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December STEM Showcase - Sarah Oh Interview

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.


A: I’m an optometrist and I have a passion for wellness and nutrition. I share health tips on social media (Instagram: @TheHealthyEyeDoc) to educate people about how to prevent eye diseases and promote good health. I studied Biological Sciences and Nutritional & Nutraceutical Sciences in undergrad at the University of Guelph, did a Master of International Public Health at the University of Queensland, and finally completed my Doctor of Optometry degree at the University of Waterloo.


I love to be active outdoors, and love to travel and experience new cultures, cuisines, and sights. I also love to continually learn about different topics (outside of science and health care) through reading books and listening to podcasts.


Q: What is the earliest recollection you have of wanting to pursue optometry and who do you think helped guide you towards this decision?


A: Since I was young, I had always wanted to work in health care. The human body has always fascinated me; I’m amazed by the body’s ability to grow, renew, heal, and adapt. The eye is one of the most intricate organs in the body, and I liked the idea of being able to help people with their vision -- our most valuable sense. Clear vision is something many of us take for granted, but its ripple effects are extraordinary. We need our vision to be able to read, learn, and excel, and the ability to do these things determines our trajectory in life. I loved the idea of helping people with a simple tool that can allow them to achieve their highest potential.


Q: How do you believe we can inspire more young girls to pursue STEM and specifically, what advice do you have for those looking to pursue optometry?


A: Women bring a different perspective to the table that is so needed in the science and health care fields. Women are underrepresented in scientific/medical studies, and women’s health concerns are often not taken as seriously as men’s. By having more female doctors and scientific researchers, we can begin to change this male-dominated framework and find treatments that work for both women and men.


Q: What might people find surprising about your field?


A: Optometrists wear a number of hats. Not only do we need to have good analytical skills as a clinician, but we also need to have good people skills because we work with people of all ages (from toddlers to seniors) and all walks of life. We talk to dozens of patients a day, and the conversations I have with my patients are what make my day fun and enjoyable. Many of us are also small business owners who manage operations in the clinic. And lastly, it helps to have a good sense of fashion and fun due to the retail aspect of optometryglasses and sunglasses are fashion accessories!


Q: What challenges have you faced throughout your journey and how have you overcome these difficulties?


A: As a womanand particularly as a minority womansometimes other people (including supervisors or patients) don’t give you the same level of respect as they would with a male doctor/intern, and may even question your competence and decision-making, even if you are doing everything right. But you can’t let those negative incidents erode your confidence.


When someone makes judgments about me, I remind myself that it says more about them than it does about me. I know that as long as I work hard, consistently act with integrity, and keep the patient’s best interest in mind, then it doesn’t matter if someone has anything negative to say about me because my actions speak for themselves.


Q: What are your key tips for achieving a healthy lifestyle and work-life balance?


A: I prioritize my health and well-being because you cannot pour from an empty cup! I exercise first thing in the morning before I start my work day so that I can check that off my To-Do list right away; I find that it’s easier to make excuses to avoid exercise later in the day. I try to live an active lifestyle, and I also love to cook nutritious meals at home.


I used to be an over-productive person with a never ending To-Do list, but came to realize how important proper rest is. Now, I try to be fully present in the moment I am in, so that means giving my patients my best when I am in the clinic, and leaving work out of my mind when I am with my friends and family. And not feeling guilty when I’m not doing something “productive”! Rest IS productive because you are taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional health. By recharging your batteries, you can bring out your best, most vibrant self. It’s important to have boundaries between work and rest, and to realize that you are not defined by how much you can achieve.


Q: How has social media allowed you to pursue other passions outside of optometry? What is the biggest message you try to convey to your audience?


A: Social media has given me a platform to educate people about how whole-body wellness impacts the health of our eyes. People don’t often think about how these things are interconnected and related to their lifestyle and daily habits!


Nutrition and lifestyle have tremendous downstream impacts on our health and susceptibility to chronic diseases. I want to empower people to take an active role in their own health outcomes, so that they can have the clear vision, strong bodies, and bright minds they need to thrive and fulfill their highest potential.


Q: Has mentorship played a role in your journey? If so, how?


A: Having mentors to talk to and learn from is crucial for success. My professors, supervisors, bosses, and friends from different stages of my life have all had a role in my journey and I wouldn’t be where I am without their help. It helps tremendously to have people in your circle who support your dreams and genuinely want to see you excel.


You should always remain teachableno matter how smart you are, there is someone else who knows something you don’t. Have an open mind and always be willing to learn!

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