From A to optometry

More than ‘One or two?’

Third-year undergraduate at Aston University, Shoaib Ilyas, discusses putting his beliefs into action and overcoming the challenging concepts presented at university

Shoaib Ilyas

When did you first become aware of optometry? 

Somewhat surprisingly, I did not have my first sight test until it came to the time for me to consider what profession I wanted to go into. Growing up with no apparent visual problems meant I wasn’t really prompted to visit the optometrist. With the knowledge I have now, 16-year-old me would have got an earful. Having siblings who wear glasses, I thought that was the limit of the optometrist’s role, but when it came to shadowing different healthcare professionals for work experience (including dental practice), I realised how wrong I was.

What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?

When I realised how much can be achieved through a single sight test and that it was a lot more than ‘One or two?,’ I saw this career as an empowering one. Being able to work with people from all walks of life and doing what I can to improve their quality of living, mainly through their vision, is what made me want to become an optometrist.

Growing up as a Muslim, care and consideration for others was and is always at the forefront of what I am taught. I feel I have chosen a career path that allows me to put this all into action and help as many people as I can.

Who influenced or inspired your decision to go into optometry?

Being Asian, it is difficult to convince others that I am in such a profession for any reason other than having Asian parents. But with no one in my family in healthcare, I was given some freedom to go into whatever I thought I would enjoy doing. Or in other words, no one else made it in healthcare, so I had to do it. I excelled in science subjects throughout my academic career and always loved to work with people. I think it would be difficult for me to say there is any one person who influenced or inspired my decision to go into optometry.

My career goal is to be of the most benefit that I can be to the people around me


What are your career goals?

My career goal is to be of the most benefit that I can be to the people around me. I plan to undertake additional qualifications, but I am not currently sure what these will be. I hope to realise what these are after a few years of working and finding out what particular aspects of my job I enjoy the most. I also wish to come back to Aston University to support teaching in the clinics and to share my experiences with the next cohort of student optometrists.

What are the main challenges of your university course?

I think the main challenge of the university course is being introduced to totally new concepts that were, at first, difficult to understand. Often, the temptation to memorise something to pass an exam can overcome realising the importance of such knowledge. However, being able to see concepts applied in practical situations helped make sense of everything and with a good support system of lecturers and experienced optometrists in clinics, these challenges were made easy.

What are your expectations of the pre-reg year and how are you preparing?

I expect the pre-reg year to be a challenging one, but most definitely a rewarding one. I look forward to finally being able to ‘do my job’ – or at least try. After three years of study and reading textbooks about pathology and all sorts of conditions, I am excited to be in the real world, seeing these things for myself. In preparation, I am trying to maximise my last year at university, asking all the right questions and putting myself in situations where I will be exposed to things that will benefit me as a clinician and an optometrist.