Dr. Soong, 30, works at a family practice clinic in North York, Ontario, as well as at a laser eye institute in Toronto, Ontario. She does research into new products like contact lenses and eye drops, as she finds that mixing up her routine with these different aspects of optometry make it much more interesting. She enjoys travelling and visiting art museums when she has spare time.
Stephanie: What made you decide to become an optometrist? How did you become an optometrist?
Dr. Soong: When I was looking into career choices, I actually wanted to be a flight attendant. But at that time, you couldn't be a flight attendant if you required glasses and laser surgery was not an option then. I decided to become an optometrist because of my own optometrist. He was always interested in what I was doing at school and asked about it whenever I needed to go in for a visit. In addition, he prescribed glasses and contact lenses for me which allowed me to enjoy school and all my extracurricular activities without feeling handicapped by my near-sightedness. I enjoyed my visits with him and thought it would be a great job to get to know people in the community and provide a medical service at the same time!
I became an optometrist by completing high school and entering the University of Waterloo Science program. While still in the Science program there, I volunteered for medical facilities, made some good connections with my professors there and still maintained contact with my own optometrist back home in Toronto. I also had to write a test called the OAT (Optometry Admission Test), which is equivalent to the MCAT for medical school. After two years of science undergrad, I submitted an application and had an interview to be admitted into the optometry program at the University of Waterloo.
Stephanie: What does an optometrist do?
Dr. Soong: An optometrist is a family physician for the eyes. We examine the eyes for any visual conditions and diseases. We not only prescribe glasses or contacts, but educate people about laser surgery to correct their vision and also regularly monitor the eye for problems like allergies, infections, glaucoma, cataract or retinal detachments.
Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Dr. Soong: I like all the components of my job. There is the medical component, which allows me to exercise the problem solving and scientific areas that I have been trained in to help people with their eye symptoms. There is the social component that allows me to meet new people and create new relationships with my patients and their family and friends. Often times, I can learn about other people's careers or about their family or just share a joke they heard that day.
There is also a fashion component that I like. I can give people my input about what type of eyewear would suit the look or style that they are trying to achieve. It's like trying on different outfits when you're at a store, only taking on and off the glasses is a lot faster. Lastly, my job allows me flexibility. Because my appointments are booked in advance, I can take off time by not making appointments on days that I want off.
Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Dr. Soong: Like any job, there are days when you wish you were on holiday! However, when you have to take away someone's driver's license because their vision has deteriorated or when somebody is not happy with the way that their glasses have come out, these problems tend to make you feel responsible and terrible inside, even though it's not your fault.
Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming an optometrist?
Dr. Soong: You need to have hard work and dedication. You need to work hard in your studies, yet maintain a good social attitude to be a good optometrist. You need to meet different types of people so that you can learn to understand their cultures or mannerisms so that you can better relate to them.
Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be an optometrist? What kind of education did you get?
Dr. Soong: You need to go to an university that offers an optometry program. In Canada, there are currently only two such schools: the University of Waterloo in Ontario and the University of Montréal in Québec, which offers the courses in French. You require at least two years of an undergrad science program, which should include physics, biology, chemistry as well as math, English and psychology. Then you need to write the OAT and submit references, as well as go through an interview with the admission committee.
Stephanie: What is your favourite colour, and why?
Dr. Soong: My favourite colour is green. When you look at green things, it makes your eyes relax in accommodation and makes you feel more peaceful. That's why I encourage people to play golf!
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