By Elissa Koh,
Senior Daniel Chao is interested in one day running his mother’s optometry office, Christine J.J. Chao, O.D., as he considers pursuing a career in the field.
Chao’s mom was previously an optometrist for the Air Force for 21 years, and later started her own private practice for the past 15 years and counting.
Chao started occasionally helping out at his mother’s optometry office when he was younger. With his cousins, Chao would help inventory glasses and sort contact lenses whenever he was on summer or winter break. However, it was not until last summer when he started regularly interning at her office.
“Instead of working in the back, I moved on to working directly with patients using ophthalmic equipment during preliminary testing,” Chao said.
Chao did not always want to be an optometrist. Growing up, Chao dreamed of becoming a doctor like many of his other peers. However, he hit a roadblock when he discovered that he had an aversion to blood and needles.
“Optometry is a much ‘cleaner’ medical profession in that you don’t have to perform surgeries, clean people’s teeth or touch people too extensively/invasively. This and the fact that my mom was already an optometrist with her own practice has encouraged me to pursue a career in the field,” Chao said.
Although Chao is not entirely sure about what future career he is set on following, optometry is a job that he is heavily considering.
“My interest in wanting to pursue optometry was much more gradual for me,” Chao said.
As an intern for his mother’s office, Chao mainly performs preliminary testing where he runs a series of tests in order to evaluate each patient’s ocular health before the optometrist sees the patient.
“Though we are a small family business, there are still many ways I am able to gain experience as an optometric technician by working with the patients […] With all the specialized machinery and equipment that I work with, preliminary testing becomes second-nature to me and the tests I perform on the patients become easier as I practice them. However, even with all the repetition, my job never becomes boring,” Chao said.
Through his internship, Chao has seen personal growth, becoming less reserved and more open to meeting new people.
“Although this is slightly terrifying to me, I enjoy being able to interact with the patients […] Performing preliminary testing on people has helped me develop my communication skills in a professional setting,” Chao said. “Most importantly, I enjoy that I can spend my time in a place where I can enjoy what I do while simultaneously gain experience in a career that I hope to pursue later.”
To become an optometrist, Chao plans on getting his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular biology, and later his Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree “if all goes well,” he said.
During college and graduate school, Chao hopes to keep working at his mother’s optometry office in the future.
“I would like to join my mom as an optometrist at her practice and maybe eventually take over one day. But for now I plan on just taking on the future just one step at a time,” Chao said.