Dr. Tanya Gill Interview

August 9th was a tough day. Has someone you looked up to ever let you down? Of course,that’s like a requirement of growing up.  At 31 it’s happened many times in my life, personally and professionally.  As a female optometrist, I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by a number of incredible women.  One of them is Dr. Tanya Gill.  When I first met her earlier this year I was inspired by her successful private practice, her amazing social media success, and her dedication to fighting toxic ingredients found in makeup and skin cleansers (perhaps the biggest cause of dry eye in women!), with her organic eyelid cleansing line We Love Eyes.  I hadn’t really thought about makeup and makeup removers in everyday patient care, and
talking to her about parabens and phthalates revolutionized the way I practice.
I’m a better doctor and my patients are benefiting because of Dr. Gill.

But like many, I cringed on August 9th and the days following reading some of Dr. Gill’s responses on her recent Reddit forum.  Reusing daily disposable contact lenses? Returning for yearly exams BS? How could a person I so admired think so differently, say things I considered downright dangerous to patients? And then more of me cringed when I read what my colleagues said about her. Crazy drunken soccer mom; millennial.  A woman, a millennial– that’s me.  So my generation is like a slur to hurl at people now?  I felt ostracized reading the criticism from fellow doctors as a young female OD that’s active on social media (I’m just trying to think of the most positive negating connotation “millennial” can have). My profession got hurt by the Reddit forum responses, but then we proceeded to hurt each other.

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When Dr. Glover first asked me to do a podcast with him three months ago, I was excited and scared of course because I’m always battling the chronic throes of self doubt– what did I know about podcasts?! We came up with a list of people we wanted to bring on the show to make sure we thought we could get enough content to legitimately make this happen. Dr. Gill was on the top of my list.  We had a few other controversial guests (see Vitor Pamplona of Eyenetra) so I thought, let’s get a woman I admire, who we’ve both worked with and really enjoyed, and who is having a major moment on optometry– multiple awards, published in nearly every industry journal.  Someone everyone loves and has so much she’s doing to bring optometry into the future. A few days before our scheduled podcast the Reddit debacle happened.  I didn’t know at first what to do.  I asked Darryl should we postpone? Cancel? Darryl being considerably less petrified by controversy than
me realized we should record if Dr. Gill still wanted to; to give her a chance to decide. We couldn’t record without addressing the issue, but what was I going to say? What would you say to a person who you admire who just said some indefensible things but is so very sorry for them?

If you listen to this podcast I hope you can see in Dr. Gill what I see.  A woman who is passionate about optometry, and still recovering from the disappointment of how she let both our profession and herself down with some of her comments; comments she rather painfully ironically agrees she would never make to patients in her own practice.  I wanted to be tough on her even though I consider her a friend, but I couldn’t help empathizing with her about the high pressure situation of answering hundreds of Reddit users questions in such a short window of time, and the offensive way some colleagues called her on her mistakes. There’s no defending her irresponsible patient care advice, but deriding her personality? When I read many of her comedic or sarcastic responses to Reddit users, littered with outbursts of let’s say colorful language I thought, not me but hey, that’s her.  This is a woman we have loved in optometry because she wasn’t afraid to be dubbed the “kick-ass #girlboss“.  She’s fun, she’s personable, she’s so unapologetically real.  That bravery to be herself has been her catalyst to success; why she’s graced so many covers of optometry magazines and why she has over 11,000 Instagram followers. Why she was asked to do Reddit in the first place.  She should never edit her personality to fit in with a mold. I can’t defend her comments about daily disposables or exam frequency; I heartily disagree with her and still
can’t really understand why she would have said those things. But I do understand how a human can make a mistake, even several real big ones in a rapid fire public forum.

And I realize I have so much more to learn from her as a doctor and a woman in this profession.  Maybe this podcast won’t change much, but you can hear it in her voice, how she talks about being a female business owner and battling to get truly safe ocular health products in Tyler’s Quarterly that this woman is a leader in our profession.  I thought maybe I’d need to find a way to forgive Dr. Gill to get through our interview without getting upset.  I realized by the time we finished recording I must have done it within a few opening words, before we even hit record on the podcast intro. She didn’t need to apologize anymore to me — I’ll be there reading her next article on social media formulas and recommending We Love Eyes products to my patients because I believe in them. Despite everything, I still believe in her.
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