A to optometry

“The defining moment for me came unexpectedly”

Habeeb Rahman, final year optometry student at the University of Bradford and AOP Councillor, shares how a family experience led him to optometry as a career

Male student, Habeeb Rahman, wearing a navy suit with a burgundy tie and wearing glasses. He is leaning in to look through the eye piece of an optical instrument. Around his collar is a 100% Optical lanyard

How did you first become aware of the profession?

My introduction to the world of optometry was during the grand opening of an independent optician's practice, owned by a friend of my dad's. As I wandered around, I had the opportunity to dive into detailed conversations, ask numerous questions, and even try my hand at some of the fascinating instruments.

But the defining moment for me came unexpectedly. When my dad participated in a routine check-up, the fundus camera revealed a retinal haemorrhage. Witnessing first-hand the delicate blend of human expertise and advanced technology leading to such a precise diagnosis left a lasting impression. That day planted the seed of curiosity and passion in me for optometry, a field where intricate technology meets the goal of protecting and enhancing vision. 

Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?

My journey towards optometry began in an unexpected way, deeply personal and close to home. It was my father's diabetes diagnosis and his failing eyesight that sparked my initial interest in this field. Following this, I sought to deepen my understanding and engagement by undertaking work experience in an optometry practice. This experience not only enriched my knowledge but also reinforced my desire to delve deeper into this profession. It was a natural progression from there to securing a part-time position at a High Street practice, which solidified my decision to pursue this path.

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

At the heart of my aspiration to become an optometrist is the drive to prevent and alleviate eye-related health issues. More than just offering clinical care, I am drawn to the possibility of reaching out to often-neglected communities, like the homeless, who are unjustly deprived of essential eye care. The stark reality of this inequality troubles me and fuels my commitment to this field. Contributing to charities like Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP) has been an avenue to channel this passion, as demonstrated by our optometry society’s significant fundraising efforts last year.

What placements have you carried out, and what have you learned from your experience of optometry so far?

My journey in optometry has led me to having remarkable experiences, notably being recognised as a "rising star" in the Northampton Chronicle and being invited by Brian Tompkins to shadow him at his multi-award-winning practice. I was able to explore the advanced world of EyePrint prosthetics, a ground-breaking field in the UK for contact lenses.

My interest in myopia management also took me to Airedale Opticians, under the guidance of Mohammed Hafejee, to observe a pioneering myopia management device. These placements have not only broadened my technical knowledge but also fuelled my enthusiasm for the evolving technologies and clinical procedures in the world of optometry.

At the heart of my aspiration to become an optometrist is the drive to prevent and alleviate eye-related health issues


Do you have a career path in mind? What are your professional goals?

In the near to medium-term, my goals are centred around further specialisation, with a focus on obtaining professional certificates in medical retina and glaucoma. Additionally, becoming an independent prescriber is high on my list of objectives, as it would significantly widen my scope of patient care.

Looking further into the future, I envision a shift towards academia, drawing on my experiences from founding Optom Success, an online teaching platform. A role in education would allow me to consolidate my mentorship skills and also to continue to inspire and guide future generations in optometry.

What can you tell us about Optom Success?

Optom Success was born from a desire to support and elevate optometry students and pre-regs. Our team of accredited optometrists is dedicated to preparing future professionals for upcoming challenges, offering mentorship and high-quality resources. We're not just a resource but a community committed to excellence and success in the field of optometry.

Collaborative learning, prioritising wellbeing, and budgeting

What helped you settle into university or the workplace?

Seamlessly integrating into university life, and later into professional environments, was crucial. My top strategies involved actively participating in societies, which broadened my network and enriched my learning experience. Organising and being a part of study groups fostered a collaborative learning atmosphere. Above all, maintaining a growth mindset was pivotal, allowing me to embrace challenges and opportunities with an open and eager spirit.

Is there one thing that you wish someone had told you about optometry before you started?

Reflecting on my journey, I do wish someone had highlighted the importance of budgeting for essential optometry equipment. Understanding the financial aspects of procuring quality instruments early on would have been beneficial.

How do you approach balancing studying and work with socialising and making time for yourself?

Striking a balance between academics, professional commitments, and personal time has always been a juggling act. My approach revolves around prioritising tasks effectively, refining study techniques for efficiency, and never overlooking the importance of personal wellbeing and mental health.

Representing students at the AOP

Could you tell us about your experience as a representative for students at the AOP?

Serving as a student representative and now a councillor at the AOP has been an enriching experience. Initially, I was the voice for my university peers, even contributing at events like 100% Optical. As a councillor, I play an active role in pivotal discussions, representing student perspectives. These roles have opened doors to invaluable networking opportunities with esteemed professionals in optometry.

Is there anything you are looking forward to as an AOP Councillor?

In my role as an AOP Councillor, I'm eager to observe and contribute to the evolving landscape of optometry, especially with significant changes like the transition to a four-year degree programme and advancements in artificial intelligence. Witnessing and influencing these developments is something I particularly enjoy.

What piqued your interest in getting involved with professional membership bodies in optometry?

My passion for shaping the future of optometry also led me to represent students at the British Contact Lens Association and the College of Optometrists. I believe students often lack representation in our field, so advocating for ideas and changes pertinent to us is crucial.