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HomemiprofessionOn Track to Make a Difference

On Track to Make a Difference

With a passion for advocating for, and promoting the optometry profession, Thalia Lim has volunteered her services and expertise Australia wide.

Contributing to the broader health sector is… essential if we want our profession to have a greater impact

I first became passionate about advocating for optometry as a second year student in 2016. At the time, I was conducting a study on dry eyes as part of the Summer Vacation Research Project during the University break. The project aimed to measure different treatment options for dry eyes and their efficacy, and I used social media to raise awareness and encourage people to participate in the study. As a result of the project I conducted, many participants told me they gained a greater understanding of their eyes.

That year, I also volunteered my time to participate in fundraisers for Optometry Giving Sight, which raises awareness about eye conditions that optometrists can diagnose and manage, and raises money to provide sight to those living in poverty.

My enthusiasm for volunteering grew and in 2017, I helped promote eye care by participating in a vision screening program for children at a local shopping centre. The vision screenings were an opportunity for me to give back to the community by providing children with basic eye care and reinforcing the importance of getting their eyes tested within a positive, nonthreatening environment. But it wasn’t only the children who benefited from this program. Parents and the broader community had the opportunity to observe and be reminded of the importance of regular eye examinations.

By the time 2018 came along, I was interested in volunteering my skills further afield and so I travelled with the Brien Holden Vision Institute to provide eye care to the rural communities of Armidale, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Inverell and Albury. The Rural Program, designed by the Institute, aims to provide eye services and spectacles to those who are unable to afford or easily access them – the examinations we performed were often in remote areas where consulting rooms do not exist. During that trip, I witnessed the detrimental repercussions of not having regular eye checks due to a lack of health professionals in certain regions. I also became cognisant of the need to advocate for more funding so that access to eye health in these areas can be improved.

Today, in my current role as a member of the Optometry Student Society executive team, I represent the UNSW optometry students, and work closely with students, staff, and various organisations to promote eye care. As a team member, I have organised and hosted various industry social and educational events, which have created opportunities for students to strengthen their knowledge and become part of the wider community. I have also made use of the Optometry Student Society social media page to offer tips and fun facts that promote our role as optometrists in a public space – social media has proven to be an effective tool to reach a wide audience. Most recently, I attended a Health Precinct Education Strategy Workshop, with a number of allied health professionals. The aim was for different disciplines to discuss various issues we face as health professionals, and to propose a strategy to build a health facility with infrastructure that provides and supports inter-professional collaboration. As the student representative for optometry, I was involved in developing strategies to educate allied professionals about the role of optometry in the health system, and how we can enhance the service they provide.

Contributing to the broader health sector is personally and professionally rewarding… it’s also essential if we want our profession to have a greater impact – I encourage everyone who can, to get involved.

Thalia Lim is a final year optometry student, working towards a Masters of Clinical Optometry at the University of New South Wales, School of Vision Sciences. Ms Lim was the 2018 recipient of the School’s mivision Prize for Social Engagement, which recognises students that show initiative in communication and a commitment to advocating for and promoting the optometry profession.