Kyra Stretton is president of the University of Melbourne Optometry Student Society for 2016. She is committed to uniting optometry and allied health students and is aiming for a future of providing quality eye care in developing countries.
By Kyra Stretton
Having been a year-level representative for the past three years, I have worked closely with each UMOSS committee and am excited to be taking over the role of president in 2016.
I am really passionate about collaboration between the allied health professions and I believe that patients receive better, more holistic care when we work together. Optometry gives great insight into the overall health of a patient and we have a lot to offer the health-care field, but can also learn from other disciplines. I intend to encourage multidisciplinary events where students from different courses can meet and form these connections before we enter the workforce.
Networking with optometry students from other universities, either online or through social or educational events, would create a community of enthusiastic young individuals with common aspirations: to transition into graduate life, contribute to the profession, and grow and support each other in this journey. These Australia-wide links would especially be of benefit when considering the various interstate locations many new graduates travel to for employment.
I hadn’t considered a career in optometry until mid-way through my undergraduate degree, when I visited a friend’s clinic in Geelong and sat in on consultations. At the time, I had a big interest in the structure of the brain so I was immediately excited by the type and scope of problems the optometrist had to face, from refraction to diseases and disorders of the visual pathway.
After settling on optometry, the decision to put The University of Melbourne as my first preference was easy. I completed a Bachelor of Biomedical science at La Trobe University majoring in biochemistry and medical science, and commenced the Doctor of Optometry in 2013. I chose the Doctor of Optometry because it was the first postgraduate course of its kind in Australia, so I could build on the knowledge I already had and wouldn’t have to waste time relearning foundation studies.
The clinical training begins early in the course, which was important for me as I’m pretty hands-on. The university also has its own clinic with specialty subclinics incorporated such as the cornea, contact lens, paediatric and glaucoma clinics, as well as the Royal Melbourne Hospital ophthalmology clinics. Finally, I was excited by the idea of an international four-week placement in final year. In the coming months, I will be returning to my birth city of New York for the overseas internship.
My advice to first year students is to expect to think outside of your comfort zone. Coming from a background of mostly biology and little maths and physics, I was confronted with many abstract theories that at first I struggled to grasp. It took many hours discussing these concepts with friends and pondering them before stepping back to approach problems from a different angle, in order for it all to ‘click’.
Whether your area of difficulty is biology, pharmacology or neurology, you will be confronted with new and challenging topics. Be patient, organise a study group and be prepared to tackle such problems with a different way of thinking. It’s OK to not understand everything at once. After many hours of theory, practice and patients, eventually it will all fit together like a puzzle.
Ultimately, I chose optometry because I find it fascinating and the field’s frequent scientific developments mean that I will be able to continue learning throughout my career. By improving people’s vision we are boosting their quality of life, which is something I will be proud to achieve. My goal is to work either in a rural setting to better understand the eye-care needs of Indigenous communities or as part of a multidisciplinary team in a developing country where I can provide ocular care to people who would otherwise have no access to it.