Shabnam Raji is an Optometry student at City University. She shares her experience of being a BCLA ambassador and attending her first ever BCLA Conference.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m a 2nd year Optometry student at City University of London. I chose the course as I found the optics aspect really interesting and valued the patient care involved with being an optometrist. A few people had recommended the course at City because it had a great department. Aside from optometry, I enjoy photography and am a bit of a film geek.
When did you first join the BCLA?
I joined the BCLA as a student member as soon as I started my course back in September 2016.
Why did you sign up?
I signed up because I wanted to be kept up to date with news from the contact lens industry, which was a lot bigger and active than I thought. But sadly I was also living up to the stereotype of a thrifty student perpetually in search of freebies - the BCLA offers free membership to undergraduate students which includes free and discounted events, publications and resources!
Has it lived up to expectations?
Yes, the resources available are very useful for the contact lens modules in 2nd year - I advise every undergrad to sign up! I have also recently become a BCLA ambassador which has been really exciting and an amazing way to meet so many influential people in the industry.
What are the biggest challenges facing the industry and how can the BCLA help tackle those issues?
Speaking as both a member of the public and now optometry student, I think public engagement would be a challenge that the BCLA faces. I don’t think many people are aware of how much useful information and news the BCLA has on contact lenses. Although this is changing and the BCLA is reaching a lot more people on social media, especially under the previous President Brian Tompkins who had a particularly vibrant personality.
As a student ambassador, how was your experience of the recent BCLA experience?
A few months into the role and I had already been invited to represent the BCLA as a student ambassador at the 2017 Clinical Conference in Liverpool. Meeting the other student ambassadors from optometry schools across the UK has been a fun bonding experience. The conference itself was a real-eye opener - it introduced me to different contact lens suppliers and listening to presentations from those at the forefront of contact lens research was amazing. The BCLA council were also incredibly friendly and accommodating throughout the conference!
Why would you recommend the BCLA to others?
It’s a helpful hub of information on everything contact lens related. Getting involved with the events can lead you to meet really interesting people who are often leaders in their field which is so important, especially early on in your career.