Just prior to her thirtieth birthday, Jess Chi fulfilled a goal: to own her own practice. Jess, who graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2007, is now the director Eyetech Optometrists, an independent practice based in Carlton with a strong emphasis on contact lenses. She took over last year from founder Russell Lowe.
“I feel at home,” she says. “It doesn’t even feel like work.”
Jess is a self-confessed contact lens nerd. Her passion for contacts dates back to when she was shy teenage girl who hid behind her glasses. Contact lenses helped her to open up, and she became enchanted. She was proactive in discovering the latest contact lens technology, and even instructed her mother to switch optometrists as her optometrist was not keeping up to date.
“I knew all the contact lenses then on the market in high school, years before I even began Optometry,” says Jess.
Choosing a uni career pathway, Jess knew she wanted a career in health, and optometry seemed the obvious choice.
“I hated going to the dentist,” Jess says, “but I always enjoyed going to the optometrist. I wanted a career where as a practitioner, people actually liked coming to see me.”
‘Contact lenses’ was easily the subject Jess enjoyed the most at university. She was lucky enough to secure a graduate job with Richard Lindsay, a well known contact lens practitioner whose practice is among those who have set the pace for contact lens work in Melbourne. Her enthusiasm and excitement for contact lenses was obvious, and it was this that landed her the job.
Here, under the close mentorship of Richard Lindsay, she learnt anything and everything about specialty contact lens fitting and management of the anterior eye – from basic contact lens fitting to complicated rigid, hybrid, mini-scleral and ortho-keratology fits for all conditions including keratoconus, post-surgical and paediatric aphakia. Most of the topics were taught in university, however students were lucky to see these patients in clinical training, so it was a steep learning curve for Jess, but one she embraced wholeheartedly.
Jess says her interest has given her access to collegiate world: you meet another contact lens practitioner, says Jess, and you form an “instant bond”. She notes the group of optometrists practising largely or mostly in contacts are also cooperative and happy to share information and refer patients.
In fact, she never thought she would love her profession as she did. “My friends refer to me as the annoying one that actually loves their job.”
After several years in her graduate job, it was time to branch out, and she was keen to expand her skills and experiences. She considered whether an industry position would for her. But she realised she loved the patients, and the knowledge of the positive impact she could make in their lives and she knew she wanted to continue being a hands-on clinical practitioner. She realised she wanted own practice, and after discussing this with colleagues, she was pointed in the direction of Russell Lowe and Eyetech.
This story was originally written by Kristy Machon and first published in April 2015’s edition of Scope, the bimonthly magazine of Optometry Victoria.