AOP Awards

“Contact lenses are an exciting space for practitioners”

Contact Lens Practitioner of the Year, Bhavin Shah, on myopia management, the importance of enabling children to wear contact lens and staying ahead of the curve

Bhavin Shah

I felt surprised, elated and energised to win the AOP Awards Contact Lens Practitioner of the Year accolade.

It is such great recognition both from the industry and my peers, and also from the public. It makes everything we do feel worthwhile and I feel motivated to achieve even more. 

I became an optometrist by accident.

Initially, I did not have a place at university and decided to help out in an optical practice as an assistant. This led me to pursue optometry, eventually securing a place at the University of Manchester. As soon as I started the course I knew it offered the perfect mix. I like helping people and I wanted to do so in a healthcare setting. The course brought together biology, chemistry and physics, and I am passionate about technology. Today I am just as passionate about how the eye works, but I am increasingly interested in how our brain works and how we make sense of what we see too.

This week I saw an 11-year-old boy who had refused to try contact lenses one year ago. When we put the lenses in his eyes, he could not wipe the smile off his face. It was joyous

 
 

I love the challenge of fitting contact lenses.

This includes understanding the science behind the technology: how they work, how they help people to see better, and working out which contact lenses best meets the needs of the patient.

One of my biggest passions is myopia control. Myopia is an epidemic, and I think children face risking their eyesight as they get older.

We now have contact lenses such as CooperVision’s MiSight that can help slow down the rate of change. Over the last two years I have been growing this business. It is now a driving force in my work in contact lenses. I suspect in the future it could become mandatory for children to be offered some form of myopia control.

I think contact lenses is an exciting space for practitioners, but it is more challenging than it used to be because contact lenses are becoming commoditised.

If patients only look at the price of products available on online contact lens suppliers’ websites, they may not appreciate the care provided by the practitioner who is able to choose the lens that is best for their needs. It is our responsibility to tell patients that contact lenses are great but need to be worn safely. We need to spread the word that it is important to get your eyes checked regularly.

The most rewarding part of being a contact lens practitioner is when a wearer puts their contact lenses in for the first time and suddenly they can see the world clearly – that is always a wow moment.

This week I saw an 11-year-old boy who had refused to try contact lenses one year ago. When we put the lenses in his eyes, he could not wipe the smile off his face. It was joyous. 

In terms of my next career goals, I plan to continue to promote myopia control – I think there is not enough public knowledge and information available currently.

I am also planning to promote the benefits of contact lens wear for children. They improve self-esteem and enable children to be more active – these are soft improvements that are hard to measure. I enjoy working in an innovative and disruptive space, and I plan to continue to stay ahead of the curve.

For more information on the AOP Awards 2020, visit the AOP website. Nominations open 1 May.