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HomemiprofessionOcean Swimmer to Optometrist: A Matter of Determination

Ocean Swimmer to Optometrist: A Matter of Determination

There is a lot in common between ocean swimming and optometry. For both, you need determination, resilience, a healthy sense of competition and commitment.

Before I started studying optometry, I would spend over 20 hours at the pool every week – rain, hail or shine. As an Australian open water swimmer, I even competed for Australia at numerous international competitions, participating in 10 kilometre swims.

The unique nature of being an elite swimmer taught me many lessons that I have applied to both the study and application of optometry.

If you lift each other up during training, in study or at work, then it helps the entire team do better


Ten plus years of spending hours in a pool each week has made me very good at prioritising what is most important. It’s taught me to prioritise the tasks with a pending deadline, but also to try to make time for the things that bring happiness to my life.


Often repeating similar skills over and over can feel tedious, as can swimming lap after lap. Focusing on the finer details of a technique, rather than just on the fact that I ‘practised volk’ has helped me hone my clinical skills.


Selection for swimming teams was increasingly competitive, as was doing well in optometry school. It is easy to become disheartened if you miss the mark but it’s important to reflect, remember and learn from the experience so that you’re better prepared for next time.


If you lift each other up during training, in study or at work, then it helps the entire team do better. It’s important to challenge each other, support each other and work with your peers.


To me, sport has emphasised the importance of caring for yourself first, to be able to better care for your patients. I make a conscious effort to surround myself with people who care for my physical, psychological and general health.

It’s also important to feel like you are part of something bigger.

I started my career at Specsavers Kippa- Ring as an optical assistant in 2015, while studying a Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Optometry at Queensland University of Technology.

During my interview, over a coffee, the store partners at Kippa-Ring (Alan and Katrina) shared with me their five-year plan to expand and grow their business. The trust they showed in sharing that with me, and the ambitious growth plans they had to expand their business, made me realise it was a journey I wanted to be part of – it was something bigger.

It’s been five years since then, and I feel privileged to have seen them grow from a single testing room to a four-room clinic, and I’m proud to have been an integral part of that progression.

Now, as I embark on my career as a graduate optometrist, I’ve decided to remain part of the Specsavers family, and part of the team at Kippa-Ring, as I continue to strive to be part of something bigger.

This decision to join the Specsavers graduate program stems largely from my upbringing, and my passion for accessible health care. I’ve seen the impacts of lack of care firsthand, through family members in Papua New Guinea, who suffer from treatable eye diseases due to their limited access to quality health care, and the cost of delivering services in regional and remote communities.

For this reason, I believe that cost to the patient should not limit access to eye care professionals or to the revolutionary new technology that has been shown to improve patient outcomes. I feel connected to Specsavers’ mission to eliminate avoidable blindness and can act on it every day in my new role as a graduate optometrist.

At this stage, I’m not sure where I want to go next or where I’ll be in five years. I know that I want to finish the two-year graduate program with Specsavers, but beyond that there are diverse options for specialty practice, volunteering and practice management, which all spark my interest.

It’s really exciting to have such a unique, diverse and developing field to practice in, and I know my experience both as a swimmer and a graduate will set me up for success no matter what I choose.

Emily Major graduated from Queensland University of Technology in 2019. She works as a graduate optometrist with Specsavers Kippa-Ring, Queensland.