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What Lili Sees

"Vancouver-Based Durant Sessions Opens Second Location in Canada"

"Vancouver-Based Durant Sessions Opens Second Location in Canada"

I still cannot believe it. Three years after graduation, I opened up my second office along with Durant Sessions. It may be cliche to say that I am humbled and overwhelmed by the love from the community of Vancouver and the industry but I truly am. We celebrated our grand opening on June 6th 2019 with our friends and family. Vision Monday has done a wonderful feature on this special day.

Read the article below ☟

By Stephanie Sengwe

‍Durant Sessions (DS) started as an optical boutique serving the Gastown community in downtown Vancouver. Founded in 2015, the practice didn’t offer any optometric services until Lili Liang, OD, arrived on the scene and partnered with the store in 2017. “I first came on board in May 2017. I was strolling around Gastown with my other OD friend checking out all the optical shops back in December 2016. I stepped into DS and I instantly knew that I want to make this my work space,” she told VMail Weekend.

“I’ve always had the idea to partner up with an optical boutique to create a shopping environment that I’d like to experience. I just never found the right partner. DS never had an OD working with them. I reached out and asked if they wanted to work together and we’ve been in partnership ever since.”

Now, only four years later, Durant Sessions is expanding with its second Canadian location (another Durant Sessions was opened in 2018 in Los Angeles). On June 6, Dr. Liang, along with the staff at Durant Sessions hosted a grand opening party for their new store located in the Mount Pleasant area in Vancouver.

Invitations were sent out to past clients and patients, friends and family as well as other local businesses. The store partnered with Jacques Marie Mage for the opening, who in turn created a custom cleaning cloth for each guest in attendance. The limited-edition gift was packaged to look like a record album.

The new space has been six months in the making and is located at 2539 Main St. The new area consists of young families and young professionals who are fleeing the over-saturation and rising prices in the downtown area.

“It is the next up and coming area where you can find young families, old book stores, and coffee shops with vegan cookies. We are on the corner where the city is building a new tramway and putting a station right across from us. It is also part of the development plan where the City is building more commercial and residential spaces,” Liang explained.

“As downtown Vancouver becomes more saturated and less affordable, a lot of young families and young professionals have chosen the Mount Pleasant area to be their home. The neighborhood still allows them to enjoy the city life as it is only a five-minute drive or 15- minute bus ride from downtown Vancouver.”

Durrant Sessions

While the new location will naturally come with a new demographic as well as some additions to Durant Sessions’ current array of inventory, the overall aesthetic of the store will remain the same. Liang expects the Mount Pleasant area to bring in more families and young children, compared to the downtown location.

So, Durant Sessions Main St. will offer collections with wider variation in terms of pricing to include options that are price-friendly as well as premium ones. The new store will also have lens edging and lens tinting equipment toward the front, offering patients and clients a sneak peek into how prescription glasses and sun lenses are made. In addition, there will be a designated space for Liang’s pre-testing equipment.

Lili Liang and Durant Sessions are also proposing a new business model to aid the OD-optical relationship. Liang has noticed that a lot of optical boutiques don’t have a good OD presence, while a lot of OD offices are unable to create a cool shopping experience. She, as well as the team at Durant Sessions are hoping to get other ODs and practices to consider merging the two, without having to start from scratch.

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“We want to create a brand and culture where both aspects are represented in harmony. We want to offer other ODs the opportunity to come on as a shareholder or business partner and create DS locations in different cities,” Liang stated.

“This business model will also allow ODs to be owners of an optical boutique with a specific culture and brand, enjoy the benefits of being a self-employed business owner without the headache of coming up with a brand, marketing, store design and merchandising. We would like to invite other like-minded ODs and opticians that identify with our culture to join us.”

When Lili Liang joined Durant Sessions in 2017, she came on as a shareholder for the optical dispensary and she has remained the sole owner of the optometric business for both locations. She now embarks on the new journey as an owner of the optical side at Durant Sessions Main St., and she gives all due credit to her wonderful team, who have made the transition just a little bit easier.

She concluded, “None of this is possible without my business partners and the wonderful team. I give them all the credit.”

Source: Vision Monday

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Floral Print

Floral Print

I have been treating a patient for his recurrent uveitis for a few weeks now. It is due to a genetic autoimmune predisposition which causes recurrent inflammation in his eyes. This is just another usual round of his flare ups which requires weekly follow ups. In his case, it usually lasts between 4-6 weeks.


After the first few follow ups, I started to notice that he has a preference for floral prints: his shirt one time, the strap of his watch, his shorts another time. I brought up this observation to him.


“You like florals, eh?”

“Yes, I do! I’ve always really liked them.”

“How come?”, I was intrigued.

“My grandfather has a beautiful garden back home and I had learned to appreciate flowers. There is something about them. To me, they represent innocence. Their only job is to be beautiful. They are created for the purpose of bringing beauty to the world.”


It caught me off guard. I am not sure if it’s because of his blatant love for florals is so readily declared or that something so poetic came out of the mouth of a tech professional in the start up world.


In the subsequent follow up visits, our conversations went from the difference between faith and religion to favourite shawarma spots in Montreal (by the way, it’s not real shawarma if it’s not shaved off from the rotating stick). On paper, our worlds don’t collide: a Muslim Egyptian who went to school in Saudi Arabia and a Christian Taiwanese Canadian. That is the beauty of humanity (or Canada). Two seemingly unrelated worlds can overlap when we put aside prejudice and judgement.


We can relate to each other more than we think. All we need to do is give each other a chance and listen

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Do You Salsa?

Do You Salsa?

A patient who doesn’t have an updated pair of glasses comes in for an eye exam.

“I don’t like to wear glasses”

“Why not?”, I asked as I was preparing for a conversation on how contacts are an alternative to glasses, NOT a replacement.

“Because I rock climb and glasses are really inconvenient”

“You do? That’s so cool! I like rock climbing too! How did you get into it?”

“Oh I was first introduced to it through my dance crew.”

“You dance? Me too! What kind of dance do you do?”


“What? ME TOO! Wait a minute, how come we were not friends already...”


Conversations like this actually happen more often in my exam room than you would think. Of course, not every patient of mine would turn out to have the same interests as me. However, more often than not, we would have more in common than we might first assume.


There are a lot of things that are less than ideal right now. I choose to see the good in all the bad. I feel lucky that due to the nature of my job, I still get to connect with people during this time of social isolation. The truth is, you don’t need to be in my position to connect with someone. That conversation took only 30 seconds before we realized that we have probably hung out in the same places without knowing. You can spare 30 seconds when you’re getting your coffee or while wiping down your yoga mat after a class. All we really need to do is to give each other a chance and listen. Yes, you should reach out to that one friend you’ve been thinking about and hop on a video chat.


Building relationships with my patients is what I value the most in my job. I feel privileged that I get to connect with people not just during the pandemic but also in a climate where people tend to keep to themselves in an urban city. Not to mention that I was also able to get this patient to actually get a pair of glasses so she can let her eyes have a break from wearing contact lenses too much.

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30 Minutes Intentional - Racism in Canada

30 Minutes Intentional - Racism in Canada
Because of my optometric training, I had spent four years in the US living in five different cities for rotations. This also means that I spent four years explaining to friends and colleagues how Canada is different from the US, how our healthcare system works, and how to use “eh” properly.

Amidst the BLM movement that is sweeping across the world, I cannot help but to ask myself:

Is Canada really as nice as what the Americans or the rest of the world perceived us?
How are we doing when it comes to racism compared to the US? Or to the rest of the world?

During my time in the US was the first time I witnessed systemic racism against Blacks and Latinos not only in the healthcare system but also among my own classmates in higher education. That was also the first time I had experienced micro-aggression towards myself being an Asian female. Now being back in Canada, I am re-examining the Canada that I knew. I had learned that Canada avoids having difficult conversations regarding certain topics. It feels too “un-Canadian”. I am hoping to open up an honest conversation about how Canada is doing when it comes to racism. My Canadian experience is what it is because of who I am. Another person’s experience in Canada would not be the same. Therefore I cannot draw conclusions on how Canada is based on just my own experience.

I want to have those conversations, as difficult as they could be.

Join me and Dr. Nana Owusu on our conversations series of "30 Minutes Intentional - Racism in Canada" where we discuss discrimination against the Black community on an individual level as well as in a professional setting. We will also be talking about how we can move forward.

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So, what really goes on during an eye exam?

So, what really goes on during an eye exam?

“What exactly goes on in a comprehensive eye exam?” you ask. Here is the most raw and first hand account on what happens behind closed doors...

I’d welcome you into my exam room. We may chat about that film you recently watched at VIFF. I would ask you what is bothering you about your eyes or vision. I know you secretly think that you are going blind from staring at the screen too much. Usually that’s not the case and I’d offer my professional words of comfort to calm you down.

First, we determine what your vision is, physiologically not philosophically, although sometimes we do get into that. Then, the riddle comes. I put you behind this device and ask you repetitive questions. I give you two choices that are similar and ask you which one looks better to you.

Sometimes, you start experiencing shortness of breath and sweaty palms. It's like your first school dance all over again. You're afraid to be rejected, that I would tell you that you made all the wrong choices or that you are horrible at this game that no one likes to play.

The truth is: there is no right or wrong. You are not stuck with a bad glasses prescription because you thought you did badly. It is my job to make sure that it is not the case. Don't think of it as a challenge that you need to "pass". Think of it as a dance, the pleasant kind, where you just take my lead and we can both have fun.

After our dance, we would have the discussion whether or not you should get the dilation eye drops. This conversation sometimes can be like a child negotiating to eat vegetables or not. “It’s good for you! I would check the health of the back of the eye to make sure there are no retinal tears or breaks and that all the blood vessels are healthy!” I’d tell you. You’d counter with the argument that you need to go back to work or you are horrible with eye drops. We usually reach a deal where I promise the eye drops would be instilled as quickly as superhumanly possible or we would reschedule the dilation for another time where you bring a driver or support animal with you. It is true. The eye drops knock out your focusing ability that prevents you from seeing things clearly, especially for things close up. I am not giving you any ideas but I’ve seen it being used as an excuse to get out of work or dates.

This is how I peak into your soul. Just kidding. This is a slit lamp that helps me check your retina.
This is how I peak into your soul. Just kidding. This is a slit lamp that helps me check your retina.

I would also do that air puff test that you love so much for eye pressure. Sometimes, negotiation happens here too. Usually, it happens so quickly that it’s already done before you know it. After your pupils are nicely dilated like those of festival goers, I then proceed to look deep into your eyes with this bright light. It’s blinding like the truth. It’s yellow in colour and sometimes I’d switch between blue and green light too. I would take a deep look into your eyes as you look in different directions like I’m peaking into your soul. Sometimes, you’d ask me curiously or nervously, “What are you looking for?”. The truth is: I don’t want to find anything. This is the only time you want to be “unremarkable”. I want to find your macula being immaculate with no deposits, no tears/breaks on your retina, and your optic nerve looks like a healthy donut. As an eye doctor, I want to be able to tell you that we don’t need to worry about cataracts, glaucoma, retinal changes etc. Usually everything is good despite your last eye exam being more than 2 years ago (lucky you!). Sometimes, I could find little buggers during your eye exam that need extra attention. Not to worry. I would just treat, follow up or refer to specialists as needed. Either way, the outcomes of our visits are usually cheerful where you share with me how your passion project is taking off and I show you the new Samba vinyl I got.

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"You had me at sushi chef"

"You had me at sushi chef"

ili Liang, OD, MPH, was walking through the Gastown district of Vancouver, an older, artsy part of this British Columbia town. She and an optometrist friend stopped in at Durant Sessions, an optical shop that had such a unique vibe and cool staff that Dr. Liang approached the owner and asked if she could open an optometry office in the back. “I wanted to be at a place where the culture was focused more on catering to customers than simply selling,” she says.

With enough space to equip one exam lane, Dr. Liang started out slowly and continues to work just one day a week since the opening in June 2017. She's solidified her partnership, and they will be opening another location together where she will be a shareholder of the retail and in charge of optometric exams as an independent business. The goal is to create a network of Durant Sessions where ODs can have the option to be shareholders, even as new graduates. “We want to promote the culture and the model where everyone is an owner, opticians or optometrists,” she says. That will mean reducing her hours in the four other locations where she works as a part-time associate. “That’s fairly typical for how optometrists here work, putting together a number of part-time jobs. Eventually, you may settle into one or build your own,” she says.

The vision she had for her own space was almost exactly what she found. “If I were to create any kind of retail space, this would be it. I love what they have and where they are in this smaller community filled with artists and startups and businesses that support each other,” she says.

The optical opened in 2016, so it had already begun to build its client base. That certainly helped Dr. Liang, who said her early growth beat her projections. “I think it helps them that there’s an OD here now, and I know it helps me because so many people know about the shop.”

She’s fully on board with the creative marketing that the location does. “Whenever there’s a new product line, the shop will host an after-hours event. One local painter created a piece inspired by a new product launch, and when they brought in a Japanese brand, the shop hired a local sushi chef for the evening,” she says.

Source: Review of Optometry/Women in Optometry

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What Dr Lili sees

What Dr Lili sees
How much can you learn about someone in 30 minutes? Does it seem long to you? Or is it too short? When I spend this one-on-one time with a patient in my exam room, my patients share their stories, big or small, medical or not. During these 30 minutes, I get to peek into their lives.

I never fully understood what “doctor-patient relationship” really meant when I was an optometry student. You hear the term being thrown around when you are in training all the time. “Build rapport with your patients” “Listen to your patients” As students or interns, we were too busy worrying about performing exams correctly, or your preceptor/attending yelling at you for being too slow. I thought“doctor-patient relationship” was something that would just come naturally. Building that relationship when you were in training was the last thing on your mind.

Now, I am practicing as an optometrist on my own. My eye exams are not shared with any other interns or overseen by any preceptors. It is “my own show.” I am centre stage with my patient. I started to invest into the “doctor-patient relationship” that they have been talking about so much because I’d like to give the greatest show.

When I am in the exam room with a patient, they tell me stories. There is a story waiting to be heard behind every pair of eyes. Why they moved across the world. What passion project they are working on. How they got to where they are. Who changed their lives. Sometimes the conversations can be a nice casual chat. Sometimes they can be discussions on religion or personal aspirations. All coming from the simple notion of wanting to know, what are you using your vision for, literally and sometimes metaphorically. They have so much to tell and I just listen.

I realized that the doctor-patient relationship comes naturally when you get to know someone as a person, not as a patient. The relationship becomes meaningful when you relate to each other's values, dreams, beliefs and even fears. The relationship elevates when you remove that white coat and become a friend, even family.

You may say that as an optometrist, it is the nature of an eye doctor’s job to ask questions and listen to the concerns. What I have learned is that everyone longs to connect. Everyone has much more to say than just a simple yes/no response. Everyone actually has a story to tell when given the chance. All you need to do is to just listen.

What's your story?

I created the hashtag #WhatLiliSees to feature some of the patient stories I hear. I want to share what I see in each patient as Lili and not as Dr. Lili. I want to encourage other health care practitioners, students in training and even non-medical professionals to do the same: to just listen. After all, what we do is all about relationships. Continue reading


It was late afternoon. The room was hot and filled with patients that had been waiting for hours. They were all watching the doctors perform eye exams, wondering when it would finally be their turn.

It was the fifth day of our nine-day mission trip. Each day, we’d set up our mobile clinic in a different community within a few hours drives outside of Lima, Peru. We were a team of eighteen volunteers, including five doctors. We brought an inventory of more than ten thousand pairs of glasses, mostly donated, to dispense based on prescriptions. At the end of the trip, we saw 4733 patients and dispensed more than 3500 pairs of glasses.

‍This particular afternoon, my body, brain and mind had already experienced all kinds of fatigue. On top of it all, there was the disappointment and frustration of not being able to give the best glasses for the high astigmatism that many of our patients had.

Am I really helping them at all?
I called for the next patient before my interpreter quickly told me there was a blind man that had been waiting. On his registration form, it said that his vision had been poor in the right eye since childhood, while the vision in the left eye was not much better. I took a look at him and thought to myself: is this yet another patient with a complicated prescription that would result in another disappointment?

The man was not blind, but I could see how he could be perceived as a blind person. Blind, what a debilitating word. He had very high nearsightedness and could not see beyond his nose. I performed the exam, telling him to look towards the natural light that was coming from outside the exam room as a fixation point because everything else was too blurry for him to fixate on. He told me that he had glasses before but they broke four years ago. Since then, this man lived with “blind” vision and was treated as if he was actually blind. He couldn't go anywhere without being guided...or rather being dragged by the hand. I knew we had some glasses for high prescription such as his. I guided him over to our glasses dispensary to make sure he didn't get drowned out in the crowd or made to wait “blindly”. I knew he would never have the luxury of achieving 20/20 vision like another patient with the same prescription who had accessible eye care. However, I knew that he could, at least, not have to rely on another person to simply walk down the street.

We put a pair of glasses with the closest prescription we had onto his face. His eyes widened and stopped searching around. He was able to fixate on my face and track movements. He had the biggest smile. That was all I needed from that exhausting afternoon. He was so thankful even though the glasses weren't perfect. I watched him navigate through the crowd and out of the clinic all by himself, without being guided. At that moment, I felt strangely proud of him. Continue reading

He was 18 and she was 16

He was 18 and she was 16
He was 18 and she was 16 when they first met. Diane was trying to park on a hill but got stuck. Ron came to the rescue. “From the first moment I saw her, I knew she was the one,” Ron reminisced. “She had always been small, weighing about 115 pounds, never more than 120. Her face didn’t change much either. She aged so well.” He remembered Diane down to the last detail.

Ron was smiling at me when I first called for him in the waiting room. Usually the first few moments of an encounter shows how the rest of the appointment will go. I thought he had a pleasant and uplifting disposition. I had no idea of the story he would be sharing with me in the exam room.

Diane passed away five months before Ron came in for his eye exam. The lung cancer had spread everywhere throughout her body. The last few months were difficult in hospice care. Before the hospice diagnosis, Ron had been caring for Diane in their home. He bathed her, brushed her teeth, and fed her. When Diane told Ron of her decision to move into a hospice facility, Ron broke down. “She looked at me and said, ‘Well, I am not going to hospice care if you are going to be like that!’ That’s how strong she was,” Ron recalled, still with sparkles in his eyes.

“We were married for 47 years but we had a date that lasted for 51 years.”

That was the first time I cried in an exam room with a patient. Not because of a terminal diagnosis; not because of devastating vision loss. I witnessed every last bit of heartache, one that can only be experienced from the loss of a true love. “It is easy to go to bed but waking up is the hardest. I want everyone to be able to experience true love.” Ron was still wearing his wedding ring.

“We worked hard but we played harder,” Ron answered when I asked him how they kept their marriage strong for 47 years. Diane did her scuba diving course and Ron got his skydiving license. “I would say, Diane, pack your bags and we would be off to our next adventure.” They would bring their daughter along for their road trips and boating excursions.

Their marriage wasn’t always smooth sailing. They dabbled in the common recreations of the ’60s and ’70s. Diane had become Ron’s drinking buddy after they met, but his drinking habits continued well into their marriage — almost shattering it. Now Ron had been 25 years sober and Diane stuck with him throughout the process. They planned to spend Christmas this year in Costa Rica and move there full-time next year. I suggested that he still go to Costa Rica for Christmas. “I think I might still go, maybe with my daughter and granddaughter.”

What struck me the most about Ron wasn’t his love story, but how pleasant he was during our interaction. He wasn’t sulking. He didn’t give off negative energy. Throughout our conversations, he would break down, only to then apologize for being emotional before thanking me for listening. At the end, he said “thank you doctor. It feels good to just talk about it.”

Everyone has a story to tell when given the chance. Just listen. Continue reading

Where does all the passion go?

Where does all the passion go?
“And as it be..I am so to be 24 and have still found almost no sense of purpose in my life … I am aimless and my directions point nowhere. My actions are those of one with half the brain. I hold and live only a fraction of the heart that is within me. Where does all the passion go? Why am I the only one who seems blind when it comes to seeing the meaningful reasons for living and breathing - am I the only one whose taste buds are dead and stay untouched with the thought of a will for life while I watch the others drool - looking foolish, - and oh so [insignificant] to me, my ..”

I was walking down Robson street, passing the 7-11 across from the public library. It was one of those fall evenings when the brisk air just soaks up your lungs. A slender young woman in a thin black shirt and pants was kneeling on the sidewalk, her back dangerously close to oncoming traffic. She was scribbling on something. She had a mild sway to her body, pondering, clicking her red pen away. I was curious but quickly looked away. I learned sometime ago not to stare at the folks occupying downtown Vancouver sidewalks.

Some time passed, and as I walked back past the same 7-11, I noticed the young woman was nowhere in sight. In her place at the edge of the sidewalk lay a wooden plaque. She poured out her heart onto this piece of wood, leaving it on the sidewalk upon her departure. I was taken aback by the plaque’s heartache and beauty, finding surprise and pain in something that many would consider ugly. I judged her for possibly not being in a sober state of mind. I judged her because she was on the sidewalk. I was taken aback by the raw confession and the certain sophistication in her hand writing. They are humans too. They were once children, naive to the world. They were once in school, learning to dream. They may be parents, trying to do good.

Vancouver doesn’t have an opioid problem. Vancouver doesn’t have a housing problem. We have crises. We have grown accustomed to the sidewalk population that is not limited to East Hastings anymore. Even children have learned to accept that that’s just part of the Vancouver streets. No societal problems exist in isolation. We are all responsible.

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