Maria and her father at the White Coat ceremony.
I am often asked the question, “Why optometry?” by my friends and patients. My default response tends to be “Well, my father and grandfather were both optometrists.” Although this is a true statement, it does not fully embody the many reasons why I decided to pursue my OD and why I came to NECO.
The fact that I come from a long line of optometrists undoubtedly influenced my professional choice because it granted me the opportunity to see first-hand the day-to-day life of the average OD. My experience growing up with an optometrist Dad was a positive one: he was almost always home for dinner and was never too tired to help out around the house, go for a walk, or to help me with my homework. The work-life balance of an optometrist is generally pretty good, which is extremely important. When exploring career options, choosing one that allowed me time to explore my hobbies and interests was essential.
Despite my optometric family history, I did not consider optometry until rather late into my post-secondary education. When I first began my undergraduate degree program, I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I first began to think about pursuing optometry after I outlined all of the features of a career that I wanted: not being stuck behind a desk all day, opportunities to problem solve, working with people, and an adequate work-life balance.
One of my favorite parts about being in a medical profession like optometry is that I get to help improve people’s quality of life by improving their vision and eye health. Something as simple as reading glasses can make a world of difference in helping a patient with their day-to-day tasks. I enjoy that optometry involves a great deal of problem solving and critical thinking when coming up with a diagnosis and treatment plan for each patient. Despite being sometimes challenging, it is always a great feeling to successfully diagnose a patient, provide a management plan and have their symptoms improve.
Optometry is also a very social profession and I love being able to interact with and learn about so many different people every day. My father has patients that he has been seeing for their eye care needs since he graduated from optometry school! I hope to establish similar relationships with my future patients.
Optometry has evolved a great deal as a profession since my grandfather’s era when optometrists had to fight for the right to even measure a patient’s eye pressure. Optometry today is innovative and at the forefront of preventative care. An eye examination can help detect numerous diseases and disorders before they are noticed by the patient. Additionally, the scope of practice of optometry is constantly expanding and there are many opportunities to learn about new treatments and diagnostic techniques through continuing education classes.
Optometry is a great profession that I strongly recommend to anyone interested in a medical discipline that is both intellectually challenging and that has an excellent work-life balance. I am excited to begin my career and I look forward to graduating in a few short months!
Maria is a Canadian student in her final year of the four year OD/MS dual degree program. For her MS project, she is working with Dr. Vera-Diaz and Dr. Panorgias examining color vision and early age-related macular degeneration.