Linda Lam graduated from QUT in 2015 and is now the principal optometrist and owner of Eyesquire Optometrist in Rockdale, NSW.
Linda started off working as a sole optometrist in a small practice but, after feeling stagnant in her role, she moved onto taking over an established practice to further her goals and passions.
Why did you start up a business and how did you go starting it up?
I started a business as I was feeling a bit stagnant in my current position and wanted to learn about what else was out there. At the time I had been at my first job for over a year and it was a small independent practice where I was the sole optometrist. My employer was in a different state and this gave me the opportunity to learn the foundations of how a clinic operates; how to build rapport with patients and grow the clinics database. Whilst working I acquired the skill of fitting ortho-k lenses and, after successfully fitting several patients, I became curious about different areas of optometry. This started my interest in behavioural and neuro-developmental optometry.
I started looking up ads on Optometry Australia for a role that would give me the opportunity to explore this area further. This is when I stumbled across a behavioural optometry clinic for sale which prompted me to send in an expression of interest and has led me to where I am today.
The practice I took over was already well established and did not require much additional preparation, besides learning the foundation of the existing business model. I was fortunate to have my father guide me as he is an optical dispenser, he taught me the basics of dispensing and how to network with optical suppliers. My clinic was also an existing Provision member. As a member I was allocated a business coach who helped me transition from being an employee to an employer; this covered everything from questions about how to hire new employees, optical supplier negotiations and marketing.
Should I take over a business or start brand new?
I think there are both pros and cons to taking over a business and starting brand new.
From my experience taking over an existing business provides you with an existing database of patients. This makes starting out much easier as your books can be easily filled which can help stabilise the business quite quickly. However, the transition to you as the new optometrist can be challenging, as you must build rapport and trust with existing patients. The cons that I’ve experienced is that an existing business will have its own model and structure. Existing staff have been trained in certain ways that can be hard to change. Implementing change that works for you can take some time but the bones of the business have already been set up for you, which can make taking over an existing business easier.
Being able to start a new business and to grow something of your own from the ground up, with your own personal touch and finishes can be extremely rewarding. However, there are a lot of sacrifices and the first few years can be very tough.
Strong marketing and exposure are needed to make sure your clinic stands out from its competitors. You start off with no database and must work hard to build this. Location is also very important. Starting brand new also means learning how to train and hire staff, setting protocols and management in place to run a smooth clinic and networking with optical suppliers, just to name a few.
Whether taking over an existing business or embarking on a new venture, both will require significant amounts of trial and error. This is part of the process and is necessary for discovering what suits you best.
What are some key points I should consider when going from employee to employer?
Going from employee to employer requires a lot of sacrifices and risks. If you work for yourself there are no more sick days or annual leave days. Any day off is a sacrifice to your earnings.
As an employer the responsibility of the business and staff relies solely on you. Understanding financial management is important to sustain the business over time.
How is your work life balance as a business owner?
My work life balance as a business owner is much better now than when I initially started the business. I personally believe work life balance is what you make it out to be. You can have a good balance but you have to sacrifice financially in some situations. At this point in time I pick and choose my hours and when I want to take leave, comfortably knowing how this would affect my business and income.
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during your journey, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest obstacle I faced was taking over the role of the previous owner optometrist who had been there for 40 years. To this day I still have patients that the previous owner saw when he first opened. I experienced discrimination from my age, to my gender, I was often compared and questioned for my lack of experience and knowledge.
It did not go without a lot of mental and emotional strength as well as having self confidence in my abilities as a clinician. I was confident in my skills, I kept up to date with current literature, and took my time to really listen to my patients. I educated them and with time I built their trust, friendship and loyalty. I learnt that I didn’t need to fill someone else’s shoes, but to dig my own feet in the sand.
What advice would you like to give to all the YOs that are interested in opening their own business?
Don’t be afraid to try if it’s something you’re interested in. Do a lot of research and networking first to help guide you on your way. If you can, work in different clinics to gain more understanding of how clinics are run and managed, to learn what works best for you. Running your own business is a big commitment and something I only encourage if you find that point in your life where you’re looking for something more - keeping in mind it’s for the long run.
Aimy Huynh graduated from UNSW in 2023 and is currently working full time at an independent optometry practice. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, cooking and spending time with family and friends. Her favourite TV show is Friends and she love travelling to new places and eating lots of food!
Name: Aimy Huynh
Workplace: Eyesense Optometrists
Favourite Disease: Dry Eye Disease
What about Optometry really grinds your gears? (if any!):
When equipment malfunctions during the consultation!
What drives your passion for Optometry?
Seeing how grateful my patients are by helping them throughout their vision journey, whether it’s prescribing glasses, diagnosing a disease, or listening to their troubles.
Do you have any goals for your optometry career?
I would love to be an all-rounder optometrist, including excelling in fitting hard contact lenses.
Tell us about your journey as a new graduate optometrist!
Starting off as a new graduate was difficult and stressful as I realised it was very different to working at the university optometry clinic. I struggled the most on time management for consults, medicare billing, and learning how to prescribe glasses. Moreover, working on days where I was the only optometrist at the practice tested my ability to make clinical decisions on my own. Months later however, I feel more confident in my skills. I still have many things to learn, but I am willing to persevere to become a great healthcare practitioner. Seeing my patients happy with their care and having a laugh at work (with my coworkers and patients) has been a great reward in this career.
What keeps your sane outside of your work life? Do you have any hobbies or passion you pursue?
Dancing keeps me sane outside of work! It is what I look forward to most during the week. Also, spending time with family and friends whenever I can helps me to destress. I also enjoy cooking and eating lots of food too!
What advice would you give to optometry students who are about to become graduate optometrists in 2024?
My advice is don’t be too hard on yourself when you start working as a new graduate optometrist. Things will be difficult and stressful in the beginning, but remember that it is okay to make mistakes. Always be willing to learn more, regardless of how long you have been working. Preparation beforehand is also key to ensure you run on time during your consultations, such as knowing your medicare billing item numbers and looking at the patient’s spectacle record before they come in. Even doing simple things, such as removing trial lenses out of the trial frame from the previous patient, can save you time. Finally, it’s very important to have hobbies/interests outside of work so you can destress and enjoy your youth. You will do great and be proud of yourself for making it as an optometrist!
Student Year: Final year Optometry Student at UNSW
Favourite Disease: Glaucoma due to the varying presentations of how the disease can manifest as well as the array of different eye drops and management options we have available to manage the disease.
What about Optometry really grinds your gears? (if any!): Contact lens wearers who have bad hygiene practices scare me a little.
What drives your passion for Optometry? I like how optometry involves application of the clinical skills and knowledge you learn from university to the lives of real people. It is incredibly rewarding after a patient expresses their gratitude and appreciation for how you’ve made a difference to their quality of life and changed their vision for the better.
Something you discovered about the uni not everyone may know? Although all the supervisors at university have very different methods of teaching, ultimately, they have your best interests at heart and want you to become the best optometrist that you can be when you go out into the real world.
What is your go to place for food at uni? Stellini Pasta Bar and GYG at Lower campus.
Something others may not know about you: I’ve been getting into crocheting recently – my latest creation is a little crochet duck.
What song do you play that instantly lifts your mood? Ready to Fly by Sub Focus and Dimension
Ann graduated from UNSW Optometry in 2019. She previously worked in a corporate practice in regional NSW but has recently moved back to Sydney and is working at an independent practice. She enjoys paediatric optometry and is involved with an organisation that organises school screenings across the Sydney Metro region. After work, Ann runs an e-commerce business called Cloud9 Lashes, and sell handcrafted false lashes and lash accessories online. With a background in optometry, her products are aimed for those who are looking for comfortable, hygienic, and hypo-allergenic false lashes and lash glue.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I graduated from UNSW Optometry in 2019 and my graduating role was in Nowra, NSW. I love being outdoors and staying active, so Nowra was the perfect spot to enjoy hikes and swim at the nicest local beaches on my day off.
Now that I’m back in Sydney, during my time off work I’m either weight-lifting, hanging out with family and friends, trying out food places, and working on my e-commerce business.
What made you want to study optometry/be an optometrist?
I’ve always wanted to work in the health industry as I find it very rewarding to help out people. However, I am very squeamish when it comes to working around blood and watching medical surgeries so I decided on optometry thinking it would be the safest option.
Tell us about your business and what inspired you!
I initially started Cloud9 Lashes to solve a problem of my own. I wanted long lashes but didn’t like how hard it was to maintain cleanliness with lash extensions, as well as being unsure of the risk of harmless chemicals used in lash extension glue. However, disposable false lashes that I’ve tried were uncomfortable and heavy to wear, and didn’t suit my eye shape. Talking to my friends about this problem, they also experienced similar issues as well. Due to this, I created a collection of false lashes that are suitable for petite eyes as well as latex-free lash adhesive to make applying and wearing lashes easier and more comfortable.
Where can we find and follow your page?
You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok @cloud9_lash
Tell us about your typical day or week as a business owner? What do you find are the most challenging aspects and most rewarding?
I run the business by myself, so I typically work on it during my spare time. Typically, this would be after gym and dinner where I would work on creating social media and scheduling my posts for the week, as well as fulfilling and packing orders to be sent the next day.
The most challenging aspects is that creating an e-commerce on top of full time work takes up a lot of time, but I find it very rewarding as I am learning a lot of business skills, and I am able to be creative with marketing and social
Do you have any advice for young optometrists out there who would like to pursue their passion but haven’t quite gotten started?
My advice would be to do a good amount of research before you start, especially if you’re interested in making your passion/interests a business. It’s great to pursue what you love and jump in the deep end, however there are so many things to consider on the logistics/business side of things (eg. GST, tax, registering the business) and this can be a big time, effort, and finance commitment. Doing all this work before you start would help you feel less overwhelmed.
Check out CLOUD9 LASHES here: https://cloud9lashes.com.au/
Student Year: Final year optometry student
Favourite Disease: Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). In 4th year, it was my first encounter with a disease which had majorly impacted on a patient’s quality of life as well as their family members. It has stuck with me.
What about Optometry really grinds your gears? (if any!): When patients have an eye infection and don’t go to their follow-up appointments!
What drives your passion for Optometry? I am a storyteller myself and a sucker for good stories. I love learning about the interesting lives of the people I see in clinic every day. Knowing that what I do can have an instantaneous positive impact on someone’s life is beyond rewarding.
Something you discovered about the uni not everyone may know? Everything is there for you; all you have to do is take a step. Whether it’s making friends, exploring the societies on campus or scratching your head trying to understand lecture content, take that first step! You will not regret it.
What is your go to place for food at uni? The Coffee Cart. It’s a bit of a walk from Rupert Myers, but the coffee there is superior, and they also have delicious pastries!
Something others may not know about you: I am a stamp collector.
What song do you play that instantly lifts your mood? “Following the sun” SUPER-Hi x NEEKA
Minh-Tri Trang is a final year optometry student at UNSW.
Favourite Disease: Pachychoroid disease spectrum because it is interesting to see how the presentations link and multimodal imaging makes it more exciting.
What about Optometry really grinds your gears? (if any!): When patients decline that they’ve had eye surgeries in the past but you see IOLs on slit lamp hmmm.
What drives your passion for Optometry? Emphasising to the community that the profession is more about making glasses! Education of pathologies and management of eye conditions is an avenue I want to stress.
Something you discovered about the uni not everyone may know? Exams may be tough but if you put yourself in the shoes of learning to improve patient care, studying the hardcore eye conditions and clinical techniques becomes easier and more fun.
What is your go to place for food at uni? Stock Market at upper campus and recently Stellini Pasta Bar at lower campus.
Something others may not know about you. In another life I would be a fashion designer or baker. Latest project was a ball gown and 250 decorated cookies!
What song do you play that instantly lifts your mood? Outro: Wings by BTS
Lili Chen graduated from UNSW in 2018 and has very recently moved into an eye health project officer role at a not-for-profit organisation. Just prior to that, she was practicing full-time domiciliary optometry in nursing homes.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what made you want to do optometry: I have always known that I wanted to work with and have an impact on people. I liked how the study of science was translatable into our understanding of how things work. The happy marriage of these two led to my choice of optometry upon graduating high school!
Describe a day in the life of optometry in your current work setting: These days, my work is built upon an intersection of various areas of knowledge. As optometrists, we have a deep understanding of eye care (services, diseases, and systems). In my work, our focus is on Indigenous eye health, supporting Indigenous ophthalmologists, and the long way to go in creating culturally safe eye care systems.
Not too long ago, I was working in domiciliary optometry; more specifically, in nursing homes. This involved performing eye examinations for the elderly – prescribing glasses, low vision aids, ocular health reviews, GP or RN referrals, or recommendations. As everything is mobile, this really takes you back to first principles and requires an adaptable approach to cater for our elderly, less mobile, and less cognitive. Think applanation tonometry, trial frame refractions when needed, direct ophthalmoscopy, working with small spaces or in residents’ rooms, hand-held slit lamps, and more…
What are a few of the most interesting things you’ve learnt and would like to share?
Working within a nursing home for the first time was confronting but seeing firsthand the effects of cognitive and physical impairment (often compounded by visual impairment) and hearing the stories of our elderly was eye-opening and humbling.
We can understand a lot about someone’s vision and visual status without relying on subjective testing, which patients sometimes find difficult to accurately communicate. It is looking at the big picture – anterior and posterior ocular health checks, pupil testing, medical history, using different optotypes, retinoscopy, autorefraction, cover test, etc. All these techniques give us very useful information especially in cases of language barriers, advanced dementia, non-verbal patients, young children, etc.
Optometrists are extremely well-placed to advance eye care and public health as primary eye care practitioners. If we engage with our patients and the wider community, and appropriately diagnose, treat, manage, and refer, we can contribute to a health system that is high-quality, patient-centred, and outcomes focused.
Change is inevitable. As the optometry profession evolves, we too must evolve and adapt by constantly improving our clinical skills and knowledge and advocating for positive change in eye care and optometry.
What has been the most rewarding experience so far? The gratitude expressed by a patient, their family, or their carers when we can help them, even if it is in a seemingly small way.
Developing relationships with patients and hearing their thoughts and journeys is also really rewarding. It helps you appreciate how big the world is and how little we know.
Also, moving out to a regional city for work was really rewarding for me.. By getting to know my team and the community, it became a home away from home. I learnt to balance responsibilities and the slower pace of life was grounding.
What do you like to do in your spare time? I love the feeling of keeping active – whether it’s swimming laps (then sitting in a sauna afterwards), going for walks around my neighbourhood, playing badminton, or gentle exercises at the gym. Spending time with my family and friends is important to me. I also devote time to work and activities within my church (if that counts as spare time).
Chloe graduated from UNSW in 2019 and initially worked full-time in retail optometry in Canberra. After 2 years, she wanted to experience a different side of optometry so began working part-time in retail optometry and part-time at an ophthalmology practice. The ophthalmology practice is full scope, with a particular focus on refractive surgery and Dry Eye Disease.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what made you want to do optometry: As a high myope myself, I have always been exposed to glasses, contact lenses, orthokeratology etc. This industry had always been an interest of mine from a young age. Sight is such an important sense and knowing that I can help make a small difference to people’s life and health is truly rewarding.
Describe a day in the life of optometry in an ophthalmological setting. Working in an ophthalmology practice is generally very fast-paced and is varied each day, depending on which doctor is working. I assist them by doing the work-up, taking scans and doing visual fields, setting up for intra-vitreal injections, collagen cross-linking surgeries and LASIK surgeries. I am also responsible for monitoring patients after their surgeries whether it’s refractive, glaucoma, cataracts or others. Another part of the job is assessing patients’ eligibility for refractive surgery and taking care of dry eye patients.
What are a few of the most interesting things you’ve learnt and would like to share? Working at an ophthalmology practice, and one that is focused on refractive surgery, has exposed me to a variety of conditions that are not usually seen in retail optometry. Some are just small fun facts and others are lessons in patient management and treatment; below are a few.
LASIK involves a laser to ablate a certain amount of the cornea to correct for refractive error. If the patient is myopic, then the central cornea is ablated. If the patient is hyperopic then the paracentral cornea is ablated. When LASIK is done on a purely astigmatic prescription, the ‘pattern’ that is ablated is not hourglass like what you expect to see on a corneal topographer. It is actually rectangular in shape since all that is being corrected is the cylinder! It is visible under the microscope immediately after the surgery. The reason it appears to be hourglass on corneal topographers is the effect of averaging.
Misuse of contact lenses can lead to quite debilitating conditions, and not just scarring from corneal infections. Things like limbal stem cell failure can occur and the patient is left with impaired vision. It is important as primary eye health care practitioners that we educate contact lens wearers on hygiene properly and schedule regular follow-ups with them to prevent these things from happening to them.
Finally, not the most interesting but definitely most important, is to just listen to the patient’s concerns. The answer always lies in their chief complaint.
What has been the most rewarding experience so far? Being a part of the patients’ refractive surgery journey has been very rewarding. They go from needing glasses full-time to being completely glasses free after a surgery that only took 15 minutes. I also love that I get to know some patients really well, however it is bittersweet since they’re in so often because of some sort of pathology.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Living in a different city and being away from home has given me a lot of freedom to explore different hobbies like reformer Pilates, hiking, cooking and baking. I’ve made new friends that I’ve been able to explore Canberra with, through the good food and great hiking trails.
Student Year/Workplace: Final year optometry student at UNSW.
Favourite Disease: Glaucoma – every case is never the same and I like the challenge of deciding whether to treat or not.
What about Optometry really grinds your gears? (if any!): It's funny when you tell patients read the smallest line and they start reading the whole chart!
What drives your passion for Optometry? Being able to use my skills and knowledge to contribute to the world, one pair of eyes at a time.
Something you discovered about uni not everyone may know? In university you’re mentored by some of the best lecturers and academics in the world of optometry. This is a rare time where you will have access to a literal encyclopedia at your fingertips. Be a sponge.
What is your go to place for food at uni? I actually can’t answer this one but what I do know is that there’s 2 microwaves and hot water on level 2 if you ever want to heat up food or make tea!
Something others may not know about you: I like to go camping and hiking. The last major hike I did was on Mount Kosciuszko which is Australia’s highest mountain peak.
What song do you play that instantly lifts your mood? Baby Powder by Jenevieve always lifts my mood!
Favourite Disease: Keratitis, especially HSK due to its unique clinical presentation.
What about Optometry really grinds your gears? (if any!): When patients are noncompliant with treatments. I am one of them when it comes to warm compresses...
What drives your passion for Optometry? Since I was a kid, my goal is to contribute something positive to the world, and optometry allows me to do that. Simple acts like prescribing glasses can improve someone’s quality of life immensely. Optometrists are also capable of detecting and managing sight-threatening (and occasionally life-threatening) conditions which are amazing skills to have - and I wanted to be able to do that.
Something you discovered about uni not everyone may know? The friendships we build here can change our life for the better. My friends are my family in Sydney. Not only do we study together during the 5 years of our optometry degree, but we also lift each other up as we navigate through our 20s (which I think we can all agree is a very confusing time!).
So say hi to everyone, be kind and open to new experiences. You never know where it will lead you!
What is your go to place for food at uni? 'Stellini' pasta bar at lower campus and 'Laksa Delight' in upper campus. And Caffe Brioso (aka the Coffee Cart) for a quick pick-me-up!
Something others may not know about you: I do pole dancing and want to perform/compete one day!
What song do you play that instantly lifts your mood? High Hopes by Panic! At The Disco.