You recently returned from Alice Springs, where you were on placement as a student optometrist. Can you tell us a bit about this experience?
Travelling to Alice Springs as an optometry student was enlightening and eye-opening (no pun intended). Living in a remote area such as Alice Springs exposed me to a multitude of health issues, often not faced by those in larger cities with better access to education and facilities. Becoming part of the community allowed me to experience the culture of those who live so remotely whilst further developing my clinical skills as a health practitioner. Days off from work allowed me to travel out and explore the outback – from meeting local Indigenous people to hiking the stunning West MacDonnell Ranges.
What made you decide to undertake a placement in Central Australia? What do you think the value is in gaining work experience in regional and rural Australia?
My decision to travel to Central Australia for placement was based upon the experience I was hoping to receive – exposure to a wide range of clinical issues not commonly seen in urban towns, as well as facing the challenge of living remotely. By working in rural/regional Australia, I was given insight into the challenges faced by the inhabitants of these areas. Lack of education and resources play a major role in the incidence of diseases prevalent in these areas (for example, diabetes). I also enjoyed immersing myself in the area's culture – by living for an extended time in Alice Springs, and I was considered part of the community.
In what ways did your placement equip you for life after study?
Placement highly prepared me for life after study. As much as university prepares students for their careers, some skills you can only learn "on the job". The placement experience allowed me to see my own patients, and with the guidance of my supervisors, I learnt how to communicate more effectively about diseases and eye-care needs. I was also allowed to observe a range of doctors and specialists to gain further insight into how optometrists fit into the role of allied health practitioners.
How did a George Alexander Foundation scholarship benefit your time at university?
The George Alexander Foundation scholarship supported me greatly throughout my university years. These funds allowed me to purchase equipment needed for my career, as well as undertake volunteer work and lead other students in years to come through my student society. Moving interstate to study was a huge transition; without the GAF scholarship's support, it may not have been possible.
Congratulations on recently completing your degree! What comes next? Do you have any plans for further study?
Thanks! I have now accepted a graduate optometrist role with OPSM in Melbourne CBD and start in August 2018. I plan to complete a Master of Business after settling into my role, and hopefully further my optometric study by focusing on myopia prevention and contact lenses.