Winner: Niraj Shah
University of Hertfordshire second year student, Niraj Shah, has already spent nine years in practice working as a dispensing optician. He shares that his first experience of the profession was one that motivated him to undertake further training. He explains: “When I began to work in practice, I learned how different each day can be, and knowing that I may have made a difference to someone’s life was truly satisfying and rewarding.”
He continues: “Having had a long journey with many obstacles to get where I am, this award is my way of proving wrong all those that never thought I would make it.”
As expected, Mr Shah has a high regard for the skills of a dispensing opticians, saying: “Dispensing opticians should be just as respected as an optometrist.”
During his first year, Mr Shah used his skills to help fellow students; facilitating group study sessions and assisting lecturers in dispensing lab sessions — despite having no requirement to attend.
Mr Shah is excited about using his skills in the future to help patients. Career aspirations include specialising in low vision and glaucoma, as well as opening his own practice, which he hopes will offer “the highest quality of eye care.” He also says that he would be interested in teaching: “Having provided support and training to colleagues and fellow students, I feel confident leading future generations with my knowledge and skills.”
When discussing his top tips for first year optometry students, Mr Shah says that making the most of the university’s resources is important, along with studying for exams early — arguing that it is harder to digest information at the last minute.
He also advocates creating and maintaining good relationships with lecturers and other students, adding: “These people will be there to help you when you need it.”
Finalist: Natasha Richards
The Aston University optometry student is involved in charity outreach projects both at home and abroad.
Natasha Richards balances her studies alongside working in practice and providing outreach services for Vision Care for Homeless People. With the ultimate aim of opening her own practice, she looks forward to working in the “ever-changing” world of optics.
Finalist: Matt Roney
Currently completing his pre-reg year at Moorfields Eye Hospital, Matt Roney aims to improve his patients’ quality of life.
Following his undergraduate degree at the University of Bradford, where he was the optometry sports representative and a student ambassador for the optometry department, Mr Roney is enjoying his first steps in hospital optometry. He hopes to achieve a full-time hospital position upon qualification.