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Health: An eye for opportunity

By Josh Jennings

An ambitious optometrist has his sights set on extending his reach, writes Josh Jennings. 

OPSM optometrist Nishil Patel says the investments his employer has made into cutting-edge optometry technology in the past two years have changed the nature of his job significantly - in a good way.

Recently, he assisted a short-sighted customer by using a new piece of technology called an OPOS, which snaps parts of the eye that were previously difficult to capture.

"It's made it easier to diagnose certain eye diseases that we may have had difficulty diagnosing in the past when the technology wasn't there," he says. Patel, who joined OPSM in 2005, says optometry as an occupation is changing all the time.

"I think the [term] that sends out better messages is pretty much 'eye-care practitioner'," he says.

"Because ... it's become a lot more of a specialist role in terms of protecting eyes and detecting eye diseases. We're the first port of call."

Patel spends about 75 per cent of his day seeing customers. He spends the remainder helping shop-floor staff and offering a general professional opinion to people who arrive off the street with inquiries.

He began his career in England but was motivated to move to Australia by his perception that career options for optometrists in England were restrictive. "You pretty much just sit in the room all day and I didn't enjoy the conveyor-belt style of optometry they have in England," he says.

Patel says one of his career highlights is his involvement with the charity OneSight, which operates a series of outreach programs for disadvantaged groups.

The destinations Patel has visited for OneSight include Mexico and Ghana. He recently completed a trip to Doomadgee (in far north-west Queensland) to conduct an eyeclinic for its indigenous community.

"We've gone with the ethos that it's all great to treat something when it needs to be done but if we can prevent something from occurring in the future, it's a better option.

"So we're trying to provide this sustainable eye care to prevent, say, a simple thing like cataracts occurring when you're 30 or 40."

Patel's highest qualification is a bachelor of science (honours), which he completed at Bradford University in Britain in 2002. In the next two years, he intends to undertake postgraduate studies specialising in contact lenses.

In the longer term, his aspiration is to get involved with Luxottica's (his employer at OPSM) franchise system. OPSM optometrists have the option to franchise various parts of the store or the entire store.

"I think my next step as an optometrist is to make myself present in one store and I think the way I'm going to do that is via the franchise model. It's a way of getting my teeth stuck in and really developing the community around my work and really making a name for myself," Patel says. "Thinking long term, I want to be the main optometrist that everyone in the community goes to."

Published: 17 November 2012

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