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Profession mourns the loss of two optometrists


Australia’s eyecare community has lost two members in recent weeks, with the passing of Victorian optometrist Dr Genevieve Napper and Queensland’s Mr Malcolm Lee See.

Napper, well known throughout the profession for her work in public health optometry including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health, lost her battle with cancer on 26 June.

Lee See, an independent optometrist in Kingaroy, north-west of Brisbane, died four days later in a car crash on the D’Aguilar Highway at Moore. He had been a member of Optometry Queensland and Northern Territory for almost 40 years.

He was a sole practitioner with his practice, Malcolm Lee See Optometrist, believed to be closing following his death. He is survived by his wife, Marie, two daughters and two sons.

Optometry Queensland and Northern Territory CEO Cathryn Baker paid tribute to Lee See.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident. Malcolm was a valued and highly regarded member of Optometry Queensland and Northern Territory for over 39 years. He will be missed by all. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and staff at this sad time,” she said.

Napper worked for the Australian College of Optometry (ACO) for nearly 30 years and was a highly valued member of the team, as well as an active member and Fellow of the college. She also held management positions over the years in Aboriginal Services, Ocular Diseases and Low Vision.

“Genevieve was an inspiring advocate for ACO’s public health services and her passion and commitment to improving eye health services and outcomes for all Australians, but in particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and her contributions to the broader optometry profession, will not be forgotten. She worked tirelessly to develop and grow the ACO’s Aboriginal Services and then went on to lead the service from 2012 until leaving the ACO in 2018,” ACO CEO Maureen O’Keefe said.

“Genevieve understood the importance of grass roots advocacy as a means towards improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health outcomes, and as a result was very active in representing the ACO on many Aboriginal community and regional committees as well as on Vision2020 Australia committees. Genevieve’s contributions were also significant in clinical care, education and research.”

In Queensland, Ms Gayle Louis has worked at Malcolm Lee See’s optometry practice for 14 years in reception and office administration.

She said he had been in Kingaroy for more than 30 years, and worked as an engineer prior to training as an optometrist.

“He was very thorough with his patients. He would find problems that specialists had trouble finding. He cared about his patients”.

‘A great mentor’

According to Optometry Australia, Napper’s public health work was supplemented by additional voluntary and advisory group roles, including as a long-standing member of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health advisory group and the now retired Low Vision Working Group.

She also served on the board of directors of Optometry Victoria and Optometry Victoria/South Australia’s CPD committee and more recently on the State Advisory Committee Victoria, Optometry Australia reported.

“Genevieve was a great mentor for younger staff, taking them under her wing in their early career, and was actively involved in the ACO’s clinical teaching program, particularly in ocular diseases. She was instrumental in encouraging optometrists in the early stages of their careers to work in public health. She inspired them to see value in public health eye care,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe recalled joining Dr Napper on an outreach visit to Lake Tyers and Lakes Entrance.

“Genevieve was very good at listening to community, to hearing what they needed and how they would like eyecare services delivered, with a strong focus on accessibility and affordability. She was ahead of her times in this regard. People in communities knew her – they would stop to have a yarn. She spent time getting to know people and finding a connection,” O’Keefe said.

“Genevieve was passionate about the ACO and very committed to our public health values, which were very aligned with her own personal values.”

Napper’s funeral will take place on 16 July, but due to current COVD-19 restrictions capping the number of attendees to 50, the event will be live streamed here. The Napper family has asked that donations be made towards a scholarship to be established in her memory.

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