Specsavers Stories – Maardavi Patel

When people decide to work at Specsavers, they’re joining a company with a purpose to change lives through better sight and hearing – hence why more Australians and New Zealanders choose the optometry provider over any other.

As one of the largest employers in the ANZ optometry sector, Insight sits down with an employee each month to hear about their growth trajectory within the company.

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Name: Maardavi Patel
Current position: Optometrist
Location: Specsavers Rouse Hill
Years within the business: 7.5

Why did you pursue an optometry career, and how did you enter the profession?
During high school, I was uncertain about my specific career path but I knew that I wanted to make a difference to people’s lives through some form of healthcare. I stumbled across optometry almost accidentally: I joined Specsavers as an optical assistant soon after completing my HSC. Through my various patient encounters there, I quickly realised that eye tests involved more than just glasses and that optometrists could make a real difference in people’s lives. For instance, one of the optometrists I worked with was able to pick up a brain tumour in a two-year-old baby and saved her life. So, soon after starting my role as an optical assistant, I decided to study optometry and vision science at university. As the years went on, my passion grew and I became more certain that optometry was the right career path for me.

How did you come to work at Specsavers, and what attracted you to the business?
I joined Specsavers as an optical assistant in 2016 after my cousin put in a good word for me with the store director. I had a few interviews lined up at the time with various companies and did some background research regarding their business model and history. What particularly attracted me to Specsavers is that its values were also centred around “changing lives”, which aligned well with my future career ambitions.

What was your first role within the business, and what did it entail?
In my first role within Specsavers, I did preliminary screenings (fundus photos, IOP checks, auto refraction) for patients in preparation for their eye tests. I was then trained to assist patients with their glasses – initially, this involved learning to fit, adjust or repair glasses for patients; it then progressed into advising them on frame selection, discussing lens options, ordering glasses and troubleshooting any concerns.

Since then, what growth opportunities have presented themselves?
Whilst studying optometry, many senior optometrists at my Specsavers store allowed me to observe and discuss interesting patients under their mentorship and provided me with the opportunity to practise skills that I lacked confidence in. After finishing my degree, I was taken on as a graduate optometrist at the same store and completed a paediatric optometry course through the Australian College of Optometry in Melbourne. After completing my grad program, I became a senior optometrist at the store and a member of the Early Career Optometrists’ advisory committee. I am currently working towards creating paediatric clinics within my store to improve the eyecare delivered to children and am heavily involved with in-store training to up-skill optometrists to more confidently assess children.

Can you outline your top career highlights since joining Specsavers?
One of the highlights was my first day as a practising optometrist – after working at the same store for five years as an optical assistant, I was now the person to perform the eye tests. Seeing the support and excitement from regular Specsavers patients and my colleagues and front-of-house staff on this day was definitely one of my most memorable days since joining Specsavers.

My other career highlights are centred around the various opportunities I have been offered in order to give back to the community, locally and internationally. I have been fortunate enough to volunteer with the rotary clubs of Unley and Dhulikhel to deliver eyecare to the remote villages of Nepal. I was also involved with delivering a presentation through the Fred Hollows Foundation to Pacific Eye Institute students in Fiji. I have also worked with my store directors in providing school screenings every year to a local primary school and been involved with preparing or speaking in some local CPD events for my fellow optometrists.

What is your most interesting clinical case? 
One of my most interesting clinical cases was of an eight-year-old boy who was returning for a myopia review after being prescribed atropine 0.025% eyedrops six months prior. He had previously been amblyopic due to strabismus and anisometropic myopia (R -1.00DS L -5.00DS) which had now resolved after full-time glasses wear and vision training. Although his prescription hadn’t changed at this six month review and his VAs were still equal between the eyes, I noticed that his optic nerves looked suspicious. Comparing to previous OCT scans, I could confirm that there was worsening of his C/D asymmetry (L>R) since his exam six months prior and he had progressive retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thinning in the left eye. I later measured his IOPs with non-contact tonometry and they were R 19mmHg and L 33mmHg; I confirmed this with contact tonometry (Perkins) and found the IOPs to be R 21mmHg and L 36mmHg. I referred him on to a paediatric ophthalmologist who confirmed a diagnosis of juvenile glaucoma and promptly started him on Azopt eye drops. His report explained that he likely had the glaucoma since a younger age and the pressure is likely what caused the left eye to elongate, leaving him significantly more myopic in that eye.

What excites you most about turning up for work each day?
Every day is an opportunity to make a real difference to someone’s life, whether it be by providing them with glasses, diagnosing a treatable condition in a timely manner or improving patients’ understanding about aspects of their eyecare. The 20 minutes in the test room can have lasting effects on the patients and their families and it really excites me that I have the ability to make a positive change. In addition to this, a significant proportion of my day involves seeing children because of my further studies in paediatric optometry. Paediatric eye tests can often involve unconventional techniques like playing with toys or ‘acting silly’ to make eye tests interesting and less intimidating for children and this helps break up the routine of a typical eye test and overcome their fear. Furthermore, seeing the children grow over the years I have tested them and working closely with their families is particularly enjoyable.

This article originally appeared on Insight.

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