For many years she has quietly worked in the background helping to ensure that the eyes of Guyanese are taken care of and while she does have clinics, she has been helping especially children to access eye care free of cost, through various organisations. This is possibly among the reasons that Dr Michelle Ming was awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement.
“I am honoured and humbled to receive a national award,” Dr Ming told the Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview, adding that it was for the service she has provided in the optical field and in her professional life.
Dr Ming, who is the wife of businessman Stanley Ming, said she was overseas when she received the call about the national award.
The new awardee said all of her foundation schooling was done in Guyana, which included St Rose’s and Queen’s College before she went to England to study optometry. She worked in a hospital in England before returning to Guyana at the end of 1984 and then with the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation in the optical department for about five years before opening her own clinic right next door to her present location. Since then she has opened offices in Parika, Essequibo and Rose Hall, Berbice.
Over the years she has held many positions in and out of Guyana, including the presidencies of both the Caribbean Optometrists Association (CARIOA) and the Guyana Association of Optometrists (GAO).
In 2013, she helped to organise the first Guyana Diabetic Retinopathy Programme and Workshop. In 2014, she was a volunteer with the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) – Connecticut Mission to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
She was also a member of the team working with an international donor agency and the Guyana Government to develop a protocol for total comprehensive eye care for People With Diabetes (PWD), including training of personnel and acquisition of equipment. Dr Ming was asked to train optometrists to use retinal cameras and refer PWD for possible laser treatment by the ophthalmologists.
According to Dr Ming, there is a lot of need for eye care in Guyana and as a Rotarian she has been doing a lot of medical outreaches; she has also done outreaches with the Lions Clubs.
“I have done screening in schools, I was involved in outreaches with the University of Guyana Optometry Department in conjunction with the University of West Indies in Trinidad’s Optical Department,” she said.
And when her daughter, Dr Calista Siobhan Ming, was studying at the University of California, Berkeley in California, she brought students to do their outreaches here in Guyana and she helped to facilitate this. “So, we have done that for a couple of years, joint eyecare missions with the universities,” she noted.
Meantime, Dr Ming said she has noted an increase in terms of public awareness about the overall eye health care and eye health between when she first returned to Guyana and today.
“We have had this ongoing battle to get everybody to be aware that it is not just about testing your eyes to change spectacles, but what is so important is the eyecare and the eye health, particularly early detection of eye diseases. We have a lot of cataract here, glaucoma, diabetic and hypertensive healthcare complications…,” she said.
She pointed out that even with children, if issues with their eyes are not detected early and corrected it would affect their performance at school. With adults, if eye health is not taken care of then it would impact on how productive they are.
“So early detection and over all eyecare is extremely important and that is what we have always been promoting; it is not just spectacles alone,” she stressed.
According to Ming, annual screening at a school location is done in collaboration with the Lions Club and this has been ongoing for the last 15 years. After the screening is done, the children identified with problems are taken to the clinic for further testing and given spectacles as needed.
Ming has four children, three girls—one of whom has followed in her footsteps—and a boy. Another of her daughters is a medical doctor and yet another is into business management and is also a pilot. Her son is a racing driver, taking after his father, but he is also studying engineering at university.
Her optometrist daughter is doing some consultancy work as she is furthering her studies, but in the future Ming hopes she would continue to contribute and even return to one day take over the operations in Guyana.
“So apart from my work I am much occupied with my kids as well,” the mother and wife said.
Asked to comment on Guyana, Ming pointed out that the country has had a lot of ups and downs, but Guyanese have to remain positive. She said her emphasis has always been on education since it is better to teach them when they are young so that they can have a solid education and in turn make good decisions and be productive citizens.
“So, although I am looking after the eye health and health care is very important, the education of children is very important as well.
“I am not into politics. I am more into rotary and volunteer groups. I don’t have any political persuasions,” she said, when asked directly. (Her husband was once a member of the Reform component of the PNC.)
At present, her clinic has 12 full-time staff and they go out into the other two locations and also assist on the various outreaches.
Ming said they are normally extremely busy as they have an onsite lab that is computerized which can facilitate persons getting glasses within a day. Specialized lens, which have to be ordered from overseas, take a little longer. The clinic offers contact lens and it has a retro-camera onsite which can screen for diabetic retinopathy and a visual field machine which detects glaucoma.
“We are always upgrading with new machinery and technology because my emphasis is on overall comprehensive eyecare and early detection, so we have got to keep up to date on all the equipment,” Ming said.
Talking about her career path, Ming said that she always had a love for science and the medical field but was particularly interested in the care of the eye.
“I very much enjoy what I do and as I said, things keep moving all the time. There is a bit of the fashion part of it which would be like the modern frames and lenses and then of course there is the medical aspect which would be like the eyecare,” the doctor said.
She recommends that a complete eye examination be done at least once a year of school-aged children and later on if there are no special complications then every two years.
There are also some silent complaints such as glaucoma which reveal no symptoms until it is too late, unless persons have the tests done. “Prevention is better than cure and you should really come and have regular examinations,” she noted.