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HomemiprofessionScience, Art & Community: Finding the Sweet Spot

Science, Art & Community: Finding the Sweet Spot

Balancing a role in an expanding optometry group with giving back to the community, is incredibly satisfying.

With a passion for science and art, my idea of fulfilling work lies where they meet.

I began my career in a private practice specialising in contact lenses. For three years, my typical day was working with patients with keratoconus and corneal grafts; fitting hard contact lenses, minisclerals and orthoK. We were often the last port of call for those patients, and I learned that fitting tricky corneas was as much an art as it was a science. Playing an important role in the care of my patients, and solving complicated problems, was incredibly satisfying.

After three years, what had begun as a steep learning curve was beginning to plateau. I found myself at a crossroad and had to ask the question – do I keep pursuing this niche, or do I branch out and explore?

I believe that a deep understanding of people, culture and context is crucial to providing good healthcare

I chose the latter. I packed an 11kg backpack and left for Sri Lanka in search of yoga. I was fortunate to connect with the Sri Lankan Optometrists Association (SLOA) prior to my arrival in their country, and, as a consequence of our discussions, was invited to deliver seminars on contact lenses and optometry in Australia to Sri Lankan optometrists. I also stumbled into a job managing a yoga eco-retreat in rural Sri Lanka. It was here that I first experienced the inequality in eye care between urban and rural regions. Unlike Australia, there is no regulation around optometry in Sri Lanka. Inconsistent standards of care, and poor access to care, are aspects of optometry that SLOA and other not-for-profit organisations are working to improve.


I returned to Melbourne after six months in Sri Lanka and began volunteering in the global health equality and innovation space. I also did a short course in ‘design thinking’ through the global design and innovation company IDEO. Design thinking is about creating products and services that place the human at the centre of the design process. It teaches solutions-finding through empathy, experimentation and engagement with the humans for whom we are solving a problem. This methodology has influenced the way I think about healthcare. As optometrists, we have a unique opportunity to really get to know our patients. Asking good questions and staying curious about the human in front of me keeps my job interesting and rewarding.

I believe that a deep understanding of people, culture and context is crucial to providing good healthcare. I am currently working with a few charities and individuals to set up an eye care program in rural Sri Lanka. This process has been greatly influenced by Design Thinking, and I look forward to piloting it in 2019. The program will engage and involve the local community, as I believe that the best, most sustainable solutions are co-created with the community for whom we serve.


My return to Melbourne also saw me join Bailey Nelson. Bailey Nelson stores are beautiful and vibrant spaces filled with lovely people. There’s a strong sense of community amongst our staff, and we have a lot of fun at work! I thoroughly enjoy the culture and environment at Bailey Nelson, and I’m grateful for the flexibility I’ve received. Not only has the company been accommodating of my side projects, I have also felt supported in my multidisciplinary pursuits. Robyn Weinberg, Head of Optometry, and I bonded over our passion for self-sustaining eye care outreach, and she has been a generous resource and wonderful mentor for the Sri Lanka project.

Bailey Nelson is a young company and growing rapidly. We are expanding our local and international presence, and I’m excited for the opportunities that this will create – both personally, and for the industry.

I feel proud to be part of a dynamic company with an innovative approach to optometry and eyewear. Working for Bailey Nelson, I have found myself in a sweet spot between science, art and community.

Shay Zhang graduated in Optometry at University of Melbourne in 2012 and is passionate about people and community, wellbeing, health equality, socially and environmentally responsible business, and sustainability. Ms. Zhang works as an optometrist with Bailey Nelson in Fitzroy, Melbourne.