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Why I Love My Career As An Optometrist

Optometry is one of the most gratifying health care professions with respect to the rewarding experience of improving the lives of patients.




MY CAREER AS AN optometrist has been consistently fulfilling and I can sincerely say, “I love what I do for a living.” The profession of optometry is one of the most inviting health care careers as it provides a good work-life balance and a strong job market. However, the aspect that I find most appealing is that optometry allows me to help people in multifaceted ways. As the oldest of three, I am always sharing my experience and guiding my younger siblings, which led to my passion for teaching being developed at a young age. Throughout optometry school, my residency in cornea and contact lens and my PhD in physiological optics, I have been motivated by the deeply rooted desire to help people.

Helping Patients

Optometry is one of the most gratifying health care professions with respect to the rewarding experience of improving the lives of patients. As a contact lens specialist, I have the privilege of dramatically changing vision just by fitting a tiny piece of plastic onto a patient’s eye.

My ability to help my patients, however, goes beyond this instant gratification. In 2022, I established the Myopia Management Clinic at Ketchum Health, the interprofessional health care facility that is connected to Marshall B. Ketchum University. The clinic allows me to work with children and utilize therapies to slow down the progression of their myopia or nearsightedness. The long-term goal is to prevent vision impairment and ocular disease for these myopic children in the future. Being able to help children in this way is profoundly rewarding, as I have high myopia myself and understand the risk of ocular consequences. Not only am I able to work with children to save their vision, but I am also able to address the concerns of parents. As a new mother, I understand the impact that this has, and I feel fortunate to play a role in their child’s care.

Helping Students

I would not be in the position I am in without the many mentors I have had along the way. Mentorship has been one of the defining gifts of my life and I now have the privilege of serving as a mentor to the students I interact with in my role within academia. As an optometrist, I can pay it forward and help shape the careers of young optometry students. There is a theme of camaraderie within the profession of optometry, where individuals see it as an honor to be a part of a larger legacy of service, to the profession, to their colleagues and to those who are beginning their journeys. At Marshall B. Ketchum University, we foster meaningful connections among our students, as we know that such connections will support them throughout their careers.

I have seen this happen in my own life. Not only did my mentors help me succeed in my courses, clinical rotations and research endeavors, but they created opportunities for me to network within the broader profession where I encountered numerous optometrists willing to share their time and knowledge. Now, investing in relationships and mentoring optometry students allows me the chance to both continue this legacy and to thank those who helped me. It is one of the aspects of my career as an optometrist that I cherish the most.

Professional Opportunities

Many students have the misconception that optometrists must go into practice and provide patient care all day, every day. However, there are so many different avenues that optometrists can take to help others beyond this narrow view.

Optometry as a profession has, in recent years, become increasingly integrated with other health care specialties, particularly in hospital settings. This has opened up many doors for optometrists to care for different ocular conditions in challenging environments. Optometrists can also choose to help others somewhat more indirectly by pursuing a career on the industry side of the profession, conducting research and developing products and treatments that their colleagues will use to care for patients. As a clinician-scientist and optometrist, I try to help my students understand the importance of research not just for our profession but also as another career pathway since evidence-based research helps to guide the practice of all optometrists.

About the Author

Dr. Erin Tomiyama is an Assistant Professor of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University (MBKU). She is a Southern California native and completed her undergraduate degree at UCLA. She then earned her OD degree from the Southern California College of Optometry at MBKU. Dr. Tomiyama went on to complete a cornea and contact lens residency at the University of Houston College of Optometry. During residency, she was introduced to clinical research and decided to pursue an MS, then PhD in physiological optics. She has developed a passion for myopia management and is involved in the contact lens clinic at Ketchum Health. Her research areas of interest are myopia, optics and astigmatic corrections. Dr. Tomiyama is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and a two-time Ezell Fellowship recipient.



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