Nasiem Umberg always knew she wanted to work in the medical field. Her decision to pursue a career as an optometrist began in sixth grade when she discovered she needed glasses.
The eye exams she underwent were positive experiences, and Nasiem took great pride in wearing her glasses.
“I remember thinking how cool I was with my glasses, being able to see clearly,” Nasiem says.
Nasiem completed graduate school in 2018, gave herself a break for a few months and then began working in 2019 in a medical and surgical-based office. During an average workday, Nasiem sees about 20 patients.
While Nasiem enjoys her job, her favorite part is helping her patients learn about the role of their overall health in their vision, especially after an experience she had with one of her patients.
“I saw a patient who was a 28-year-old female who lost her job from the pandemic and, with it, her medical insurance,” Nasiem says. “She had diabetes and could not afford insulin. By the time I saw her, she was losing her vision.
“That one situation of seeing a girl so young losing her vision and trying to direct her on the right paths and getting her to the right specialist to help her as much as she needs really brought to my attention — even as an optometrist — how important my role can be to one patient and being the first to educate a patient properly.”
However, Nasiem does experience the flip side of that coin, as well. Sometimes she provides patients with vital information regarding their vision and health and then witnesses the patient dismissing her medical advice, which is one of the most challenging parts of the job for Nasiem.
Stereotypes by patients because of Nasiem’s age and sex also make work life difficult at times.
“Being a woman and a younger doctor, I really have to bypass a lot of personal questions: Are you married? Do you have children?” Nasiem says. “I don’t mind answering personal questions, but those questions come up every day.”
On rare occasions, Nasiem has patients who feel uncomfortable getting seen by her because of her age or sex. They request to see one of Nasiem’s coworkers, who all happen to be older, and primarily male, doctors.
When Nasiem does face this issue, she does not take her patients’ choice to see a different doctor personally.
“I try to explain to patients that I can help them, but at the end of the day, if that’s not what they want, I want to make them happy,” Nasiem says.
On top of knowing she wanted to be an optometrist, Nasiem always knew she wanted to be a mom and recently gave birth to her first baby boy.
Growing up in a big family with many incredible female role models was Nasiem’s most significant inspiration for becoming a mom. However, always knowing she wanted to be a mom did not prepare Nasiem for the challenges of motherhood..
“This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done or had to do — mostly giving up my independence,” Nasiem says. “Before, I was so detail-oriented, very organized. I got everything done on time or ahead of time. Now that’s just not going to happen.”
Although mom life is tough, Nasiem enjoys every minute and can not get enough of hearing her baby boy laugh and smile and watching him grow and learn.
“My inspiration is all my son,” Nasiem says. “I want to do everything for him. I want to spend as much time as I can with him, being there for him as he grows up.”
In the future, Nasiem hopes to have two more children.
To help Nasiem overcome the challenges of motherhood, she changed her job position from full-time to part-time. More significantly, she has a magnificent support team within her family and friends. They provide advice and take over caring for Nasiem’s baby at times so she can get caught up on rest.
To put her family first, Nasiem hopes to continue to have the opportunity to stay in a part-time position so she can better care for her family while continuing to work as an optometrist.
Eventually, Nasiem hopes to relocate to an office much closer to home or open up her own practice.
For other women looking to enter the field of optometry, Nasiem suggests picking the optometry school that is best for them and not just convenient because of location. One of Nasiem’s most significant personal accomplishments was having the courage to move away from home to attend the school she wanted to earn her degree.
“I’ve always been in southern California, so leaving to go to Chicago on my own to get my optometrist degree and focus on that is definitely my biggest accomplishment,” Nasiem says. “That’s the time I grew the most.”
For young working women looking to become moms, Nasiems suggests communicating with their employer to figure out maternity leave and what type of work status options are available upon returning to work.
“’She can be both’ brings to the attention that women can be anything,” Nasiem says. “They are not defined by just their roles. I am so many things to so many different people, but I am still me outside my two roles.”