Optometrist focuses on people
Despite only having just under five years’ experience as an optometrist, Joe Chan Chi-hang already owns an optometry centre and two glasses shops which offer a one-stop eye service covering everything from eye tests to shopping for glasses.
“It has always been my dream to own a business. I began saving the moment I started my career as an optometrist. In 2010, I founded the IVISION Optometric Centre,” says Chan, who graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2008 with a degree in optometry.
After graduating, Chan worked for two years at a glasses shop and then at an eye clinic. “My shop experience taught me how to serve customers and run a business. At the clinic, I further enhanced my skills in doing eye tests,” he says.
As parents become more concerned about the health of their children’s eyes, Chan has many appointments with children. Putting them through the various tests, however, is not easy. “Kids, especially young ones, are less able to express themselves, making it hard to carry out the eye tests. They also have a hard time staying focused. So instead of asking them to read out letters or numbers, I give them patterns. I also use specially made coloured tools to help them concentrate while I’m doing tests,” he says.
The job of an optometrist is the first line of defence against eye problems and helps customers spot trouble early. “People don’t tend to visit hospitals regularly for eye check-ups, making it important for optometrists to detect problems and refer them for medical assistance if necessary. We are the gate-keepers against eye disease,” Chan says.
He foresees a bright future for optometrists as Hong Kong people become more concerned about the condition of their eyes. “People no longer just have tests for short-sightedness. They will also look into other aspects such as pressure in the eye and the risk of cataracts. This creates a huge demand for optometrists, and with only around 30 graduates entering the market each year, there is an abundance of job opportunities,” he says.
However, although local people are better informed about eye health than ever before, Chan still thinks that the attention they pay to the subject is poor in comparison with countries such as the US and Australia, where optometrists are allowed to prescribe drugs to help customers improve the health of their eyes.
“In Hong Kong, the law does not allow optometrists to prescribe drugs, even though students receive training in this area at school. I hope that in the future, the role of optometrists can be expanded in the way it has been in some developed countries,” he says.
Chan advises those interested in pursuing a career in optometry to be people-orientated. “Optometry is a ‘people job’,” he says. “Simply running eye tests is not enough. You have to learn more about customers’ lifestyle habits to give them the best solutions for maintaining their eye health. You need to be an excellent communicator and have a lot of patience the patience to deal with them.”