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How I got here

A passion for practice

AOP Awards Contact Lens Practitioner of the Year 2019, Bhavin Shah, on developing his own practice and advancing his interests in contact lenses and children’s vision

30 May 2019 by Laurence Derbyshire, Bhavin Shah

I have been wearing glasses since the age of 13 and contact lenses since the age of 17, so I had an interest in the sector before I began studying it.

Originally, I wanted to do something in the scientific and medical field and was planning on studying medicine. However, I began to explore other options when I was waiting to hear if I had a place and optometry looked interesting. When I applied I was given an unconditional offer so I decided to try it. I did some work experience in preparation and really enjoyed it.

When I started the course, I found that optometry provided a really good mix of medical, optical, biology, chemistry and physics.

I also really enjoyed the psychology side of the subject; how people make sense of what they see and how the visual system works is fascinating. I quickly developed a great passion for it.

I did my pre-reg with a small firm and it was a really interesting year.

I stayed with the company upon qualification and went on to help develop its pre-reg training programme, influencing over 50 optometrists in their training. I also supervised two of my own pre-regs, which I found very rewarding.

“Being a part of that as an optometrist is really rewarding as we use our knowledge and experience to make an impact on people’s lives and make them see the world in a different way”

I went on to become a practice manager.

This changed the way I practised because my role went beyond looking at people’s eyes and meant getting involved in the business, dealing with patients and staff. The company I was working for was then taken over by a multiple and I realised that my interests had changed. I wanted to take things in a different direction and realised that it was time to set up my own practice.

Being a practice owner has given me the freedom to practise how I want and allowed me to follow my own career path.

I opened Central Vision Opticians 10 years ago this year. From the beginning I developed my interest in behavioural optometry, as well as more specialised services and children’s vision.

Being a practice owner is completely different to being an optometrist, but it is very rewarding.

If you are setting up your own practice, it helps to have advice from people who have done it before. Beware that at times you will end up doing everything from cleaning, invoicing, staff and marketing, to generally being a leader. At times it can be a bit endless, but it’s also exciting. It’s not for everyone, but if you like that kind of challenge, it is a great option.

Bhavin Shah at the AOP Awards 2019
Bhavin Shah at the AOP Awards 2019

In 2014–15, I began to get involved with a few technology companies working with them to develop eye tracking technology and software to help people when they are choosing glasses as well.

In 2017, I had an opportunity to widen my scope of practice and started looking at contact lens technologies for myopia control. It was a new avenue of practice where I knew I could make a positive impact on people’s lives, not now, but in the future as well.

Contact lenses are an essential part of practice.

When fitting people with contact lenses you often have to take into account a lot of considerations. You must understand their visual needs, their expectations and their demands. What I enjoy the most is seeing people’s ‘wow’ moment when they have worn contact lenses for the first time; it’s almost like they have been given their sight back.

“Being a practice owner has given me the freedom to practice how I want and allowed me to follow my own career path”

Our visual system is so important. 87% of what we learn comes from our visual system – it is involved in everything, from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we go to bed.

Being a part of that as an optometrist is really rewarding as we use our knowledge and experience to make an impact on people’s lives and make them see the world in a different way.

Looking forward, I want to develop my work with vision and children, particularly in relation to learning and reading, and myopia.

Myopia is increasing and there is an epidemic. Optometrists have the tools and technology to be able to help those children affected and this will have an impact on them for the rest of their lives.

  • As told to Emily McCormick.

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