Julia is an Optometrist living in Brooklyn, New York.
What is your morning routine?
I’m up by 7:30 a.m. to give myself just enough time to get dressed, pack my breakfast/lunch and be on my way. I’m lucky because my commute involves a 10-minute subway ride followed by a 10-minute walk to work. I really enjoy taking those 10 minutes on the subway – in silence – with my coffee. No reading, phone or music (the morning trains are always full, but amazingly it’s the quietest time of the day). When I arrive at work there are always patients waiting to be seen, our first is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. I take a few minutes to eat my breakfast and we’re off!
Tell us about your career path
I am an optometrist, assistant clinical professor at SUNY College of Optometry, and assistant chief of the optometry clinic at an off-site hospital in Brooklyn. What is unique about my position is that I get to treat and manage patients with ocular disease alongside ophthalmologists at the hospital, as well as teach students and residents who are training to become optometrists. We have a busy clinic, and on an average day, we take care of simple requests like a new pair of glasses, to managing patients with glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and emergency eye care. Optometrists are often thought of as your “regular check-up” once every few years, but our profession has grown to be so much more. At the hospital, we are treating patients at the highest level that our degree allows, which is something I am proud of. I learn something new every day and get to see a variety of interesting cases. I have students who check-in with me for all their patient encounters, and residents who work more independently but still use me as a backup if needed. I love this aspect of my job because it really keeps me on my toes. My students ask excellent questions and we are constantly looking up new articles together. Any optometrist looking to work in a hospital or school-based setting needs a residency (for optometrists, it’s an optional 5th year of training, above your 4 years of optometry school). The great thing about the profession is the variety it allows. You can choose to work solely with children, contact lenses, glaucoma, vision therapy or a combination of all of the above.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
The landscape of our profession has changed from a mostly male-dominated field to mostly female-dominated. I think women tend to choose this career path because of the flexibility it allows. I have friends who work 40+ hours a week, some who own their own practice, and others who work a few days a week and choose to be at home with their children and/or pursue other interests. I work alongside a great group of intelligent and independent female optometrists and ophthalmologists at the clinic. Despite this, there are still challenges I have faced. For example, patients will often mistake me for a nurse rather than a doctor, I have been called “sweetie”, and they routinely ask my age. Given that I look young, and I am a female, patients are distrustful of my level of competence when we first meet and I feel the need to constantly prove myself to my patients and colleagues.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
I feel that anyone can be a doctor if they put in the hard work but in order to feel fulfilled you have to really WANT it. Of course, there are barriers to education such as socioeconomic status and race inequality, which are issues in and of themselves. But speaking of optometry specifically, it can be hard to know what path your life should take at such an early age in university, which means you need to do your research. Reach out to professionals, send e-mails, spend time shadowing and really decide if it’s something you could spend the rest of your life doing. Optometry is such a specific path, that after 4 years of undergrad and 4 years of optometry school, you want to be sure that you will have a life that makes you happy. No job is perfect, but you can do your best to make the most educated decision. I would say another very important piece of advice is to be nice. Be good to others and never push someone down for your own gain.You will prove yourself through your hard work and dedication and when it comes time for a referral or a new opportunity, others will remember you for being good.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
It can sometimes be hard, especially because my boyfriend and some of my good friends are also optometrists. It’s nice to have that community. When we have a complicated case or need a fresh perspective, we call each other for advice. But when we meet in social settings, we have a strict rule: no “eye-talk” for more than a few minutes. There is also a lot of learning that needs to occur outside of work. There are new medications and treatments coming out every day and as a medical health professional, it is your duty to know about them. That being said, I take my personal life very seriously. I make sure that I set aside time to do the things I love and spend it with the people I love. It’s important to me, to feel like Julia, profession aside.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by people who are open-minded and accepting of others. I am inspired by those who wish to open dialogue about world issues in an educated way. I am inspired by people who are not afraid to stand up for human rights. And most importantly, I am inspired by those who choose to protect our planet, we all could be doing a little more to help (myself included).
When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?
I enjoy playing pool, going to concerts and live shows, playing soccer with my team and reading books. I also love food; we enjoy cooking at home and also discovering new restaurants in the city. Right now, my current venture is a quest for the best slice of pizza in NYC.