A to Optometry

“Vision is the cornerstone to experiencing the wonders of the world”

Ishvinder Bahra, Aston university graduate and pre-reg optometrist, on a winning presentation, and the experiences that have supported her progression in optometry

coffee, paperclips and laptop

When did you first become aware of the profession?

Ishvinder Bahra (IB): I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by optometrists in my immediate family so I had an interest in the profession from a young age. Having immediate family members who are successful owners of a private chain of opticians (Bansal Opticians) provided me with clear inspiration to pursue a career in optometry.

Ishvinder Bahra

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

IB: Vision is the cornerstone to experiencing the wonders of the world. My desire to dedicate and commit myself to being an optometrist was strengthened by the fact that the career path revolves around working directly with people, which was important to me, whilst developing the scientific knowledge I learnt in my degree.

How did it feel to win CooperVision’s FORCE 2021 competition? Could you tell us what your presentation was on?

IB: I am thrilled to be the winner of CooperVision's FORCE 2021 competition alongside my project partner Charis. It has been a fantastic journey. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet students from across the globe and interacting with the CooperVision board members. 

What placements have you carried out, and what have you learned from them?

IB: For the past two years, I've worked as an optical assistant at my local Specsavers, where I've gained a deeper understanding of the retail aspect of optometry, while observing the ins and outs of becoming a successful optometrist. I can appreciate how to work in a successful team dynamic at an optical store. It has been an extremely beneficial experience that has helped me to be better prepared and ready for my pre-registration year.

What are your career goals and what’s next for you?

IB: My career goals are to be a great optometrist, both in terms of exceptional communication and empathy skills, as well as ensuring that my clinical abilities are constantly on point, and to build a strong foundation with the patients and staff at my pre-reg store.

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

IB: I expect that balancing revision with testing patients will be challenging. I have prepared for this by working as an optical assistant while at university, where I learned to manage exam revision while being trained and capable of working in every department and facet of the store.

Having supportive friends will ensure you emerge from this unusual period with a sense of accomplishment and normality


How did the COVID-19 outbreak affect your course and how did you adapt?

IB: Due to the negative repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, our typical face-to-face teaching aspect of the year was cut short. It also meant that I was unable to test patients daily or receive the supervision that I would have received in normal circumstances. However, considering the extenuating conditions, I would like to express my gratitude to Aston University as they ensured that we were able to have as normal an experience as possible.

What have been some of the concerns students have had during this time? Do you have any tips to help students in maintaining wellbeing during?

IB: The most important piece of advice I could give someone is to reach out and speak to whoever they feel comfortable talking to, whether it's university officials or friends, if they have any concerns or struggles. Communication is critical. Having supportive friends will ensure you emerge from this unusual period with a sense of accomplishment and normality. Try to get involved in as many extra circular activities as you can because, while some of your communication may be online, you will still be able to engage with others and network, which is always a worthwhile experience.