Final year student and AOP Councillor for undergraduate students, Laura Josephs, shares a personal account of someone who made a long-lasting and positive impact on her life
18 May 2023
Who is your inspiration, and can you tell us more about them?
My inspiration is my friend Amy Usher. I met Amy in primary school, and we grew up together. She was one of the popular kids: head girl, kind, friendly, and one of those people who it was difficult to find something bad to say about. We went to different universities but always kept in touch. I remember being so envious when she told me that she was raising money for a charity to help build houses for orphans in Africa.
Shortly afterwards in 2013 Amy was diagnosed with cancer. Following surgery and cancer treatment, I remember how she would tell me that she was determined to go back to university to study nursing. She just wanted to help people.
She passed away in 2015 and didn't get to live her dream.
Why did you decide to study optometry?
I wanted to find something where I could help people and interact with people, but also something that I found interesting and could progress in. It was an accidental finding at the time. I'd never even heard of an optometrist. When I started working at Newmedica I realised there was great possibilities if I went back to university to study optometry.
Can you remember when you first met Amy and what were your first impressions?
What attributes do you most admire about her?
Some people would have been angry at the world after being diagnosed with cancer so young. Amy wasn't like that. Amy was so positive, and grateful for all the opportunities she had following her diagnosis. She was thankful for all the people who she met. I remember her describing herself as 'lucky' and I was thinking how is it possible to be this optimistic? I think it was her gentle soul and kindness that gave her this exceptional way of looking at things. Amy left this world after making it a better place for every single person she met and I feel blessed to have known her.
Did they play a part in your university experience studying optometry or shape your career choices?
Amy had passed before I went back to university, but she still plays a role in my decisions. I'm not a religious person, but every now and again I feel like someone is guiding me and opening doors that I don't think I'd have found on my own.
Going back to university has been gruelling. Balancing working with studying, a pandemic, adjusting to studying from home – I had some moments where I thought I was going to throw the towel in.
Then I just remember how amazing it is that I even got this chance – a second chance. That's something Amy never had. So, I think about her, pull my socks up and remind myself how grateful I am to be where I am.
Amy always encouraged me to follow my dreams and enjoy whatever work I do. Life is too short not to enjoy it
Can you share one thing you learnt from Amy?
To take all the opportunities you have and be grateful for them.
What advice did she give you about your future career?
Amy always encouraged me to follow my dreams and enjoy whatever work I do. Life is too short not to enjoy it.
Is there anyone else that you would like to mention who has inspired you throughout your optometry career?
There are so many people that I am blessed to have met. Firstly, my twin sister, Chaz, and two friends, Hannah and Peter, who loaned me the money to go back to university.
When I was working for Newmedica, I met Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, one of the nicest people I've ever met, who made me realise how interesting optometry could be. I was lucky enough to be given a chance to progress with Newmedica in Gloucester. I had amazing support and training from the team there, clinicians, admin staff and management alike. I learnt a lot from the consultants there and I was trained by an excellent optometrist, Adam Wannell, who was really spearheading the capabilities of optometrists in private eye clinics.
I also met Christelle Busset, who was a great mentor and I often find myself wanting to mimic her achievements and "be more Christelle."
Newmedica gave me a lifeline whilst I was studying, allowing me to work in various sites and enhance my skills. Since then, I've been able to work with fantastic teams in different private hospitals including Optegra and SpaMedica brushing shoulders with people who have helped me grow my knowledge and experience.
It would be impossible for me to leave out the lecturers who helped me develop as an optometrist, Andy, Amit, Fiona, Phil and Carole – just to name a few. Their passion and enthusiasm to teach optometry students is almost infectious.
Last, but certainly not least, the incredible optometrists (and consultants) that I have had the chance to learn from whilst on my MSci placements have really shaped what I aspire to become one day. The depth of knowledge amongst them is astounding and I feel honoured to have had a chance to learn from them. A huge thank you goes out to Paddy, Rachel, Kevin, Amy, David, Peter, Andrew and Debbie for taking the time to answer all my silly questions.
If you could help to inspire someone, what words of advice would you offer?
Take all the chances you're given and be grateful for them.