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Sonya's Saga

Posted By Sonya Brooker, Friday, April 20, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2012

I fell into ophthalmology quite by accident. It was 1987 and I had recently moved to Wilmington, NC. I was 22 years old with no clue as to "what I wanted to be when I grew up." I never really enjoyed studying, so college wasn't on the top of my list after high school, but I did go ahead and attend a business school for a bit. With no employable skills, I scoured the help wanted ads looking for anything that required little typing. I found a general ophthalmology practice looking for a receptionist, applied for the job and was hired. Little did I know my career in the field of ophthalmology was about to begin.

I really enjoyed working the front desk and learned the terminology quickly. I wanted to learn more and more each day. I even looked into learning the tech skills when there was an opening at the office. Life, however, intervened.

After marrying and moving to the Raleigh/Durham area, I worked at a temp agency for several months as a receptionist until a position as a receptionist within an ophthalmologist office became available. I applied and was hired, but since it was a small solo practice with zero chance to advance and learn, I continued to look around. I was fortunate to find an opening for a technician in a practice of general ophthalmologists in Chapel Hill. This is when my career began to change. 


The practice was willing to train me, and I was fortunate to have two technicians willing to teach me. This was general ophthalmology, but I learned so much! I began working on my home study program so I could take the test for the COA exam. I was on a roll! Then life intervened again. My husband and I bought a house an hour away, and the commute became too much. I had to find something closer. Enter my first job at a retina practice!

During my interview I was given a tour of the office, which is when I saw a technician doing an angiogram on a patient. I was hooked! I wanted to learn how to perform angiograms! I loved this job, everything about it. The doctors were patient with training and the staff helpful. Finally, my dream was coming true! 


I passed my COA, and began to learn photography along with angiography. I was so fascinated watching the dye enter the eye. I always tried to guess the diagnosis while capturing each image. That was and still is my favorite part of angiography. I worked hard studying for the COT, learning dark room development, and perfecting my skills in photography. I have moved and changed employers several times since then, but I achieved two other stepping stones: passing my COT and CRA!

I have seen many changes since I first entered ophthalmology. Changes in surgical equipment making surgeries less invasive, new lens implants, refractive surgery, and of course changes in photography. With the coming of the digital age, I no longer have to worry about darkroom development. Technology (and a few guys at MIT) has given us the OCT which provides so much information, so much that the need for angiography has decreased over the years, at least for me. I still get excited watching that dye enter the eye, even if it is only so often.

In this ever-changing world of technology, I look forward to the future.  I can only imagine how my job will continue to evolve as new imaging equipment becomes available. Maybe we'll be able to change the focus of an image after we take it. Maybe we'll be able to do an FA without a patient ever vomiting. Maybe we'll be able to do an OCT with goggles. Only time will tell.


Sonya Brooker is a COT, CRA and has been a member of the OPS since July 1997.  She has worked in the field of ophthalmology since 1987.  She currently works for UNC Eye Center's satellite office in New Bern, NC

Tags:  blog  Ice Breakers  PDC  Professional Development Committee 

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Comments on this post...

Kirsten G. Locke CRA. OCT-C. RN. FOPS says...
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Hi Sonya,
Thank you for sharing your path into ophthalmic photography. I too fell into this field by accident and enjoyed reading your experience.
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