For Cassandra Breach, OD, It’s All About Hands-On Learning
“You get your first patient, and the knowledge you’ve gained from lectures and the technical skills you’ve learned seem to kick in like second nature,” said Cassandra.
In high school, Cassandra Breach, OD, loved science. She especially enjoyed studying human anatomy, but it was the eye that caught her attention. “Vision is such a vital part of everyday life,” said Cassandra. “I loved to see how the visual system played such a big role in everyone’s lives.”
She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry, with a minor in psychology. It was during her undergraduate studies that she decided to pursue a future in optometry.
“I have always wanted a career that would help people, specifically in the medical field,” said Cassandra. “With my grandmother and mother as nurses and an uncle as an M.D., I felt it was only fitting for me to focus on a different aspect of the medical field.”
Originally from Cicero, Indiana, Cassandra was eager to live outside her home state for the first time in her life and experience a brand-new part of the country. She explains that choosing to come to MCPHS–Worcester for her degree allowed her to “meet new people I never would have met before, see places I could have only dreamed of, and pursue my dream.”
Cassandra found that the four-year, full-time optometry program at MCPHS had the advantages she was looking for. “It had some of the newest technology, small class sizes, and faculty who teach us both inside and outside the classroom,” she said.
Now a second-year student in the optometry program, Cassandra is busy with her coursework and her leadership positions in a variety of on-campus organizations, including serving as treasurer of the Private Practice Club and vice president of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development Pediatric Optometry Club.
On the Worcester campus, Cassandra is part of a diverse group of students, all striving toward future careers in optometry. “No two people in the program are alike,” she said. “Everyone has different interests, backgrounds, accents, and lifestyles, and yet we all connect in the pursuit of one common goal.”
Cassandra believes that the diversity of experiences among the program participants makes for vital connections. “The relationships you build with your classmates, and also the faculty and staff, are so important,” Cassandra said. “After we earn our degrees, these people become more than just professors and students. Everyone becomes colleagues.”
When asked what her favorite course has been, Cassandra points to her hands-on learning experiences in lab and clinic. “I am a muscle memory and hands-on type of learner,” said Cassandra. “I find learning the technical skills to be much more enjoyable than reading notes or listening to lectures.”
One way Cassandra has put her new knowledge and technical skills into action is through the Eye and Vision Center, a patient clinic on the Worcester campus that serves individuals from the local community.
The experience has been an invaluable growth opportunity for her. “At first, it’s beyond stressful,” said Cassandra. “You just think to yourself, ‘Oh my gosh. I do not want to screw this up. I do not want to give a bad impression in front of my preceptors. I just want to be a good student doctor!’”
But she explains that in the clinic, anxiety soon turns into confidence. “That all changes so quickly,” she said. “You get your first patient, and the knowledge you’ve gained from lectures and the technical skills you’ve learned seem to kick in like second nature.”
She appreciates the importance of understanding that each patient has individual needs and experiences. “Each and every person in this world is unique, and vision is no exception,” said Cassandra. “I find it interesting that there are such drastic differences in how people experience and visualize the world, and also in how they interpret it.”
As she works with patients in the clinic, Cassandra focuses on maintaining her own perspective. “I remind myself that we are students and that we’re learning,” Cassandra said. “What I think helps most is the patients. They are more than kind and considerate. They understand that you are learning, and they let you take your time, talk things out, and ask questions.”
Cassandra is already looking to her future optometry career, and she is excited by the variety of opportunities available to her in the field. One area she has identified a passion for is pediatrics. “I love children and would love to be able to change a child’s life early on,” said Cassandra. “Vision is such an important part of life, during childhood especially. It affects learning, coordination, athletics, and more.”
As she moves forward, Cassandra feels confident that she has the skills, knowledge, and connections she will need to achieve her dream. “MCPHS has done more than just provide me with an education,” said Cassandra. “It has allowed me to form friendships with people I will know for a lifetime, to travel and live on the East Coast, and to pursue my dream. When it comes down to it, our program and future careers are rewarding. I know that this program, the faculty, and the school are setting me up to succeed in a good profession.”
The Doctor of Optometry program at MCPHS–Worcester is a four-year, full-time program designed to prepare students with the requisite skills, experience, and confidence to practice and advance as a professional optometrist in a wide variety of clinical settings.