Our 'Unconventional Optometrist' column is where we chat to optometrists who are a bit out of the ordinary! Do you know anyone who we should feature? Let us know!
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a young optometrist who has made the leap to full-time journalism. She is truly a unique soul and a joy to interview, with an interesting journey from full-time optometry to journalism. Mimi strives to provide a voice to issues for the public good above all else.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I came from Vietnam to Australia when I was 7. I’m an only child but grew up with my aunt and uncle, and two cousins who I consider sisters. My parents eventually permanently moved to Australia later. I completed UNSW Optometry in early 2015. I chose optometry because I was raised in a family that valued healthcare. My cousins are doctors and dentists and I’m the only optometrist in the family.
How did you get into the world of journalism? How long have you been at it for?
I joined the Epoch Times because I was inspired by the paper’s mission—to report true, uncensored news. At the time, only news filtered by state run media were being reported out of China. I care about China because I saw there were a lot of human rights issues that were not being reported about. Epoch Times, on the other hand, was the first to report on things like the SARS outbreak when it was initially censored by state-run media. The paper later won an award for its thorough investigative reporting on organ harvesting in China’s state-run hospitals, at a time when the regime thoroughly denied the practice and when no other medias were covering the story.
I joined as a volunteer contributor in 2011 (second year university) because I wanted to be able to help in some way. The general news I was writing helped to support the work of other investigative journalists on the front line. Over time I saw that the paper was also reporting on other issues in other parts of the world that were being avoided or overlooked by other medias. We could report on these things because we are independent and not guided by profit or other interests. Our mission as a media has since evolved to “Truth and tradition.” I believe that people have a right to be informed, especially about the world’s most critical issues.Responsible journalism benefits society by empowering people with knowledge so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their communities. I came to realised that, even today, there is a void and a need for more news outlets to take on this role. I wanted to help fill that void.
I started to do journalism full time since April last year, but I’m still keeping up with optometry, in a locum role.
Tell us about your typical day at work
I’m currently on the web news team, which means we cover breaking news and trending news. While getting ready for and driving to work, I’m listening to the radio to get updated from what I missed out while asleep. At work I browse for news topics and help assign topics to writers. I’m also writing news pieces for the day; basically, my role is to constantly update the world on what’s happening. Sometimes I will call potential sources to ask questions or to ask for a short face to face interview with them. Generally for now, I’m working on the web news.
How do you keep up with the optometry world?
I am doing locum optometry. On my free days, or in the evenings, I may be attending CPD evens. I’m keeping updated with the news in the optometry world generally through browsing insight and mivision magazines, and other outlets via social media.
Do you have any goals for your optometry career?
Children’s vision has always interested me. My current goal is to learn more about children’s vision and related issues such as vision training. In the long term, I aim to continue to practice as an optometrist in any capacity I can.
It's easy to get stuck in the bubble of Optometry. What's something that you wish people knew about journalism?
Anyone, including you, can be a journalist. You don’t have to be working for a media company to be one. If you care enough about an issue you can report on it. What will make it a journalistic work is the intent and how you gather your information. Being a journalist means that you place the public good above all else (instead of your own assumptions or self interests) and that you are adhering to journalistic standards when you gather and report information (eg seeking out multiple witnesses/voices, telling as much as possible about your sources, and asking different sides for comment are some such standards). It’s what differentiates it from propaganda, advertising, fiction or entertainment—in the current media landscape the lines can blur between these. I’ve come to realise that some media companies, even some major ones, don’t serve people in this way anymore. So when we consume the news, we should all be vigilant and discerning.
What's some advice you would impart on a Young Optometrist seeking a career change?
There is so much you can do to help others with optometry, from solving their vision issue to simply bringing a smile to others every day through your sincerity and care, and that’s special, never forget that. If you can see how special this is you may even consider staying with optometry. Every job will have the fun aspects, but also will have the challenges and the mundane—are you mentally prepared to endure what’s to come? Don’t think the grass is always greener on the other side. Reflect deeply on what truly inspires you to leave to seek another path—if it still drives you, and you’re very clear and solid, go do it. If you really want to do it you will figure out a way, others will see your sincere passion, and doors will naturally open.
Otherwise, stay in optometry and do the best you can to benefit the world with your already acquired knowledge.
Where can we follow your work?
You can follow me on Twitter @miminguyenly