I’m not from Memphis, but I belong here.
I moved to Memphis in July 2015 for what was supposed to be a one-year stint. I was here for an optometry residency to specialize in Pediatric Optometry. I had virtually nothing invested in SCO or Memphis seeing as I was renting everything down to my apartment furniture and could count on one hand the number of people I knew in the city. My original plan was to stay for 12 months and then pack up my car and head home to join or open an eye clinic…or so I thought.
It took about 4 weeks for me to feel like I was growing roots in Memphis. From seeing familiar faces along the Mud Island Riverwalk to knowing what to order at Gus’ or which free Levitt Shell concert to attend (weather dependent), Memphis began to feel like home. I owed so much of this to the tight-knit community at SCO, and knew I wanted to be a part of this “family” for longer than 12 months.
I was lucky enough to be hired as a faculty member following my residency. Suddenly, I was the one welcoming new students, residents, family, and friends to town and giving them the ins and outs. My job had brought me to the schools in Frayser under the Achievement Schools District, to the Youth Villages facilities in Bartlett, the National Civil Rights Museum downtown, and even a handful of local sporting events. Today, nearly 4 years later, SCO continues to provide me with new ventures and experiences within the Memphis community.
SCO hosts an event 3 Saturdays a year where we welcome recovering addicts who are currently in treatment programs. A student and I performed an exam on a young woman who suffered from headaches and was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager. She said the medications she was given never really helped with her attention or pain, and she eventually turned to more, stronger substances over time. During her exam, we discovered that these headaches could be improved with a simple pair of glasses. We discussed the findings and helped her pick out a cute frame. This woman returned to speak to our students 3 months later saying that her headaches have almost gone away completely since she’s been wearing her glasses, and that she no longer feels the need to use pain medication at all!
All of these instances provide me--and my students--an opportunity to learn how to treat various eye conditions, how to treat various ages and demographics of patients, and ultimately, how to have an impact in a community. In providing eyeglasses, vision health awareness, career inspiration, or a meal for the hungry, I in turn continue to gain insight, appreciation, and a sense of belonging in Memphis.
SCO fulfills a commitment to community that I never knew I needed. And I’m not the only one. I see how our employees and students spend their evenings and weekends helping those in need. I see our graduates take on leadership positions in their communities and take time out of their practice to provide vision care across the globe. I truly believe we are making this city a better place, and I am proud. Proud to be a part of this family, and proud of our local impact.
Dr. Julie Shalhoub grew up in Ontario, Canada. She serves our patients in both the Pediatric and Vision Therapy departments at The Eye Center and teaches our first and second year students in their clinical labs. She enjoys trying out new activities and restaurants in Memphis and making a mess in her kitchen.