In this column, we look at the vocations in which members of our community are involved. This month, ANAGHA JOSHI tells us about her work in optometry, especially as it opens pathways for social justice
My job title
I have been in this job for
My educational qualification
Bachelor of Optometry, University of Melbourne
I work for the Australian College of Optometry in Melbourne. It provides high-quality, low-cost eye care for patients in disadvantaged or low socio-economic communities. As an optometrist, I am the primary health professional for visual and ocular needs. This means everything from prescribing glasses to detection and management of certain eye diseases. My role also involves teaching optometry students and supervising them as they consult patients. A large part of my work also involves visiting different sites such as homeless or disability centers to address the needs of patients who sometimes do not have access to proper eye care.
What my typical day is like
On an average day, I see 10 to 12 patients with each appointment lasting about 40 minutes or so. During my consultations, I talk to the patient about their concerns with their eyes and check whether they need glasses. I also perform an ocular health examination. I often have to visit disability centers and sites for the homeless during the week. Sometimes, I also travel to country Victoria to see patients in Aboriginal communities. As you can see, each and every day is different and I never get bored!
What’s hard about my job
The hardest part of my job is delivering sight-related bad news to a patient. It is very difficult to tell someone that they are losing vision and may soon go blind. Another really hard thing to tell people is that they can no longer continue to drive. It is especially difficult to convey such news to those who rely solely on driving for their work or are the sole drivers of the family, with young dependants.
What are the positive aspects of my job
Well, I help people see their world! That moment when a 4-year-old child first puts on his glasses and can suddenly see the world better, makes my job very fulfilling. To be able to go to places and provide vision-related services to communities who cannot easily access eye care is what I very much love about my job. And finally, teaching! I love that ‘light bulb’ moment when a student finally gets a concept or understands something for the first time, because of me!
What I do outside of my normal working hours
Since 2013, I have also been an active member of a charity organization called ASHA (Australian South Asian Healthcare Association). Our aims are to improve health outcomes in South Asia through delivery of the education and services. As the eye care coordinator, I have led a team of Australian optometrists on trips to Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh (Central India) to train local optometrists in skills that will help solve common vision problems in the community. We are very fortunate in Australia to have access to low-cost quality healthcare. With ASHA, we try to improve healthcare in other less privileged communities. The key to doing this is helping people help themselves and that is why most of our charity work involves education.
How my work has changed my life
My work has changed my life in a very humbling way. This is so because I get to meet and talk to people in such different and often difficult phases of life. This has made me more appreciative of the small joys of life. It has helped me to face challenges in life with positivity.
My advice for people who may want to get into the industry
Healthcare in general and optometry in particular are really rewarding career options as they touch human lives. Every day is a new day and you are always learning. It’s both competitive and challenging. But importantly, optometry is a very satisfying career although, for those who are blessed with good eyesight, life without sight is difficult to imagine.