Trying soft contact lenses for the first time at the age of 14 was a transformative moment that forever changed Melody She’s direction in life.
I was born in Auckland and moved to Sydney 11 years ago to take up a job as an early career optometrist at 1001 Optical.
sometimes what a patient thinks is their primary reason for their eye exam may not be their most significant issue
Relocating to a new country was challenging. Initially I had only a few Kiwi friends who were also optometrists, and they were scattered across Australia. I knew I wanted to be more involved in the optometry community, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it or who to contact.
Fortunately, while working at Top Ryde, I met Carina Trinh, an optometrist who is now a dear friend and colleague. She was working in a different practice just a minute’s walk from ours, and we discovered that we had a lot in common. Carina introduced me to a group called ‘Young Optometrists’, comprised of newly graduated optometry professionals.
Being part of this group allowed us to network with other passionate young optometrists, and to participate in fitness and non-optometry related events like rock-climbing, City2Surf, and dining out. We also organized Continued Professional Development (CPD) activities and established a social media presence for the group.
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this group as it provided insight into the behind-the-scenes of CPD events. For more than three-and-a-half years, I was privileged to meet other optometrists and professionals in the optical industry, as well as ophthalmologists, on a more personal level. These experiences broadened my understanding of the industry and fostered lasting relationships that I continue to cherish today.
I didn’t fall into optometry – I have been captivated by the world of vision since I was a child.
Diagnosed as myopic when I was 10 years old, I have long understood the challenges and frustrations that can arise from impaired vision. However, it wasn’t until I tried soft contact lenses for the first time at the age of 14, as a moderately high myope, that I realised the profound impact optimal vision can have on one’s daily life, confidence, and overall wellbeing. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be on the other side of the equation; providing the same life-changing impact for others.
Having now practised optometry for 11 years, my patient base encompasses a diverse range of individuals, spanning from infants to 95-year-olds. Lately my younger patient base has increased, and I’ve been spending more time on their myopia management. I provide personalised treatment programs based on clinical evidence, visual needs, lifestyle requirements, desired outcomes, and budget.
Searching For Underlying Issues
Over the years I have realised that sometimes what a patient thinks is their primary reason for their eye exam may not be their most significant issue. And this can be where the greatest rewards are found.
I had a memorable experience with a patient who initially came to me with concerns about cataracts. During the examination, I detected a macula-on retinal detachment that demanded urgent treatment at Sydney Eye Hospital. Although it took some convincing, the patient ultimately trusted my judgment. He later expressed immense gratitude for preserving his vision.
Another extraordinary case that stood out from the norm was a new patient – a young mother who visited me with concerns about increasingly severe headaches and visual photopsias over a few months. I assessed her vision, performing a pinhole vision test, and conducting a thorough examination of her eye health to rule out any retinal problems. Although no abnormalities were found inside the eye, a visual field test revealed a partial left homonymous superior quadrantanopia.
Realising the urgency, I immediately referred her to Sydney Eye Hospital.
Approximately six weeks later, she had an appointment with a neurosurgeon who successfully removed a brain tumour. The patient expressed deep gratitude for the timely intervention. This case served as a reminder that not all migraines are simple migraines and highlighted the importance of remaining vigilant and screening for other potential causes. Interestingly, this is the fourth or fifth time I have been able to diagnose brain lesions, emphasising the critical role of visual field tests in our practice.
Optometry is not merely a profession to me; it is a lifelong journey focussed on making an impact on individuals’ lives by enhancing their vision. I am excited to continue this fulfilling path, one patient at a time.
Melody She graduated from Auckland University in 2012. She practises at 1001 Optical in Ryde, Sydney.