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Selfless eye doctor claims top Western Australian community award

Dr Angus Turner, an ophthalmologist dedicated to improving eyecare services for people living in regional and remote communities, has been recognised at the recent Western Australian of the Year Awards.

The founder of Lions Outback Vision at the Lions Eye Institute (LEI) was among seven people recognised at the cerony, and received the Professions Award for his work in delivering eyecare to people living in isolated and disadvantaged locations.

Turner works across Western Australia, with a particular focus on the North West of the state. The region has a large Indigenous population, many whom live significant distances from specialist eye health care.

As the McCusker Director of Lions Outback Vision, Turner leads a team that provides sight-saving treatment to those communities, as well as training for rural health workers to screen for vision problems.

After launching a mobile eye clinic that tours the state twice yearly, Turner has recognised that “the paradigm changes in eye health treatments” required more frequent visits than what was offered through the clinic, or fly-in fly-out (FIFO) services.

He has announced he will move to Broome in 2020 to establish an eye health hub to deliver eyecare services closer to home for the 100,000 people living in the Kimberley and Pilbara.

There are currently no fulltime ophthalmologists to service that population, despite the need for three permanent eye doctors to match urban staffing levels. “We have had significant donations to enable the service to start in 2020 but the costs of the refurbishment of existing buildings is still outstanding,” he said.

“The FIFO outreach model for specialists has been hanging in there but not providing frequent enough access to treatments for diabetic maculopathy or macular degeneration. With a home base in Broome, there will be more capacity for multi-disciplinary engagent across nutrition, education and diabetic healthcare in general.”

Turner is also an Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia, where he is engaged in a number of research projects at the LEI. He is also a clinical lecturer at the Rural Clinical School, and a board member for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Image caption: Dr Bruce Bellinge, Board Mber of Advanced Personnel Managent, presenting Dr Angus Turner with the award.

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