Optometry: Luke Burns

For optometrist Luke Burns (BOptom 2012), success isn’t about just meeting the standards of his profession, but far exceeding them.

Luke Burns_Optom profile

With an interest in science and a strong desire to make a positive difference in the world, Luke Burns was always going to create a career in health. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Optometry in 2012.

What drew you to a career in optometry?

I got into healthcare as I was interested in and good at sciences in high school. I thought I'd also like to work with people, so healthcare was a good match.

At the uni open day I attended, we toured the optometry clinical facility, then at the ACO. I was fascinated by the apparent scope of optometry; that there was a window to many more eye diseases and general health conditions than just vision correction.

Within optometry I'm drawn to glaucoma, and generally in picking up and spotting things that may be otherwise missed. Glaucoma is an asymptomatic disease with multiple risk factors. A clinician must both analyse a large range of risk factors and also convince the patient of something that relates to their vision, but that they cannot see.

I’m drawn to challenging scenarios, so glaucoma is probably a perfect little nutshell of what appeals to me.

What led you to study at the University of Melbourne, and what are some of your strongest memories?

I was drawn to the atmosphere of the campus and the image of an institution with a long and proud history. There was an appeal of something prestigious and grand and remote from the circumstances of my upbringing.

My strongest memories are probably more about the friendships that were made, and the non-academic experiences we had.

Who or what motivated you at university?

I found several of our lecturers inspiring in the way they went about their teaching, their passion, compassion and integrity. They reflected ideals that I saw as ones I wanted to follow, aspire to and uphold during my career.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

Firstly, reaching a level where I felt truly competent as a clinician. While that may sound mundane, what I view as competent is far and away surplus to industry requirements. And, I believed then and definitely believe now that you don't learn things properly until you have to do them yourself.

Secondly, having a role advising and mentoring younger optometrists. Seeing that you have made a difference in their development is very rewarding in a way that is perhaps even more significant than just helping a patient, which I can probably brush off as 'just doing my job'.

What drives you to do your best at work?

My driving force comes from a deep desire to try to make the world a better place and an empathy for people born from an understanding of how difficult and challenging life can be.

With that in mind, along with a passion for my career and a belief that it matters, I try to get the most out of every eye test for every patient.

What advice do you have for current students?

Put the patient first. You have to be strong in their principles and ethics, and hopefully strong enough to be part of a change for the better.

What’s next for you?

My next goal is probably the long-term one of working my way towards owning my own business.

I can envisage working in collaboration with ophthalmology and hopefully breaking some new ground there; perhaps starting my own eye-care only practice without the glasses sales or starting a collaborative venture into a teaching or outreach clinic in Tassie, where I have recently moved.

I’d love the opportunity to gain some power to change my industry for the better, either holistically or just by controlling one little corner of it to spread some positive influence beyond the individual patients who come to see me.