Young Bermudian jumps into her career as an optometrist
At a time when it seems like most education success stories are coming from private schools — Wannita Benjamin is living proof that’s not always the case.
The 24-year-old recently graduated from medical school at Aston University, in Birmingham, UK, and started working as a full-time optometrist (eye doctor) at Vision Care in Hamilton in October.
Before that she attended Elliot Primary and Whitney Institute, then graduated in the top three of her class at Berkeley Institute.
She said it was a very exciting time in her career, but a little bit scary seeing she is so young. Nonetheless, she told
The Royal Gazette she was “absolutely ready for what was ahead” and admitted to being “very proud” of the accomplishment.
“I know my parents are absolutely over the moon and it’s really exciting and I am really happy about what I have decided and chosen to do because I feel this is the job for me.
“I wake up happy to go to work. It’s a part of me. I don’t feel stressed [out] coming to work, it just embodies my personality.”
Dr Benjamin first started wearing glasses at age six and said she was always curious about why she needed help with her sight and others didn’t.
“As I got older, realising I enjoyed my sciences and naturally liked being around people, I decided a career in healthcare was the way to go,” she said.
Then when she was 16-years-old, around the time she began wearing contacts, her optometrist Henry Simmons encouraged her to consider a career in the profession.
Dr Benjamin saw it as a challenge and said it peaked her interest in finding out more about the eyes and how they worked.
For the past four years she has interned during school holidays at Vision Care, under veteran optometrist Tony Siese.
Dr Siese said she “worked herself into it very nicely” and had a good manner and rapport with the patients.
Perhaps that’s why he has now happily taken a back seat at the office and allowed Dr Benjamin to take over the reins.
He said: “I was concerned about having to close my practice up, so it was a nice easy transition for her to come into the practice now.”
Dr Benjamin said it has been a fast and steep learning curve for her, but Dr Siese has been a good counsellor and “very supportive on the other end of the phone” when needed.
One of the most rewarding parts of the job for her is getting the chance to help people and being a part of their healthcare solution.
But the job also goes beyond that and they sometimes have to help patients with diseases like cataracts, glaucoma or even diabetes.
She said there were instances when a person might come in with a condition like bleeding at the back of the eye and nothing can be done.
“In those times you need to be truthful, but the worst part of the job is telling someone there isn’t anything that can be done.”
From there the job is just to make their transition as easy as possible, she said.
One of Dr Benjamin’s strengths is being able to relate to people; patients seem to understand that she has been in the same position with having to wear glasses or contact lenses.
She said she wants people to leave the office feeling comfortable and as if their concerns were listened to and addressed.
“Whether it be improved vision with glasses or contact lenses, [I want them to leave] feeling reassured about whatever it is that we discussed and advice given was clear and understandable and given in a fashion of understanding.
“Because some patients have had problems with medical doctors and people telling them stuff in a language they are not able to comprehend so relaying that information in a fashion everyone can relate to.”
Before starting at the office, Dr Benjamin took part in a 14 month placement in Perth, Scotland, which helped her gain greater confidence and clinical skills
“It sort of shapes you what kind of optometrist you will become,” she said of the experience. “That year tells a lot about you to yourself and to other people.”
While in the UK, she noticed some fundamental differences with how eye care was emphasised with posters all over the place. Bermuda isn’t like that, she said.
That’s why once she has gotten settled she hoped to go to the schools and speak on why having your eyes tested regularly is important.
Children beyond age five should be tested once every two or three years, while adults without any concerns should be tested at least once every three to five years until age 40.
After that age when sight tends to decline, they should be tested more regularly.
She said many things that are missed could be picked up with regular eye exams — like if the eye muscles aren’t working as they should or if people aren’t seeing colours properly.
Sometimes people only realise there is a problem with their eyes when going to see a 3D movie, she said.
Dr Benjamin credits her parents, Wanda and Graham Benjamin, with helping her reach this point of success.
“I have to admit they have always been very supportive,” she said. “They weren’t forceful parents or the type that were strict on me as you sit and do [your work], but I knew that they had expectations and they wanted us to succeed.
“I am the youngest of three and my sister is a nurse and my brother works and they just wanted us to do our best. It’s as simple as that.
“Having them as the back bone just drove me on. Whenever I needed help where they could they would give assistance [and] if not my mom got on the phone and found help from somebody.”
To make an appointment at Vision Care on Par-la-Ville Road, Hamilton, call 292-5461.