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Advice for Part 1

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to the 3rd year students at the Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO). My lecture was entitled "Practice Appraisals" in their Leadership and Practice Management course. But, I couldn't help but take this unique opportunity to provide them with my thoughts about the upcoming Part 1 examination. They told me that they had 25 days until the critical exam, so the timing was perfect to share some insights with them. Thank you to Dr. Ibironke for scheduling this lecture at the perfect moment...I know that you planned it this way!

Here is what I shared with them. First, you can never feel 100% prepared going into a high stake examination like Part 1. So, the best you can do is enter that exam with a mindset of knowing that - you worked hard and that you put forth your best effort. This isn't 100% confidence, but its the best that anyone can do. When you know that you put you're best effort into preparation, you will have the right mindset.

I'll digress for a moment an tell you an interesting story. When I practiced optometry in a small town, I became a volunteer firefighter. Because of my EMT training and title of "Dr." I often was looked upon to lead the team in cases of trauma like a severe car accident. One time, I responded to a vehicle accident on the highway. By the time we arrived in the rescue unit, law enforcement officers were on scene and had covered a body on the roadway. When I went towards that covered body, one of the officers told me, "He's gone, don't waste your time on this one." So, I left and turned my attention to the remaining victims in the car. But, upon leaving that scene, I felt a sense of real regret. What if the officer was wrong and I could have helped that victim under the blanket? I felt like I didn't give it my best effort and I regretted it. What I learned from that evening, is that I make my own decisions about where to put my efforts and this lesson served me well throughout my firefighting days. We did have more fatalities over the years, but with each of those scenes, no matter how tragic, when I walked away, I didn't have regret. I didn't have regret because I knew that I put forth my best effort for each one of the victims. Well, how does this relate to the NBEO Part 1 exam? Pass or fail, you'll have no regrets if you put forth your best effort. That's the right mindset!

The second piece of advice that I shared with the students was about test anxiety. We have all done this mental gymnastics during a high stakes examination. If you don't know the answer to a particular question, you then do the math and calculate the highest score that you can achieve. And, then if this score isn't good, you think about how you might fail this course and then how you might get kicked out of optometry school and then how disappointed your parents will be and so on and so on until you've single-handedly caused "global warming"! This is an awful cascade to fall down during an exam. It isn't productive and hurts your confidence. So, I asked each student to hear my voice say, "What is the next question?" When they are facing a test question that they don't know the answer to on Part 1 (and their will be many), don't go down that rabbit hole, instead hear Dr. B.'s voice say, "What is the next question?" By doing your best on each question and then moving on, your mind will stay focused on the task at hand and you won't cause "global warming".

My final piece of advice for the Class of 2025 was to support each other. We know that effective teams achieve more than the sum of their individual parts. Everyone in the class is facing the same challenge of Part 1, but each have their own personal issues that they are managing. I encouraged compassion, support and empathy as a way to improve everyone's outcome. The Class of 2024 did quite well on their board exams and I attribute some of their success to the fact that they "stuck together" through the hard times and supported one another. Bringing humanity to this challenging test will help, so I hope that they heard me.

It was fun to be in the classroom again! Thank you to KYCO for inviting this old-guy back from time to time. I am sending warm wishes and good vibes to the Class of 2025 as they get ready to crush the Part 1 exam in 25 days! You've got this!

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