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Eyecare professionals recognised in Australia Day Honours

Nine people from the ophthalmic sector have featured in the Australia Day 2021 Honours List.   

Five ophthalmologists and an orthoptist became a member of the order (AM) for their service to ophthalmology and eyecare, while a further two ophthalmologists and a president of a patient support organisation received a medal of the order of Australia (OAM).

Those to receive an AM were ophthalmologists Associate Professor Anne Brooks from East Melbourne, Dr John Crompton from North Adelaide, Dr Tom Playfair from Woollahra, Dr Richard Stawell from Hawthorn and Dr Kevin Vandeleur from Brisbane, as well as former Orthoptics Australia president Mrs Marion Rivers from Gisborne South.

Ophthalmologists Dr Henry Lew from Caulfield North, Dr John Willoughby from Gawler, and Mr Larry Kornhauser, a founding member of Keratoconus Australia and president since 2000, received an OAM.

They were among 570 recipients in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

Crompton, an Adelaide ophthalmologist, had “no idea” who nominated him but was “surprised and humbled” when asked to accept the AM.

Recognised for his significant service to ophthalmology, and to the community of the Asia-Pacific region, he said four decades of teaching is among his career achievements.

“I’m most proud of teaching ophthalmology trainees at Royal Adelaide Hospital for 39 years and setting up neuro-ophthalmology training and in-country fellowships in South East Asia with Sight For All,” he said.

Crompton currently works in private practice two days a week, and continues his teaching legacy, serving as Clinical Professor at the Medical School at the University of Adelaide, University of Medicine (Myanmar) and the University of Udayana (Bali).

Fellow South Australian Dr Willoughby, OAM, is director and ophthalmologist of Gawler Eye and Laser Clinic. He has provided ophthalmology outreach service to Barossa since 1979 and to Kangaroo Island from 1979-2008. He also founded Vision of Islands, a charity providing eye team visits and consultations/surgeries and donations of eye surgery equipment to the Pacific Islands of Tonga and Tuvalu.

Women under-represented  

Brooks is an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne and is heavily involved at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH) as head of Special Eye Clinic 3, clinical lead of the Acute Ophthalmology Service, and an ophthalmologist to the Glaucoma Investigation and Research Unit and the Surgical Ophthalmology Service.

She was happy to accept the honour but noted the under-representation of women, with just a third going to women. She pointed this out in an Australia Day article in The Australian which included mention of her late mother Dr Nancy Lewis.

“She was an early pioneering ophthalmologist who achieved very much but was not recognised in this way,” she said.

Brooks was most proud of the 3 Special Teaching Clinic at RVEEH, which teaches registrars and helps them succeed in their RANZCO clinical examinations. This has resulted in her being awarded a RANZCO Trainer of Excellence for Victoria nine times.

At RANZCO, she was also the first woman to be awarded the College Medal in 2019, following 28 male awardees. She helped steer RANZCO’s glaucoma special interest group and has been on the Australian and New Zealand Glaucoma Interest Group for more 30 years.

At RVEEH, she received the Aubrey Bowen Medal and then the Board Chair’s Medal – the hospital’s highest honour.

Representing the ‘hidden workforce’

Orthoptist Mrs Rivers presumed her colleagues were involved in her nomination.

“I was absolutely delighted to be honoured so publicly for my work over many years to promote and encourage the profession. The orthoptic profession is often the hidden workforce in eye health so I was delighted to be recognised,” she said.

She said there have been many highlights in her career spanning more than 50 years.

“Working as a paediatric orthoptist at Vision Australia where I could share all my knowledge with parents raising children and babies – perhaps facing a lifetime of vision impairment – and give them a way forward was some of the most rewarding work,” she said.

“I have also loved the practical teaching of both orthoptic students and medical students over many years. I am very proud of the reforms made at Orthoptics Australia while president to improve professional development and to place the association on a sound financial and regulatory future.”

Rivers continues to volunteer for Orthoptics Australia subcommittees and chairs Vision 2020’s Prevention and Early Intervention committee.

List of Honours

Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia:

Associate Professor Anne Brooks, East Melbourne VIC
For significant service to ophthalmology, and to eye health organisations.

Dr John Crompton RFD, North Adelaide SA
For significant service to ophthalmology, and to the community of the Asia-Pacific region.

Dr Tom Playfair, Woollahra NSW
For significant service to ophthalmology, and to professional colleges.

Dr Richard Stawell, Hawthorn VIC
For significant service to ophthalmology, to research, and to professional bodies.

Dr Kevin Vandeleur, QLD
For significant service to ophthalmology, and to the international community.

Mrs Marion Rivers, Gisborne South VIC
For significant service to eye health care, and to the community.

Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division:

Mr Larry Kornhauser, VIC
For service to eye health research, and to people with keratoconus.

Dr Henry Lew, Caulfield North VIC
For service to ophthalmology, and to the Jewish community.

Dr John Willoughby, Gawler SA
For service to ophthalmology, and to sailing.

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