Irene Ctori has been an undergrad student, a postgrad student, a doctoral student and is now a lecturer at City.
Tell me about your time at City?
I started at City in 1991 when the Optometry course was taught in the Dame Alice Own building. I only visited the main building for the student union and my maths class. I was quite academically focused and so I kept my head down but my best memory was during my third year. Third year optometry students are given the opportunity to work with real patients and I remember thinking ‘Oh my goodness! I’m really doing this!’
I didn’t have a computer so throughout my course I hand wrote everything, including my dissertation. It was around 10,000 words. Someone then typed it up for me. And nothing was available online at the time, so we had to look at lots of books and buy them too.
What happened after you gradated the first time?
I was invited to do a PhD but I said no because I wanted to practice my trade. I practiced until 2008, including working at Vision Express, then at Whipps Cross University Hospital.
In 2008 I picked up where I left off. I started my MSc and was really enjoying my time at City but I wanted to be involved in the teaching, so I became a clinical tutor for third year students. That led to becoming more involved with teaching first and second years – all whilst juggling being a mum and still working at the hospital.
So what happened after your second graduation?
After graduating again I knew I wanted to do teaching and research full time. After being awarded a scholarship from City I did my PhD and became a full time lecturer last year.
What’s being a lecturer like?
I love being a lecturer. I really enjoy being able to bring my clinical experience into my lectures and using technology in my teaching. The students enjoy it too. And I’m colleagues with people who lectured me. Ron Douglas is one of them – I used to be scared of him but he’s lovely! I’ve also turned into my personal tutor. She used to walk around the lab telling us to have ‘good housekeeping’. I do that now – it’s like when you become your parents!
How has Optometry at City changed?
We don’t handwrite everything now!
What has been the biggest challenge throughout your time at City?
Lecturer posts are not easy to come by. Not many institutions teach optometry. And I wanted to teach at City because I’m happy here. Getting funding for a PhD was not easy either. And juggling everything during my masters was a challenging time.
What has been the most rewarding experience?
Completing my PhD was a real highlight. But getting the lecturer post – that’s what I was aiming for.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Just do it. Put your mind to it. Keep going with it and work hard. Be benevolent and have self-belief.