Student Explores Optometry Through Internship
Fay Cordeiro '21

“I’m interested in optometry,” said Robin Buchthal, a senior at St. Andrew’s Schools – The Priory, “because it’s like being a doctor without having to deal with blood.” Through her Priory in the City internship, Robin is interning with optometrist Dr. Derrick Abe at Precision Vision Ala Moana. Dr. Abe has been practicing optometry for more than 20 years, and he is a past President of the Hawaiʻi Optometric Association. 

The Priory in the City program at St. Andrew’s Schools helps prepare high school students at The Priory for their futures by aligning their college and career goals. All students in grades 10 through 12 are enrolled in the course and each year, they work with a career coach to explore their passions and prepare for college. In senior year, each Priory in the City student secures an internship related to their career interests. 

Priory in the City also helps students to build a network through classmates and the neighboring business community. For example, Robin was able to connect with her mentor Dr. Abe through a classmate whose mother is friends with him.

Robin is nearsighted and began seeing an optometrist in third grade because the board in the front of the classroom began to look blurry. According to Robin, “Going to an optometrist gave me insight into another option for my career. I don’t think I would’ve been as inclined to interning with an optometrist if I hadn’t experienced it myself.” 

Because Robin has been seeing an optometrist since she was little, she has experienced several pre-screenings and eye exams. Now, as an intern, she has the opportunity to watch them from the perspective of an optometrist. “My favorite part,” said Robin, “is getting to see what an optometrist actually does.” Watching Dr. Abe in action has helped to confirm her interest in optometry. 

As part of her internship project, Robin created an infographic on digital technology use and how it can strain the eyes. Dr. Abe is planning on displaying it in his office for his patients to see. Robin is also working on making her own set of glasses and so far, she has picked out the frames she’s going to use.

Robin’s internship hasn’t all gone smoothly—sometimes, patients aren’t comfortable having her view their exams, which is understandable. That’s why Robin is grateful for every opportunity she’s had to see Dr. Abe work and to work with him personally. “Even if I don’t have much time to talk with him because he was with a patient, he still makes time so we can go over things and discuss anything I need help with.”

Through her Priory in the City internship, Robin is hoping to get a better understanding of the field of optometry. Robin plans to major in Biology in college. After that, thanks in part to her experience working with Dr. Abe, she’s considering going to optometry school.

To Dr. Abe, “The best part about being an optometrist is getting to help people see and developing valuable relationships with them that last for many years.” Maybe someday Robin will have the same experience.