Following my passion for all sciences on the BSc Optometry course

Suman Kashif is a student on the BSc Optometry course at Manchester. Here, she talks about how she became interested in optometry, and the various opportunities offered by the course.

Why optometry?

I have always been interested in the sciences and how fascinating our bodies really are. I always stuck to studying the sciences – doing all three of them in high school and at A-level is where it all really began. I knew I wanted a career in healthcare, but I wasn’t sure exactly what career to go for. My college physics teacher was really helpful, and she told me to go for optometry because it’s related to all the sciences.

Suman in an optometry teaching room.

When I looked into it, I found it to be really interesting. Having gone to the optometrist for sight tests several times myself, I was already aware of the difference that they can make to someone’s vision and, ultimately, their life. Our eyes are one of the most important senses for connecting with the world. So, it is really important that we are able to preserve this gift that we have. I spent a good couple of months researching into this career path and decided that this was the one for me.

Why Manchester?

I wanted to go to The University of Manchester because Manchester is home for me. I was already familiar with the lively atmosphere and environment of the University, having attended challenges and open days myself. So, I knew that I would thoroughly enjoy my time here and not only be able to study, but also to socialise and take advantage of the full university experience.

Manchester is the only university that gives you early patient exposure from the first year. This really interested me as the main reason I wanted to do healthcare was to talk to and help patients, and the earlier I could do that, the better! The amazing facilities, friendly supervisors and excellent teaching all attracted me to this course and, honestly, it’s probably one of the best decisions I have made.

I have really enjoyed studying on the BSc Optometry course so far. The lecturers are amazing and made the transition from college to university really smooth for me. And they even provided enough support to accommodate the students who didn’t take all three sciences like me.

There’s so much more to optometry than just the degree, and there’s always research going on and changes in medicine that you need to be aware of. So, I love the fact that this is a career path in which you never stop learning.

Suman in front of a glasses display stand.

A lecturer who has always motivated me to take further interest in the field is Amit Jinabhai. He’s one of the most passionate lecturers I have had for optics, and he will always encourage you to make sure you do the most to preserve human vision. When you study optometry at Manchester, it’s not about just completing the degree. It’s also about being passionate and taking the initiative to learn – and continue to learn – in order to be the best optometrist after your degree.

Highlights of the course so far

My highlights include seeing patients in Year 1 (pre-COVID) and learning to use the slit lamp to look at the front surface and inside the eye. Looking through the slit lamp is so interesting, and it’s a really fun process. You go from not knowing how to use it and seeing absolutely nothing to seeing internal structures of the eye so quickly. And, of course, this is due to the amazing teaching provided by the supervisors and lecturers.

A further highlight was seeing cadavers in the anatomy labs in the first year. One of the courses you’ll do is Functional Anatomy, and you get the opportunity to see different structures related to the eyes yourself. So, it’s brilliant for visual learners and I really appreciated the opportunity to see, for example, the brain and skull in person, as these can be complicated structures to get your head around.

Other opportunities

I also took up the role of PASS Co-ordinator and PASS Leader in my second year. PASS stands for Peer Assisted Study Sessions, and it’s a scheme that supports first-year students in the transition to university. It is run by second-year students who have recently been through the process, and it’s in place to support the first years both academically and socially.

There are many roles you can take up, and a lot of them contribute towards the Stellify award that the University offers. I thoroughly enjoyed taking up this role and it not only boosted my confidence, but was also a great leadership opportunity.

My advice to you

My advice to current or prospective students would be to take up all the opportunities you are given and make sure you enjoy the university experience. You learn so much from new roles and responsibilities, and you also get the chance to build good relationships with the staff and network. In optometry, networking is really important, so make sure you try to do it whilst you have the chance!

Learn more about optometry at Manchester.

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