Just months into his career, Dr Shuwen Yu is already changing lives by providing thorough patient care.
When I was a high school student, in my final year, I found myself sitting at the back of biology class struggling to concentrate or see the detail of what was happening on the white board in front of me. Noticing my struggle, my biology teacher suggested I have my eyes tested. I didn’t realise it at the time, but that experience would become a defining moment in my life, setting a pathway for my career.
This small gesture was huge for me. It reminded me there was meaning to my work
My first pair of glasses were a simple slim, black wire frame with a -0.50D single vision distance (SVD) prescription, but they changed my life. The world around me became vibrant for the first time in a long time. I was able to do so much more and see so much more.
Fast forward three years; I was finishing my Bachelor of Science degree deciding what I was going to do in the future. I knew I wanted to do something that helped people, but I wasn’t sure what that might look like. By this point, my prescription had changed to -3.50 SVD. I remember looking at my glasses and reflecting on the impact that they had on my life. I wanted to be able to do that for others.
So, I researched the options and enrolled in the Doctor of Optometry course at The University of Melbourne, which I graduated from just a few months ago.
In my short career to date, I am surprised that I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I would.
A Sinister Diagnosis
I moved 1,500km from home into a regional town by myself and started my first full time job at Specsavers in Grafton, in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. I am in a great team and have been introduced to nice people and the way the graduate program is set up at Specsavers has really supported me to be my best.
Last month, I won my first award in optometry – the Dame Mary Perkins Award – for delivering exceptional patient care. I won it after detecting a pituitary adenoma in a patient after the patient mentioned they were being treated for migraines by their local general practitioner and hospital. There were no ocular signs of anything that may have caused headache, but just to cover all bases, a visual field test was performed, and it turned out to be more sinister than what I had expected. Urgent referral was sent outlining what it could be, and the diagnosis was made by the doctors as a result.
To be honest, I didn’t realise the impact of what I did for this patient. I was still in the mindset of a graduate optometrist focusing on what I could be missing rather than what I did for my patients.
It was a little over one month later, when I received a plant with a card from the patient saying, “Thank you for your persistence”. This small gesture was huge for me. It reminded me there was meaning to my work and it helped me change my mindset from that of a student to one of a healthcare professional.
Now, I’m constantly reminded that what we do – day in, day out – can significantly impact our patients. Being able to spend my days assisting patients to see more clearly, or working with them to prevent vision loss from an eye condition, is incredibly rewarding.
Another memorable moment I recently had was seeing a 32-year-old patient for his first ever eye test. He was on disability support and was a -10.00 myope who had never had clear vision in his life. The best I could do was refract his vision to 6/60. I was there when his glasses arrived. It was the first time in a long time that he was able to see his mother’s face in a relatively clear manner. When he put on his new glasses, his smile was one I will never forget.
So where to from here? My future is exciting, and I am thankful to be in a job that makes a tangible difference for people. I would love to speed up my career and become an Optometry Director of a Specsavers store in the next couple of years, which would allow me to be in a leadership position while still practising optometry and caring for patients.
But no matter what ends up happening, I know I will love it.
Shuwen Yu OD is a first year graduate optometrist practising at Specsavers Grafton.