I’ve known from a young age I wanted to be a health care provider. I come from a family of nurses and doctors, and taking care of people seemed the perfect occupation for me.
However, I also had a love of travel. I remember meeting with my high school counselor my junior year and being told that being a doctor and traveling for work were not compatible. I felt like I was forced to make a life choice and figured if I chose to pursue optometry, at least I would be insanely wealthy and I could travel leisurely on endless vacations whenever I wanted—such were the thoughts of a high school student with a glimmer in her eye. So many inaccuracies in those thoughts.
Over time, I was determined to continue to pursue both of my dreams but was not aware how I would be able to merge these two passions. Through the amazing profession of optometry, I have found this opportunity.
Choosing to seize this opportunity has made my life so much more fulfilling. When entering optometry school, I believed once I had found a good job, I would more or less stay put in a small community and devote all my time and energy to setting up a private practice and a family. Today, I have that dream practice and the best family, but the extent of my optometric influence has no boundaries.
It all started in optometry school. I took the opportunity to travel to the AOA and AOSA conferences. As the location of the meeting rotates annually, I was able to go to places in the US I had only dreamed of. Being from a rural town in Indiana, child to parents of modest means, travel to big cities happened only via TV. My mother was an immigrant from Thailand and I remember vividly the first time I traveled there to meet my extended family. It was surreal. I wanted more of that feeling.
Through school and industry grants, travel for students is a reality and the value of the peer-to-peer networking, vendor relations, world class education, and exposure to US cities was invaluable. Additionally, many of our industry partners offer programs to schools that allow students to visit their campuses to see hands-on what they do. I took the opportunity to visit Alcon in Texas and Vistakon in Florida, as I am sure many of you did. I am forever grateful to the hospitality shown to me by these corporations and continue to demonstrate my loyalty today.
My most powerful influence in optometry school was my travel to Nicaragua with VOSH. Traveling to a remote destination and helping underserved individuals solidified my determination to pursue both my passions. Finally, choosing my internships based on location allowed me to travel to other cities I wanted to explore. The choice to pursue my love of travel has extended long after graduation.
As optometrists, we have many affiliations to choose from and whether we attend conferences and seek education locally or across the world, I feel we are very fortunate to have an infinite number of these opportunities. On any given month, you can find an optometric educational opportunity being offered at phenomenal locations! Additionally, through the work of organizations like VOSH, Optometry Giving Sight, and other faith-based organizations, we have the ability to travel the world to share our skills with those that wouldn’t otherwise have access, and I feel a personal responsibility to do just that. Obviously, there have been many years when my children were young that made such travel infeasible. During those years, I chose to financially support programs that aided such efforts by others docs and students. Someday soon, I intend to have my children join me on such a life-altering experience abroad.
I know many optometrists that never leave their home state. I love that we have the ability to be successful and are never “required” to leave to earn a living or seek a good education. But for me, as I see it, traveling our country and our world is an often underestimated amazing opportunity – a gift – our profession affords us, and I am grateful for support of my family and practice that allow me to continue to pursue both of my dreams.
How has optometry helped you accomplish your dreams?