazing to be able to help patients, and for some completely change their life. I had one patient with dry eye, and we fit her with scleral contact lenses, and she absolutely loved them. She felt instant relief from something she had been dealing with for so long; she was so happy, and you could just tell from looking at her how much of a difference we made.
What kind of involvement do you have within and outside the optometric community?
I have been a tutor for multiple classes throughout optometry school. I have been a tutor for 1st year procedures 1, 1st year optics 1 and 2, and 3rd year posterior segment disease. It has been so incredibly rewarding to be able to help fellow students. It brings me such satisfaction knowing that not only can I help serve the community by becoming a strong clinician myself, but by also helping other students to also become strong doctors.
What is/are your inspiration(s)?
My biggest inspiration has been my parents. Both my parents have worked incredibly hard to earn what they have today; they both started their own businesses and have become the best in their fields.
My mom has become very well known for specializing in hormonal therapies and was the first doctor in Canada to start offering hormonal pellet therapies. She graduated from University of Toronto, and now as an alumnus has been part of the med-school applicant interviews and acts as a mentor to new medical students. My dad has easily become the best upholsterer in our area; he is always in high demand, has released multiple instructional DVDs, and has even taught multiple courses at Sheridan College in upholstery. My goal is to become just as strong in the optometric profession as both are in their professions.
If there is one thing you can say to incoming MCO students, what would it be?
The journey is hard, there will be struggles, but it is so worth it. The feeling you get when you can help a patient see better than they ever have is amazing. The ability to completely change our patients’ lives is priceless and makes all of the hard work worth it.
If there is one thing you can say to MCO alumni, what would it be?
Thank you for your support. I understand it is a strong alumni community that makes a college better. It’s because of the alumni, that MCO has such a state-of-the-art facility. I learned that past years were instrumental in the planning of the new building and as the benefactor, I am most grateful. I look forward to being an integral part of such a rewarding profession and an alumnus of such a great school.