My advice to any current or prospective NYSF student would be to be confident, be bold and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way
Like most years, one of the most popular interest groups for the NYSF 2020 Year 12 Program is health and medicine! NYSF 2013 alumna Lowana Littlechild was one of the many students entering our program with this interest, but had a clear vision for her future as an optometrist.
"My name is Lowana Littlechild, and I am a proud alumna of the 2013 National Youth Science Forum, and returned as a student staff member for the following two years. Since my time at the NYSF, I have completed a Bachelor of Science (Vision Science) and Master of Clinical Optometry at the University of New South Wales, graduating in 2018. I am currently working as an optometrist in an independent practice in my home town on the North Coast of New South Wales.
The NYSF was especially eye opening to me, as I was a country kid from a small coastal town. Not many of my friends were interested in science, and I was always hesitant about my own passion and the stereotype of being labelled a ‘nerd’. The people I met and the world that the NYSF opened to me completely changed my perspective on what science and being a scientist really meant.
Interestingly, the NYSF had no impact on my specific choice of career path. I was set quite early on on pursuing a career in optometry, because I always had a keen interest in science but also liked the idea of working with the public and being able to help people in a healthcare setting. However, the NYSF still had a profound impact on me. Two key values I took from the NYSF and still hold with me today are to: 1. Take all opportunities that come your way, and 2. Seek out new experiences outside your comfort zone.
Following on from the NYSF and its valuable lessons, since graduating high school and then university I have continued with the mantra of seizing all opportunities that come my way. In my time as a student and now a registered optometrist I have experienced far more than I ever would have envisaged possible as a bright eyed student arriving at the NYSF in Perth back in 2013.
Throughout university I held several leadership positions both at the residential college I lived at, and through peer mentoring programs at the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.
In my final years of study I was selected to undertake a placement as a student optometrist with the Brien Holden Vision Institute’s Aboriginal Vision program, providing outreach optometry to indigenous communities. In 2017 I travelled to Western NSW, and in 2018 I was fortunate enough to visit remote communities in the Northern Territory. We conducted comprehensive eye examinations with limited equipment and provided spectacles to communities without access to health care as we know it in some of the most remote corners of Australia. The experiences, the parts of the country I saw and the people I met in these communities furthered my passion for providing healthcare and eyecare to rural, remote and indigenous Australians.
Since finishing university the mantra of seizing opportunities has not diminished. I am currently a member of the inaugural Early Career Optometrists committee in NSW/ACT - designed to cater to the diverse and unique challenges young optometrists face in establishing careers, and represent the views and needs of early career optometrists throughout the state.
My advice to any current or prospective NYSF student would be to be confident, be bold and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Talk to new people, make new friends, and be excited for the prospects your future career and most importantly, your whole life has to offer."