In this new series, OT asked student and pre-registration optometrists to share their stories of work experience – from shadowing days, to volunteering and internships – to find out more about what can be learned from these opportunities, and the variety of pathways that optometry can lead to. To follow along with the series, read more on OT here.
The internship with Ora Inc was advertised to all second year students through one of our lecturers, who sent the flyer by email. Despite having several other commitments, I recognised this opportunity might allow me to explore a different career path so I decided to research it a little more.
I didn’t know at the time what a contract research organisation (CRO) was – these are companies that provide support to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries through research services outsourced on a contract basis – but I discovered that Ora is an ophthalmology-focused clinical research organisation.
I found it interesting that Ora provided ophthalmology services, including pre-clinical, early to late phase support, and had been involved in supporting over 50 ophthalmic product approvals. Exploring the website, I came across Sally Tucker, the vice president of Ora Europe, who had also studied at Aston University and had started her career as an optometrist – like I have been working towards. It was exciting to see how she applied her degree to research that brings new ophthalmic innovation to life. I had never really known of, or thought about, this area of optometry before, but seeing the connection made me feel that I could do this too.
My internship at Ora involved working on projects for site and patient advocacy in the European region. These areas really focus on developing enhanced site and patient relations, to support awareness of clinical trials in ophthalmology and speed up time to execution. It was interesting to see how far their geographic reach was, and how they strive to support sites across the region.
Each time I sat at my desk and logged into the laptop, I knew I was contributing to something that could shape the future of optometry and ophthalmology
I also analysed trial data, as part of Ora’s goals to continually optimise trial execution for their network of clinics. By the end of my time there, I felt privileged to have gained experience with the different therapeutic areas that the company is engaged in, and to have had an inside look at how a CRO operates.
I went into the role with an open mind. I wanted to gain a new and different perspective on the world of ophthalmology and learn more about the different service offerings at Ora. Using the skills I’ve developed in school and the guidance offered to me by the team, I gained practical experience and did important work to help further innovation in the ophthalmic space while learning about ocular surface diseases, anterior segment conditions, and ophthalmic devices.
The internship was simply amazing. I enjoyed every bit and each time I sat at my desk and logged into the laptop, I knew I was contributing to something that could shape the future of optometry and ophthalmology. Initially, everything was new, and getting to the point where I understood all the systems, acronyms, and operational aspects was challenging, but I was able to overcome everything with the support network Ora offered. I could have a meeting or get on a call whenever I felt stuck or unsure, and if I needed to reach out to someone through email, I always got a fast response.
The experience allowed me to see other opportunities that exist within the field of optometry
During my time, I met and connected with many inspirational people. I walked away knowing more about this part of the industry with a renewed understanding of the importance of clinical trials, research and development, and how innovations improve the lives of the patients they’re made for.
The experience allowed me to see other opportunities that exist within the field of optometry and how an optometry degree can prepare you to make meaningful, lifelong changes that help people around the world. I enjoyed every moment of my time at Ora. I fully believe that other optometry students, universities, and graduates should consider similar opportunities – so much so, that I’m currently working alongside Aston University to develop a structured programme for future students to undertake. I would also sincerely like to thank Sally, the vice-president of Ora Europe, for this amazing opportunity, and for always being there to guide and support me.
The setting, with Sally Tucker, VP of Ora Europe
Location: This internship took place remotely under the guidance of the senior director of OraNet Europe.
Why does Ora take on student optometrists?
As a trained optometrist who studied at Aston University, I wanted to show optometry students that there are excellent professional opportunities in ophthalmology that exist outside of the traditional clinical pathway, make full use of their education and still directly benefit patients.
Ora’s positioning gives optometry students a chance to see how their skills can prepare them for a broad variety of specialised careers. Ora Europe’s internship places the student within the OraNet department where site, investigator and patient advocacy activities are focused. This placement allows the student’s experience to be more clinically aligned whilst also exposing them to other areas of the business within clinical operations and monitoring. We place value on interdepartmental coaching and interaction and also promote learning about other aspects of the business to gain more insight into the workings of the organisation as well as a broader understanding of the clinical research journey.
Why is it particularly important to engage students in these settings?
Our team believes that this engagement with student optometrists will help promote career opportunities within clinical research and ensure the field is able to access bright, talented people with an interest in the industry. It’s similar to the work we do with healthcare professionals, such as optometrists, to increase awareness of research in the field of ophthalmology. Through efforts like these, we hope to make more research opportunities known among the communities of patients who could benefit from them. There are countless exciting research studies ongoing that could have positive impact on the unmet needs of so many.
We, at Ora, are passionate about what we do and how we can work together to make a difference – sharing our knowledge, insights, and passion with others who value eye care in the same way opens up incredible new opportunities, and it’s something we are committed to with our partners, fellow eye care professionals, patients, and our sites.
Ora is a full-service ophthalmic drug and device development firm with offices in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, Japan and China. Ora Europe offers one internship placement per year between July and October.