Personal circumstances pushed Dr. Nazli Sammik into an ECP career


By David Goldberg


Nazli Sammik loves being an eye care professional, but it wasn’t her first career.

The Ottawa optometrist didn’t discover her passion for prescriptions and eye exams until later in life.

Before attending optometry school, she was an urban planner and architect.

She would see new communities and buildings in her mind and turn those dreams into reality. Now, she’s helping patients see the world more clearly and it was a very personal connection that pushed her into this new line of work.

“I was aware of optometrists’ role in many people’s wellbeing, but I was not fully aware of their critical role in patients’ lives until my mother was diagnosed with diabetes through an eye exam,” Sammak says.

Her grandmother’s passing was another pivotal moment.

A regular eye exam might have detected a neurological condition, which could have prevented her death if properly diagnosed in time.

“It’s fascinating how many health conditions we can detect in an eye exam,” says Sammak.

“We can prevent so many ocular complications through proper counselling, education and timely referrals to other healthcare providers.”

Since graduating in 2019, breakthroughs with younger patients have been the most rewarding for Sammak.

“There was a three-year-old whose parents thought he was colour blind or autistic since he showed little interest in playing with other kids or even watching TV. He was very scared at our first appointment. It took a few visits until he would let me check his eyes thoroughly. Eventually, I discovered that he needed a very high prescription. I saw him one month later and he was a totally different kid. He even ran to me and gave me a big hug.”

Aside from pediatrics, Sammak is curious to study the impact of systemic conditions and medications on ocular health as well as dry eye.

“I have been suffering from dry eyes for many years and it impacted my well-being as I used to get styes. I also had very low contact lens tolerance so I couldn’t fully enjoy the sports I love.”

Early in her new career, Sammak already knows how she’ll continue to succeed and help her patients thrive. 

“Study hard, keep up to date on the latest research and don’t be embarrassed to say ‘I don’t know, but I can read up and ask around for you,’ ”she says. 

“Patients will appreciate and trust a knowledgeable and honest doctor more than anything.”