• 1212 South King Street, Seattle, WA 98144
  • (206) 322-1122
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Mina Suzuki WAC

Mina Suzuki is a graduating senior at Henry Perrine (H.P.) Baldwin High School in Wailuku on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Mina has spent the last year employed as an optometric technician at Maui Optix and has practiced hip-hop, jazz, and ballet dance for the past 10 years. Mina has also held roles as vice president and class president in her four years at H.P. Baldwin. In the fall, Mina plans to attend Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR to study Optometry.

Many consider their community to be their family, friends, and those they see daily at work and school. However, working in optometry has shown me that community can mean strangers who put trust in one another to uplift a generation of people who share a special connection. Of course, I associate my friends and family as part of my community, and I love them with all my being because they provide me with guidance and support. Yet, I find that the optometrists at Maui Optix who allowed me to shadow them and the patients I meet from all walks of life fill the rest of my community.

I’ve always known I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare because of the constant knowledge providers gain daily and the opportunity to build connections with people of different cultures and stories to tell. I have always been shy and struggle to speak confidently with people I have just met. When I started as an intern last year, the doctor I shadowed was entirely new to me, and I was terrified that I would not enjoy the internship. However, that doctor is one of my biggest inspirations today, and her support is a significant factor in why my passion for optometry still burns bright. Even though we are not strangers anymore, the amount the doctor has believed in me from the start has reinforced that strangers can really plant a deep root in one’s community.

In terms of my patients, they are almost always strangers to me when they come in for their appointments. Yet, they uplift me because they trust me to run the machines for everything ranging from basic comprehensive exams for a new prescription to extensive glaucoma exams, allowing me to gain even more knowledge in my field. Their trust will allow me to provide the best service as an optometrist when I complete the pathway. 

Helping others has always been a great passion of mine, and I’ve always felt satisfaction in participating in community service clubs from my time in elementary school until now. Currently, I serve as Baldwin’s Interact Club President and Baldwin’s Aloha Club (another community service club) Vice President, meaning that not only do I get to work with organizations like Nisei Veterans and the Rotary Club, but I get to create service projects for my underclassman that allows them to get out into the public and make a difference in someone’s life.

However, I find that I best serve my community of Maui through the trust of my patients to let me provide them with optimal eye care. I see patients from all around Maui County, ranging from those who come from the other islands of Lana’i and Moloka’i, those who drive around the entirety of Haleakala from Hana, and those who live right around Maui Optix in Pukalani and Makawao. I have even served those from the Mainland who come in for emergency issues. With eye degeneration being a hot topic after the heavy incorporation of digital devices into our lives to do work and school with the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with Maui’s high population of diabetics and those with hypertension, having optimal eye care on our island is of utmost importance.

Thus, by testing my patients and helping to fill the shortage of technicians, I am able to help my clinic slowly recover from being impacted by the shutdown in 2020 and allow them to take more patients. Not only am I helping my clinic, but I am also helping the Maui community to see their best and ensure that their eye health is preserved. In a time when healthcare is becoming difficult to find, being able to care for patients displays that healthcare workers are at the forefront of their community. 

With the experience I gain from shadowing my doctors and pre-testing patients presently, I hope to give back to my community by filling the shortage of doctors on Maui. I plan on attending Pacific University to pursue a biology major in the pre-optometry pathway in the fall and hope to continue on to their optometry school. I also hope to complete a fellowship to be able to have a specific focus in optometry that will allow me to treat special cases, like patients who are interested in certain contact lenses.

My educational goals reflect how I want to serve my community because I am so passionate about being able to provide the best eye care to Maui County. My goals also display my perseverance since I entered the optometry field as a teen. I am aware that this pathway is time-consuming, taking anywhere from seven to eight years, but I am beyond excited that I will be able to serve my home in a position that we need more than ever. From my experience working as a technician now, I know that the support I’ve received will allow me to give back to my doctors and patients who’ve supported me on my journey once I complete my higher education.