Turning aspirations into a reality
Optometrist, Pretty Basra, talks to OT about the life-changing impact her A-level chemistry tutor had on her career choices, helping her realise her potential and pursue a career in optometry.
Who is your inspiration, and can you tell us more about them?Dr Dave Cox. He was my A-level chemistry resit tutor at Mander Portman Woodward College in South Kensington, London.
Can you remember when you first met Dr Cox and what your first impressions were?I had received my A-level results and they were nowhere near what I needed to get into optometry. I researched whether there were any resit colleges locally that could help with tutoring and enable me resit my exams.
This is when I met Dave. He was the first tutor I was introduced to. He asked about my aspirations, and I explained how much I wanted to be an optometrist; I had not considered any other option. He asked at the end of our meeting what grades I would want to achieve on the resit exam. I said I would be over the moon with a grade C. He shook his head and said, ‘no, you will get an A’ and you know what, I did. I went from a grade U to a grade A, in just one year. To this day I am gob-smacked that I did, but I will always say it was his teaching that got me there.
He told me to ‘have the courage of my convictions’ and he is the reason I am the optometrist I am today
Why did you decide to study optometry?
I have been fascinated with eyes from a very young age. My first memory, at roughly four years old, is being fascinated with a lady’s eye colour on a TV programme.
As I grew older that interest became a passion, especially after I was prescribed my first myopic prescription and I saw the difference wearing a pair of glasses made to my whole world. Wearing glasses and being able to see things clearly positively impacted my life through my studies, my appreciation of how blue the sky actually was, and that I could see my mum, dad and brother so clearly.
From that moment onwards I knew I wanted to help correct people’s eyesight and be a part of the patient journey. I experienced first-hand the impact of poor vision, and I knew I needed to be an optometrist.
Did he shape your career choices?
I truly believe I would not be sat here today in my practice working as an optometrist if it wasn’t for Dave. He was my inspiration. He told me to ‘have the courage of my convictions’ and he is the reason I am the optometrist I am today. He showed me that I can achieve great things if I work hard, persevere and give it my all.
What attributes do you most admire about Dr Cox?
His ability to believe in his students, even if they have failed in the past. He teaches his students to be the best version of themselves. He can also make a subject that is complex, and sometimes a little dull, exciting and doable.
Is there a field within optometry that Dr Cox finds interesting?
No, I don’t think Dave likes eyes very much. The only ‘I’ he is probably interested in is Iodine.
Can you share one thing you’ve learnt from him?
What advice did he give you about your future career?
That I can achieve whatever I put my mind to. It’s not the subject that is difficult, it’s the way you tackle it.
Is there anyone else who you would like to mention that has inspired you throughout your optometry studies or career?
When I was a second-year undergraduate optometry student, Dr Nicola Logan gave us a small practical to do on vision in children. This sparked my interest and from then on, coupled with my personal experience of poor vision as a child, I wanted to learn all I could about children’s vision. This led me to follow a career in hospital optometry and specialise in children’s vision at my own independent practice.
Working in an independent practice, what words of advice would you give to other optometrists looking to practice in this setting?
If you want to make a difference, explore different techniques, different specialisms and build relationships with your patients, then independent practice is for you. You have the freedom to implement an ethos and a customer journey that delivers what you want it to deliver.
He showed me that I can achieve great things if I work hard, persevere and give it my all