This article is part of a continuing series featuring newly minted SCCO Alumni. For applicants, these stories should help you project yourself into your future in optometry and thus, help you develop tangible ways to talk about yourself and your goals in the interview. As you read this article, try to find elements of your own story within, which will help you find words and images to articulate and tell your story come interview-time.
So first up is Dr. Danny Ngo. Let’s see how he is doing as a new doctor of optometry:
Dr. Danny Ngo, SCCO Class of 2010, says he grew up “my whole life” in Southern California. He was born in Fountain Valley which is smack dab in the middle of Southern California, not far from the coast and its So Cal beaches. Dr. Ngo says, “Why leave So Cal? Where else can you go surfing one day, hiking the next, and then snowboarding on weekends?”
Starting in way back in grade school, Dr. Ngo loved science, which continued throughout his education: “As a student, I excelled in the sciences. This aptitude gave me a deep respect and appreciation for how science innovated and developed our modern society, progressively improving our daily standards of living. After speaking with friends and family with rewarding careers in the medical field, I decided to investigate the different avenues of scientific discovery in the healthcare industry.” Innovation, healthcare, rewarding career? Sounds like optometry!
Dr. Ngo attended UCLA for undergrad and it was during his time there that he was attracted to optometry as a healthcare profession. Shadowing
was the next step: “Eager to learn more about the optometric field, I decided that the best look into the profession and the healthcare industry would be a through shadowing at a private practice near UCLA.” It was through shadowing that he was able to get a hands-on experience making corrective lens and interacting with a diverse patient field. He was exposed to the day-to-day operations and inner workings of optometric practice. His shadowing experience turned into a regular gig where he learned to order frames and contact lenses, check eligibility of vision insurance, and pre-test patients using an auto-refractor. He was grateful for the experience: “I feel that this opportunity was a tremendous stepping stone into the vast field of ocular sciences. I believe my greatest gain was what I learned through interaction with patients. Through observing Dr. Doyle see patients, and with his experience of almost 20 years, I witnessed firsthand his thoughtful and compassionate interaction with patients. While observing his thorough communications skills, I was able to develop my own approach to communicating carefully with patients.”
Dr. Ngo explains why he has been grateful for making optometry his choice and appreciates that optometry cares for all-age range of patients: “There are a number of reasons why I love optometry. For one thing, I think that vision care is one of the most fundamental needs in all of healthcare. Everybody needs it and while many believe that it’s meant mostly for the over-40 crowd, there is a trend in vision care designed specifically for our nation’s youth. We see all age patients from the youngest to the oldest.” He enjoys the professional aspects of optometry as it widens its scope of practice through legislative action: “I also like how the scope of optometry is becoming more comprehensive. Optometry has been very aggressive in developing its role in the legislative arena to get these changes made. As a result, the modern optometrist can do so much more to provide great eye care to patients including glaucoma diagnosis and treatment.”
When he boils it all down, his favorite part of being an optometrist has to do with relating to people. Due to the nature of optometric care being non-invasive and fun to both administer and receive, he enjoys this aspect of patient care the very most: “One of my favorite aspects is the remarkable patient-doctor relationship. Unlike an urgent care clinic or hospital, trips to the office are routine, yearly, and free of anxiety. From my experience, patients are conventionally healthy, cooperative, and happy. Through this interaction, you get to know your patients on a much more personal level, which makes the routine, yearly visit seem to be more like a visit with an old friend.” Talk to most optometrists and you’ll find they agree with Dr. Ngo—seeing patients is a privilege and a joy.
Dr. Ngo enjoyed attending SCCO. He says, “SCCO is just great. For one thing, it is a small school. My class had only 98 students. This allows you to have a great relationship with your fellow classmates and future professional friends. The professors at SCCO are just amazing. Many if not all of them also work in SCCO’s on-campus state-of-the-art Eye Care Center where they not only teach you everything you need to deliver top notch eye care, but offer great insight into the field. They’re also very approachable and their love for the profession and teaching shows.”
When asked about some of the challenges he remembers from optometry school, Dr. Ngo replies, “The long days of school and clinic were challenging. Some days, you would start class as early as 8 a.m., have lab in the afternoon, work in clinic at night, and then still have to find strength to study.” Being in a lockstep program where all ones classmates have the same challenges helps when it comes time to encourage and support each other–Dr. Ngo agrees: “The long days can be physically and mentally exhausting; but being around great friends to share the experience with makes it memorable and fun.”
When asked to reflect back with words of wisdom about what he wished he’d paid more attention to during optometry school, Dr. Ngo confides, “ I wish I would have paid more attention to the classes in practice management. These classes show you valuable tips on how to be a successful optometrist/practice owner including things like how to write a business plan, how to negotiate a loan, how to layout an office, how many frames to buy, how to invest, and even how to train your staff. During that time in school though, I was so worried about exams and how to survive clinic and seeing patients for the first time. Unfortunately, practice management was not a priority. I wish I could go back in time and take better notes. Being out in the ‘real’ world, you realize that running a practice can be just as hard–or even more—than diagnosing an eye disease.”
Currently, Dr. Ngo is the managing doctor at an Eyexam of California in Orange County. He says, “I practice optometry in a primary care setting and strive to provide the best care and experience to all my patients. The benefit of Eyexam is the opportunity to run the office like you would your own. They provide you with leadership classes, books, and tips to grow your practice, conference calls to share ideas, and support when you have questions.” When asked to tell us more about his involvement with optometry, Dr. Ngo explains more about his service to others: “The most passionate thing I do right now is working with Onesight. It is an organization that goes around the world to provide eye care and glasses to those in need. Last year, I was a core doctor at a domestic clinic in San Diego where we saw hundreds of children. This November, I will be going to Thailand. The opportunity to give the gift of sight and truly change a life is something that I hope I will always be able to do.”
Work-life balance is one of the main benefits of being a doctor of optometry. This balance allows for time to spend with family, in pursuit of personal interests, and in service to one’s community. Dr. Ngo says it this way: “Optometry not only fulfills my career aspiration to promote well-being in the community, but it also provides me the ability to maintain a healthy family life. All modes of practice in optometry will demand my full attention, but from my personal experiences, the reasonable hours of patient care will allow me the necessary time and attention to promote a healthy family life which I deem very important.” Time for community service, a healthy work-life balance, and passion to practice one’s professional calling? That’s optometry!
Dr. Ngo explains that he is currently a member of the California Optometric Association and on the Quality Assurance Committee for Eyexam of California. He plans to be involved in optometry’s future by working to expand its scope of practice which can be part hobby and part professional service. Dr. Ngo says, “I love, love, LOVE to travel. I like to try new food, experience new cultures, and see new places. I try to do a short trip every 2 months and long trip 2 times a year. Recently, I’ve been on a National Park frenzy. Yosemite and Zion are my favorites. If I was not an optometrist, I would want to be an adventure tour guide! If I could, I would spend my days snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, and zip-lining.”
Thanks Dr. Ngo for sharing your story.