By International Community Health Services
Andrea Liem, optometrist for the new International Community Health Services (ICHS) vision clinic, says her career path evolved naturally out of her own experiences as an eye care patient.
“Vision is one of our most important senses. As a nearsighted patient myself, I’ve been going to the optometrist year-after-year since middle school,” Liem said. “I’ve worn contact lenses and eyeglasses in the past, and eventually had laser surgery to correct my myopia. Based on my personal experience and my family’s need for vision care, I am able to empathize with and better serve my patients.”
The ICHS vision clinic is currently under construction in a storefront across the plaza from the ICHS medical-dental building in International District Village Square. The 1,200 square foot space, which will include two exam rooms, previously housed a hair salon. It is being remodeled with support from a $350,000 grant from the City of Seattle.
Design began in October, 2016 and the clinic is scheduled to open in September. By its second year of operation, the vision clinic is expected to handle approximately 900 visits.
ICHS currently provides primary care to nearly 29,000 patients in over 50 different languages at its seven clinic locations in Seattle, Shoreline and Bellevue.
The vision clinic concept arose out of discovery that only half of ICHS patients completed their referrals for eye care. Teresita Batayola, ICHS CEO, said: “Vision problems in the United States are the most prevalent disability among children and youth, and is one of the top disabilities for adults.” The ICHS patient advisory council also strongly advocated for establishing the vision clinic.
Liem, a Shoreline native, traces her professional interest to job shadowing experiences during her junior year in high school, which included a program designed to instill career interest in young minds through hands-on experience. She spent a day with her family optometrist and interviewed the father of a classmate, gaining insight into different clinical settings within the profession.
“I fell in love with the relevance of eye care across all demographics and its versatility in health care. You can learn so much about the human body simply through the eye. It is a window into many disease states such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and even allergies” she said.
After completing her undergraduate work at the University of Washington, Liem moved East, graduating from State University of New York’s College of Optometry in 2009. She then worked at a predominately Spanish-speaking vision center in Jackson Heights, New York, where she found that having five years of Spanish courses under her belt came in handy. Liem also worked for a Chinatown-based optical group in New York. Having grown up in a blended Cantonese- and English-speaking household, she was able to apply her language skills while working with primarily Chinese clientele.
She returned home to Washington state in 2014 to be closer to her family and to start one of her own.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this new chapter at ICHS,” she said. “I’m excited for this opportunity. I find it rewarding to serve the community that I grew up in and feel that ICHS will allow me to further provide quality care to patients belonging to diverse backgrounds.”