Student Spotlight: Melissa Atencio, OD/MPH
Melissa Atencio, OD/MPH, understands how important the role of optometrists can be in the lives of children who experience vision problems.
As someone who has visited an optometrist since the third grade, Melissa credits her optometrist with empowering her to live her best life through clear vision. It was these experiences that inspired her to pursue a future as an optometrist. “It’s a way for me to ensure that other children will be able to have the same opportunities as I did, and not have to worry about their eyesight as much,” said Melissa.
Melissa, who will graduate with a joint Doctor of Optometry / Master of Public Health degree, knows that she wants to work with children in her future career, and she is also interested in working with underserved populations.
“It means so much to me that someday I will be able to help people,” said Melissa. “All the things we take for granted in everyday life would be so much harder if you had poor or absent vision. Any little improvement in someone’s vision or in someone’s ability to navigate their world is a win in my book.”
For now, she is immersed in her studies on the Worcester campus, where she is highly involved in the campus community, serving as secretary of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and Pediatric Optometry Club (COVDPOC), an optometry student ambassador, and student resource liaison for the MCPHS chapter of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA).
We sat down with Melissa to hear more about her experience in the Optometry program.
What about the optometry field excites you most?
The eye is so complex. You could never imagine how many things can cause issues with your eyes. Most of these things you wouldn’t expect to create complications in the eye, which makes it so exciting to learn about.
Why did you choose the Optometry program at MCPHS?
The people were really nice. The equipment is state of the art. I also liked that the class size wasn’t as large as at other schools, so I wasn’t going to be just another number.
Describe the Optometry program.
My program is definitely intense. You really have to keep up on the studying or you will lose sleep trying to catch up! That being said, it is really rewarding and very exciting to learn all these new things about the eye.
What is your favorite course you’ve taken so far?
My favorite courses so far have been all my optometric methods labs. These are the classes in which you actually get to practice skills you will use every day in your career. I love being able to go through the thought process of reviewing things I’ve learned in class and applying them in real life. My lab professors are awesome as well, and they really make sure you understand.
Tell us more about your professors.
I could tell within the first week that my professors really cared. They want us to succeed in this program, and it shows in the way they teach.
What is your favorite thing about the Worcester campus?
My favorite thing about Worcester is that it’s a big city but has a smaller-town feel. There are a variety of different foods to try in the city and plenty of things to do within walking distance of school. I also love how close Worcester is to other things. It’s less than an hour’s drive to the beach or Boston but also mountains and hiking trails. You can also make short day trips to so many different states around Massachusetts.
Why did you choose to live on campus?
I chose to live on campus because I wasn’t from this side of the country, so I didn’t want to live alone in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I really love having classes downstairs. It’s so convenient, especially when the weather is horrible. It’s also awesome to be able to go down and practice in the preclinic at any time of day.
In the four-year, full-time Doctor of Optometry program at MCPHS–Worcester, students begin seeing patients in their first year and gain the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in their future careers.