My inspiration

Home is where the heart is

Optometrist and wellbeing life coach, Sheena Tanna-Shah, talks to OT  about how she first met fellow optometrist and husband, Piyus Tanna, and why he is her personal and professional inspiration

Sheena and family

Who is your inspiration?

My greatest inspiration is my husband, Piyus Tanna, who is also an optometrist and dad of our two girls.

Can you remember when you first met Piyus and what were your first impressions?

I met him at university 19 years ago, I was going through an extremely difficult period struggling with depression and anxiety and finding it hard to settle into my studies. At school I had been a grade A student during my GCSE's and A-Levels, so going through this tough period at university was very hard. Piyus was on my course and became an incredibly supportive friend, alongside another good friend, Tina Mistry, they got me through the year.

On our very first encounter I never imagined we would become good friends. He was very bubbly, confident and outgoing; I was very much the opposite. We just happened to start talking after a class and clicked. As well as being a good friend, giving me emotional support, Piyus was also a very good teacher. I very clearly remember not having a clue on some of the dispensing modules and Piyus would sit with me in the library taking the time to go through it with me.

The reason he has been such an inspiration in my journey from university to where I am now is that he has such a passion for what he does, with endless care, kindness, selflessness and patience


Why did you decide to study optometry?

I decided to study optometry after doing some work experience at an opticians. I knew I enjoyed working with and helping people and it seemed like the perfect job. The work experience gave me a realistic idea of what was involved, and I loved every part of it.

Did Piyus play a part in your university experience or shape any of your career choices?

Piyus and I started dating in the second year. The reason he has been such an inspiration in my journey from university to where I am now is that he has such a passion for what he does, with endless care, kindness, selflessness and patience.

I had a very tough pre-reg with a supervisor who was only interested in sales and how many patients were seen. The learning and support needed during this time was not given. Coupled with my anxiety, I found this difficult. I would often turn up to work and consider running away. Piyus really helped me with studying, finding extra courses to go and being a great moral support. Without him it would have been a very isolating experience.

Sheena and Piyus reading
Optometrists Sheena Tanna-Shah and Piyus Tanna

Once we had qualified, I knew one of my other passions outside of optometry was in health and wellbeing. Wellbeing wasn't really heard of as being part of optometry back then and so Piyus encouraged me to further my knowledge with courses.

I began training as a life coach and neuro linguistic programming practitioner and continued to study many different therapies including mindfulness, meditation and rapid transformation therapy. Piyus always encouraged me to follow my dreams and it was great to have his support. Through hard work and new knowledge on people skills, communication, coaching and wellbeing, I had articles published in optical journals on how we are as individuals could impact optometric practice and the customer journey. From this I became part of the pre-reg team in Tesco, delivering modules on wellbeing. If it wasn't for Piyus, I would not have had the confidence to reach for my goals.

What attributes do you most admire about him?

The attributes I admire the most are his ability to always do things without fear or expectation. He pursues his dreams and gives them his best shot. Any setbacks or challenges he encounters are embraced and used to grow and learn. His ability to have this incredible mindset has taught me so much.

He never judges anyone, giving each person the benefit of the doubt, kindness and care. Working with him, in the same practice, this is so visible, and patients love seeing him year after year


Is there a field within optometry that he specialises in or that you think he excels in?

Piyus is a resident optometrist in Vision Express, secretary of the Northampton LOC and an assessor at the Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre. Prior to this he was an AOP Councillor, a pre-reg supervisor and tutor in practice and at university.

I think he excels in his people skills by making everyone around him, patients, students and colleagues, feel they are the most important person and that he has all the time in the world for them and their needs. He never judges anyone giving each person the benefit of the doubt, kindness and care. Working with him, in the same practice, this is so visible, and patients love seeing him year after year.

Can you share one thing you’ve learnt from Piyus?

Sheena and Piyus balloons
Optometrists Sheena and Piyus
His favourite saying: “Helping one person may not change the world but it could change the world for one person.” He lives by this motto and applies it to everyone he meets: patients, friends and family.

What advice has Piyus given you about your future career?

To keep going and keep trying, nothing is impossible but at the same time do everything with good intentions and zero expectation.

Is there anyone else that you would like to mention who has inspired you throughout your optometry career?

Eilidh Hodge who was leading the pre-reg scheme at Tesco recognised that as well as knowing the clinical and theory aspects of optometry, it was important to have a wellbeing module. She took me on board of the pre-reg team and we were able to deliver wellbeing and communication sessions to the students which they found beneficial and refreshing.

Jonathon Bench has absolutely inspired me, he is one of the nicest people I know, but also one of the most hard-working and smartest. His career continues to go from strength to strength. It was incredible when he gave me an opportunity to do some wellbeing work for Alcon, and deliver my first ever wellbeing webinar in optometry. He saw the benefits of how wellbeing could positively impact practitioners and having that belief gave me a renewed hope that I could continue my wellbeing work.

Neil Retallic, is another incredibly inspiring individual. I have watched him thrive in all areas and first met him when he was at Vision Express. We recently collaborated on an article about the importance of wellbeing in practice, and how having some wellbeing awareness as practitioners could really serve and support patients.

If you could help to inspire someone, what words of advice would you give to them?

If I could inspire someone, I would say follow your passion, embrace your perfectly imperfect self, grow, learn and do what makes you happy.

How have you and Piyus been affected by the pandemic?

My husband hasn't really been severely impacted by the pandemic having continued to work for most of it. I have been working part-time with some furlough periods. I also run a wellbeing company called Inspiring Success and launched my first book Perfectly Imperfect Mum during the pandemic so that has been keeping me very busy.