"Providing a voice for my fellow students and colleagues is something I value greatly"
Second year optometry student, Indy Ghuman, tells OT what he enjoys about being on the AOP’s student committee
What stage of your career are you currently in?I am in my second year of optometry at Aston University. I am also currently an Association of Optometrists’ student committee member and course representative for Aston University - discussing contemporaneous issues within optics such as the Education Strategic Review and optometry apprenticeship. When not at university, I have been working part-time as an optical assistant, helping to serve my local communities’ eye care needs.
When did you first become aware of the profession?My secondary school organised a careers event attended by alumni. I remember having a conversation with Paul Cottrell, a specialist optometrist and independent practice owner, where I discovered the variety of avenues that optometry could take you down. In one day, you could be fitting complex contact lenses in a specialist scleral lens clinic or playing a key role within eye care governance. I was intrigued by this diversity, coupled with the fact that through shared care schemes and revolutionary technology, primary care optometry was going to provide a clinically challenging environment to learn and grow.
I also had the privilege to learn from Tulsi Parekh about her role as a hospital research optometrist, which motivated me to grasp every opportunity I could to observe research within the university setting. These successful individuals played a key role in introducing me to the optometry profession and I will always be grateful.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?Volunteering with visually impaired children during an expedition to Tanzania in Africa became a pivotal moment for me. I encountered children suffering from a variety of eye diseases, some preventable, and also correctable refractive error. During this time, I was able to help out, as well as speak to and observe American doctors of optometry examining children and dispensing spectacles. I realised how fortunate we are in the UK. I also learnt about how the scope of practice is much different across the pond in North America. Spending time with these children and watching how their quality of life improved, inspired me to want to study optometry.
I was intrigued by the diversity [of the role], coupled with the fact that through shared care schemes and revolutionary technology, primary care optometry was going to provide a clinically challenging environment to learn and grow
What are your career goals?
I’m a strong believer that university is not the end for further study. I plan on obtaining further qualifications, such as the College of Optometrists’ higher qualifications in medical retina and glaucoma, with a long-term goal of completing a master’s degree. This is important for me so that I am not only able to equip myself clinically for the evolving nature of optometry and the changing role of an optometrist, but to provide my patients with the highest level of care.
Additionally, I have been working with the AOP through the virtual policy and student committees. The opportunity to provide a voice for my fellow students and colleagues is something I value greatly. I hope to continue my involvement with the AOP and other professional bodies throughout my career to help inform and shape the future of optics.
At some point I want to travel back to Africa to give back to the communities that initially inspired me. I would love to be part of a long-term sustainable change within the region’s eye care provision, perhaps by being involved in the training of healthcare workers.
What do you enjoy about being an AOP student representative?
I have really valued the ability to network with like-minded individuals from an assortment of backgrounds and experiences. We have been able to learn from each other as well as compare and contrast how the widening scope of optometric education is provided across all four nations of the UK, and use this to help form AOP policy responses to the General Optical Council’s Education Strategic Review.
I have relished the chance to bring forward innovative new ideas and to work with other representatives to help create useful content for student members of the AOP. Although I can confidently say that when I started this position the world and optics were in a completely different place, this emphasised the importance of our role to gather information from peers to make sure student voices are heard and acted upon, and that positive change is made. Recent student initiatives include the creation and distribution of university eye clinic posters to increase patient flow and the COVID-19 ask the experts page.
I’m a strong believer that university is not the end for further study
What’s next for you?
I’m currently making plans to travel to Sydney, Australia, on an international university exchange programme with the University of New South Wales (UNSW). This is something that I am incredibly excited for, as the scope of practice in Australasia is much more diverse than in England. UNSW also has an esteemed research portfolio and teaching faculty. COVID-19-dependant, I hope I am able to follow through with this.