Interview with Marek Karas
1. Your career in optometry: did you have an epiphany moment or was it always part of the master plan?
My mum was an optometrist and I followed in her path. I was not a model undergraduate student but was lucky enough to get a pre reg. post at Moorfields. That is when I realised the potential for optometry to provide a varied clinical career. My move to RNIB showed me how a background in a health care profession could help add value to a role outside of optometry.
2. Describe your role as one of the PGT Module Leaders/tutors for WOPEC and typically what are you expected to deliver?
I currently co lead the three low vision modules which lead to the college of optometrist cert and higher cert low vision qualification. I also co-lead the clinical teaching module. The low vision modules allows me to work with students in developing there post graduate learning skills as well as the subject material. As students progress through the modules they are expected to do more self-guided learning and reflect that in their assessments. The pleasure for me is helping students develop these skills which are applicable across the MSc program but beyond into lifelong learning.
The clinical teaching module was a revelation to me when I was as student on it. It takes students through teaching theory and allows them to look at the teaching they do from a theoretical basis. It also uses some very novel teaching methods!
3. Please explain briefly a little about your area of expertise and how you came to be in this area
Having worked in the hospital service I was exposed the wide range of developing optometric roles: refractive, glaucoma shared care, paediatric work, but it was my opportunity to work with low vision patients that opened up my interest in rehabilitation and disability rights issues. My role at RNIB showed me how much work needed to be done in providing joined up health and social care and how well placed optometrist were at providing that link, if we could develop the pathways and language to do so. So my expertise is in low vision work and the implementation of joint health and social care pathways.
4. Apart from being a WOPEC Module leader/tutor, what else do you do? (I don’t want to lead your answers but I would like to demonstrate the breadth of career options open to optometrists and the exciting work that you all do outside of WOPEC).
I currently work for SeeAbility a charity that concentrate on the needs of people with learning disabilities and VI. We run a special schools eye care service and use the knowledge gained from this to work with the NHS to try and solve the issue of access to eye care for people with learning disability. I also work one day a week in practice and as a low vision practitioner at St Thomas' hospital.
5. What do you find most challenging about your role?
Much of my work has been in planning and delivering new ways of working for optometrists and this can be an "out there" experience.
6. What do you find the most enjoyable?
Working within education and seeing how technology can transform access to teaching for busy people.
7. If you were asked to send a tweet called #whywopec what would it say?
WOPEC provides an exciting supportive space to develop your post graduate learning, to a level that suits you. The wide ranging program of courses puts you in control of your post graduate studies. You decide what to study, when to study and how to study. The skills you will develop using our mix of online learning and face to face support goes beyond the subjects themselves. They are the skills we all need to master in an online world, which is the future of lifelong learning.
8. What has been the most important eye care innovation you have witnessed in your career?
9. Tell us something that might surprise us about you!
The most exciting evening of the year is the Eurovision night final.