Dr. Princess Ifeoma Ike has had the kind of career most people only dream of. She is a Nigerian board certified Public Health Optometrist, a World Economic Forum Global shaper currently serving as the Curator for the Abuja Hub and a Medpreneur, providing life saving optometric care as the CEO of Princess Vision Eye Clinic Limited Abuja, Awka Eye Clinic Limited, and Awka Eye Foundation. She’s been recognised as an Eye Health Hero by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, is currently serving as the National Advocacy Secretary of the Nigerian Optometric Association and a Climate Reality Leader trained by former US Vice President Al Gore, while writing, researching and contributing to the World Economic Forum Agenda Contributor.
Our #MCNWorkLife series celebrates the careers of women who are thriving across different fields, and Dr. Princess Ike exudes the kind of confidence and poise that we want all women to have. We sat down with Princess to find out about her work life and why making why she works so hard to make sure health care in Nigeria becomes more accessible.
Your resume is so extensive, the only way we can truly make sense of it is to go back to the beginning. What did you want to be growing up?
Growing up, I had a few different ideas of what I wanted to be. At different points in my childhood, I dreamed of being a doctor, a lawyer, and even a scientist. As I got older and learned more about different career paths, I became interested in pursuing a career in Optometry. I am excited to continue exploring this field and see where it takes me in my career.
So what would you consider your primary career now?
I am a Public Health Optometrist, and I hold a Doctor of Optometry degree and a Master’s degree in Public Health.
In my current role, I work to ensure that individuals have access to high-quality eye care, regardless of their socioeconomic status. I collaborate with other healthcare professionals to identify and address health disparities, and I am constantly seeking out opportunities to expand my knowledge and skills in the field of public health and optometry. I am passionate about using my skills to improve the vision and eye health of individuals in my community, and I look forward to continuing to grow as a Global Public Health Optometrist.
How long have you been working as an optometrist?
I have been practicing professionally as a Public Health Optometrist for 10 years. In that time, I have had the opportunity to work with a diverse range of patients, from young children to older adults. I am passionate about helping individuals achieve optimal eye health and vision, and I am constantly seeking out new ways to enhance my skills and knowledge in this field.
What’s a typical day in your life as an optometrist?
As a Public Health Optometrist, my typical day involves seeing patients and providing them with comprehensive eye exams. This can range from testing their vision, evaluating their eye health, and diagnosing and treating any eye conditions or diseases. I also spend time communicating with patients about their eye health and addressing any questions or concerns they may have.
I also work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as ophthalmologists and primary care physicians, to ensure that my patients receive the best possible care. Overall, my work is both challenging and rewarding, as I have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the eye health and well-being of my patients
What’s the culture like for women in your field?
Optometry is a profession that has traditionally been male-dominated, but in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of women entering the field. As a result, the culture for women in optometry has evolved and become more inclusive and supportive.
Women in optometry have formed professional organizations and networks to support and mentor each other. They also advocate for issues that affect women in the field, such as pay equity and work-life balance. Overall, the culture for women in optometry is becoming more diverse and inclusive, and there are many opportunities for women to succeed and thrive in the profession.
Are there any events you’ve experienced at work that made you aware of how gender can affect your interactions with patients and other members of faculty?
Certainly! A personal anecdote that comes to mind is when a male patient came into my clinic for an eye exam and was surprised to learn that I was the optometrist. He seemed skeptical at first, but as we went through the exam, he gradually warmed up to me and came to trust my knowledge and expertise. After the exam, he even complimented me on my professionalism and said he was glad to have been seen by a competent female optometrist.
This experience reminded me of the unique challenges that women can face in male-dominated professions, especially in certain cultures where gender roles are more rigidly defined. However, it also highlighted the importance of breaking down these barriers and demonstrating that women can excel in any field, including optometry.
It was overall, a rewarding experience to earn the respect and trust of this patient and positive representation for women in the optometry profession in Nigeria.
What is the one challenge you think women who work in optometry have to overcome?
I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing women in this profession is the ongoing gender disparity that persists in certain aspects of the industry.
This includes issues such as unequal pay, limited opportunities for advancement, and unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions. Additionally, women may also face unique challenges related to work/life balance, especially if they are also juggling family or caregiving responsibilities.
I am optimistic that these challenges can be overcome with a combination of individual determination, advocacy, and collective action. By speaking out about these issues, supporting and mentoring other women in the field, and working to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces, we can help ensure that women in optometry have the same opportunities to succeed and thrive as their male colleagues.
Is there any way being a woman in your field gives you an advantage over your co-workers?
As an Optometrist, I believe that being a woman in this field isn’t necessarily an advantage over my co-workers. Optometry is a field that values skills, knowledge, and experience above all else, regardless of gender.
That said, being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field allows me to bring a unique perspective and approach to patient care. For example, I may be able to connect more easily with female patients and better understand their specific needs and concerns.
Ultimately, I believe that diversity and inclusivity in any profession lead to better outcomes for all, and I am proud to be a part of a growing number of women in the field of optometry.
What do you like the most about working as an optometrist?
I like being able to help people improve their vision and ultimately, their quality of life. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing a patient’s face light up when they realize they can see clearly for the first time in a long while.
I enjoy the evolving nature of the field, and constantly learning as new technologies and treatments are developed to better serve our patients. Overall, I find great satisfaction in being able to make a positive impact on the lives of others through my work as an Optometrist.
What is your least favourite thing about being an Optometrist?
That would be having to deliver difficult news to patients regarding their vision or eye health.
It can be emotionally challenging to inform someone that they have a serious eye condition or that their vision cannot be improved with corrective measures. It can also be frustrating at times to deal with insurance companies and navigating the healthcare system on behalf of patients seeking care.
Despite these challenges, I remain committed to providing the best possible care for my patients and helping them maintain healthy eyesight for life.
Do you believe in work buddies?
Having work buddies can be beneficial in many ways. Building positive relationships with coworkers can create a more supportive and collaborative work environment, which can ultimately lead to increased job satisfaction and productivity. Work buddies can also provide emotional support during stressful times or challenging situations, and can help create a sense of community and camaraderie within the workplace.
Work buddies can be a valuable part of a fulfilling and successful career, but it is just as important to maintain professional boundaries and not let personal relationships interfere with work responsibilities or create conflicts of interest.
What’s your stance on ‘work spouses?’
As an individual, my stance on ‘work spouses’ is that it is a personal choice and varies from person to person. Some individuals may find comfort and support in having a close platonic relationship with a co-worker, while others may prefer to keep their personal and professional lives separate.
But we are professionals first, and it’s our responsibility to to maintain a professional demeanor and ensure that all interactions in the workplace are respectful and appropriate. Try to void behavior that could be misconstrued or interpreted as inappropriate.
Can you give us a tip you swear by for successfully managing a work/life balance?
One tip that I recommend as a super busy professional, is setting clear boundaries between work and personal time. This means scheduling time for self-care, and social activities outside of work, and making a conscious effort to disconnect from work-related tasks during personal time. It’s also important to communicate your boundaries with colleagues, friends, and family so that they understand your priorities and can support you in maintaining a healthy balance.
Remember, achieving a work/life balance is an ongoing process that requires regular self-reflection and adjustment, and it’s important to be flexible and open to change as needed. By following these tips, I am able to manage my time more effectively and enjoy a more fulfilling work and personal life.
Do you have any advice for younger women who want to do what you do?
Absolutely! As an Optometrist, I would advise younger women who are interested in pursuing this profession to stay focused on their goals and to persevere through any challenges or obstacles that they may encounter.
I would encourage them to embrace diverse perspectives and experiences within the field of optometry, and to stay up-to-date with the latest developments and technologies in the industry. Prioritize education and skill-building and seek out opportunities for mentorship and professional development whenever possible.
Finally, I would remind them to always believe in themselves and their abilities, and to never let gender or cultural stereotypes hold them back from achieving their dreams. With dedication, hard work, and a passion for helping others, I believe that any woman can excel as an Optometrist and make a meaningful impact in the lives of her patients.