There are only two optometry schools in all of Canada — one English-speaking and one French-speaking. That's it. So for even the best students, the chances of getting admitted aren't great. Every year, each school only takes around a hundred students out of thousands upon thousands of applicants.
That's partially why Jesse Alibrando, OD '21, decided to enroll at MCPHS to study optometry. Jesse, who was born in Montréal and grew up in Cornwall, Ontario, has been interested in eyes since childhood; he was drawn to optometry because several family friends and neighbours worked with eyes. During high school he had the opportunity to shadow some of them, even helping out in the operating room a few times. He also remembers how drastically his grandmother's quality of life improved when she had cataracts removed.
The clinical skills you need
When the time came for Jesse to apply to optometry schools, he did what he advises Canadians interested in the discipline to do, given the prohibitively competitive nature of applying to optometry school in Canada: "Research the American schools, figure out which ones get you access to clinical care early on. And as far as I'm aware, in terms of early clinic access, MCPHS is about as good as it gets. ...You're going to get all the clinical skills you need."
Though higher education in America is more expensive than in Canada, Jesse does point out the clinical advantages that students in the US enjoy. "The clinical aspect [of optometry school] is more all-encompassing here" in the United States, he says. "Here we get thrown right in. You get to observe in first year, you start working second year," whereas it takes longer in Canadian optometry schools. And of the academics, he says, "The professors, the curriculum — it's rigorous."
Making a difference, one pair of eyes at a time
Jesse is now in his fourth and final year at the MCPHS School of Optometry, which entails three 15-week rotations encompassing different areas of optometry. One of his rotations was at D'Ambrosio Eye Care, a joint optometry and ophthalmology centre. The experience has allowed Jesse to do what he enjoys: help manage complex pathologies. It's the clinical work that Jesse finds most impactful. "It's amazing to see the difference you can make... even if you can get their vision to improve a line or two on the chart," he says of working with patients.
Jesse recently received the Student Doctor of the Month from the Canadian Association of Optometry Students for his outstanding desire to contribute to the field of optometry. He hopes to return to Canada after graduation and apply what he's learned during his time at MCPHS to support patients back home.
Learn how to become an optometrist at MCPHS