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HomemiprofessionJumping at Opportunity

Jumping at Opportunity

Celine Zhang has furthered her optometry career as an optometrist by volunteering as the Lead Generation Manager with Eyes4Everest.

Given that we spend such a huge proportion of our lives at work, it’s satisfying to know the time we dedicate makes a difference to people’s lives. Many of us entered optometry because we wanted to help people and so we do, by improving their vision and meeting their ocular health needs. However, as I started work as a new graduate (in a full-scope practice I dearly love), I felt I needed more out of my career than the usual day to day practice.

One thing I did to meet this need was to pursue my interest in paediatric optometry by studying with the Optometric Extension Program Foundation. In doing so, I fell headfirst in love with the world of behavioural optometry and now I find myself rushing to sign up for courses. As a new graduate, behavioural optometry also gave me the confidence to see paediatric patients and deliver satisfying results through lenses and vision therapy.

I found my second professional optometric passion at the International Congress of Behavioural Optometry conference. It was volunteering

I found my second professional optometric passion at the International Congress of Behavioural Optometry conference. It was volunteering. When the Eyes4Everest committee approached me to volunteer with them, I couldn’t resist. The mountains were calling and I felt a strong desire to serve the Nepalese community that had supported me in 2017 when I trekked to the Everest Base Camp. I jumped at the opportunity to become Eyes4Everest’s Lead Generation Manager.

The Eyes4Everest teams comprises volunteer optometrists, optical dispensers and photographers from Australia and New Zealand. The organisation has been servicing the region since 2016 and I’ve had the fortune of working with a brilliant committee (Shaun Chang, Joe Wang, Grace Wee, Jenny Hsieh) to make our dream of sustainable eye care in the region a reality.

In doing so, I’ve gained skills I wouldn’t have acquired in the consulting room. How often would you learn to trek at altitude, run a charity and coordinate volunteers during your normal work day? Or liaise with optometrists from all around Australia and New Zealand?

And where else would you gain experience in public and global health? Optometric volunteering allows us to witness first-hand the impact of uncorrected refractive error and other forms of preventable vision loss among patients in different cultural settings. Your interpersonal skills flourish when working outside your comfort zone. For example, in Nepal, our optometrist volunteers are required to exhibit great teamwork, navigate cultural differences and make the best of the clinical equipment and resources available. We can cross language barriers by learning simple terms, using our body language and interpreters as needed. It is rewarding to help those who may be less fortunate than ourselves.

It has also been very rewarding to follow the journey of our Sherpa optometrist, Tashy Doma Sherpa, who has come to Sydney to study her Masters of Optometry before returning home to the Everest region.

Perhaps most rewarding has been our success in raising enough funds to establish a permanent eye clinic near the Khunde Hillary Hospital in Khumjung – a village at an elevation of 3,790m above sea level that is home to the largest school in Khumbu. Having a permanent eye clinic allows us to house sophisticated eye care equipment, which is not suited to our mobile clinic, such as a slit-lamp ophthalmoscope. It will also pave the way for tele-optometry in the region.

A CHANCE TO LEARN AND GROW

I think back to the first few months of my practise. Although overwhelming, every correct patient diagnosis and treatment felt like an absolute win. I was happy, satisfied, curious and continually learning. Optometry volunteering evokes those feelings again as you take on new challenges. Answer the door when opportunity knocks and embrace it as a chance to learn and grow.

Celine Zhang graduated from UNSW Optometry in 2017 and works in a full-scope practice in Sydney. She is the Social Media Officer for Young Optometrists NSW/ACT and the Lead Generation Manager for Eyes4Everest.