My inspiration

Three inspiring women

Locum optometrist, Priya Morjaria, talks to OT  about three women who have inspired her throughout her optometry career


Wembley-based locum optometrist, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and head of global programme design at Peek Vision, Priya Morjaria, shares with OT how her mother and two ophthalmologists helped shape her life and career.

Who is your inspiration and can you tell us more about them?

I have met many people throughout my career that have inspired me to do what I do today. I have also been blessed that every time I have had to make a difficult career choice there has been someone there to help guide me. There are three women that I can confidently say have really inspired me: my mum, Dr Daksha Patel, and Professor Clare Gilbert.

Why did you decide to study optometry?

There are a few reasons why I think I decided to study optometry. As a young child, I grew up in Tanzania and I have vivid memories of my grandfather, who was bilaterally blind, due to a cataract surgery that didn’t go well, combined with glaucoma. I only learnt this much later in my life. I am sure that being around him as a child, I was very much subconsciously influenced by that and the fact that I was a high myope by the age of six with very little access to regular quality eye care and glasses.

When I decided to pursue a Masters and a PhD, she was there every step of the way especially when many doubted my choice to not continue with optometry full time

Priya Morjaria on the support she received from her mother, Kirti Morjaria

What attributes do you most admire about the inspirational women you have selected?

Resilience, tenacity, and a passion to always learn something new are traits I most admire in my mum. She never went to college or had the opportunities that I did, yet she is always willing to learn new things and accept the things she doesn’t know.

Priya and her mother
Priya Morjaria and her mother, Kirti Morjaria
Dr Patel is an ophthalmologist and one of the first female Indian origin ophthalmologists in Kenya. Her determination against all odds to become an ophthalmologist, and sit at the table that was usually male-dominated, to bring eye care where it is most needed, and to help everyone around her, is admirable.

Paediatric ophthalmologist Professor Clare Gilbert has changed the way eye care is delivered in low and middle-income countries and has been my mentor for the past 13 years. She is a brilliant teacher, so patient, and will always give her full attention to anything she decides to do even if it means working way past 6pm and into the night to make sure things are done the right way.

Did they play a part in your university experience studying optometry or shape your career choices?

Absolutely 100%. There is no doubt about it. My mum was so determined for me to go to university and study optometry. When I struggled during my exams she would stay up all night to help me by running through mock exam questions for my Professional Qualifying Examinations. When I decided to pursue a Masters and a PhD, she was there every step of the way, especially when many doubted my choice to not continue with optometry full time.

Priya and professor
Priya Morjaria on her graduation day with Professor Clare Gilbert
In 2007, when I initially applied for the Masters, I didn’t meet the entry requirements. Dr Patel was the course director at the time and she was so supportive. She offered me guidance and helped with my application the second time around. I think if she hadn’t helped me then, I would not be where I am today.

Professor Gilbert took me under her wing and mentored me throughout my MSc and PhD and taught me about how to conduct research, good clinical practice, public health principles and how to build relationships that are respectful and understanding with everyone.

Is there a field within optometry that Dr Patel and Professor Gilbert specialise in or that you think they excel in?

Dr Patel and Professor Gilbert both work in public health and education – they are leaders in their field, and I have learnt so much from both women not just professionally but also personally.

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

When I think about these three inspiring women the one thing they have in common is that they are all amazing teachers and people. All three believe in sharing and passing on their knowledge in different ways. No matter who it is they are speaking to, they figure out what is the best way to understand their perspective and explain everything.

What advice have they given you about your future career?

I’ve received a lot of advice, but one that I live by every day is to always do my best. Focus on what matters, rather than worrying about the result or outcome of something.

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

My pre-reg supervisor, Sandhya Sharma, was brilliant to work alongside. I was always in awe of how she spoke to patients and colleagues in practice. Patients would leave her testing room knowing they had received the best care and that a sight test is an enjoyable and easy experience.

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

It’s okay to doubt yourself - as long as you believe in what you are doing it will be fine. It took me a lot of rejections before I was accepted to do a PhD, but it was worth it.