Inspiring students to Bridge the Gap in Indigenous Eye Health
"A really great experience that gave me the opportunity to see a different way of practicing and helped build my confidence!" These were the words from Emily Cranfield of Flinders University on her return from a trip to remote Western Australia after being selected as one of three recipients of the Judy Glover Scholarship (pictured below left). Supported by Optometry Giving Sight and this year funded by Lions Save Sight Foundation, the students were there to learn from and assist optometry and ophthalmology teams delivering eye care to the remote indigenous communities surrounding Kunanurra and Fitzroy Crossing.
Since 2012, thanks to her family, this scholarship has been running as a way to honour the late Judy Glover who was well known for her kindness and passion in providing eye care to remote indigenous communities. This year’s students were from across three states coming from UNSW, Melbourne University and Flinders University in South Australia. It was a welcome bonus to have a student from each school of Optometry in the country. By exposing final year students, Judy’s family hoped that her legacy would live on in the passion and conviction students develop for the cause when undertaking vision care in remote areas.
All reports suggest that this has certainly been the case for the students from this year’s group. Emily Glover from Melbourne University felt that she had, "a fantastic hands-on experience each day and wanted to submerge herself in the placement and the culture of the area." She also said that the experience had inspired and changed the way she thinks about health care in remote settings and strengthened the concept of engaging with the community and their health.
Tyson Xu of UNSW (pictured above right) echoed Emily’s comments by saying, "The major point that I’ve taken away from the trip is the importance of the role that optometrists have in such remote areas. People are walking around with legally blinding pathology (cataracts, refractive error, diabetic retinopathy) which can be better managed and treated by a multidisciplinary eye team of optometrists and ophthalmologists."
From left, John Farmer from Leunig & Farmer Eyecare, Emily Cranfield from Flinders University, Emily Glover from Melbourne University and Tyson Xu from UNSW.
Throughout their two week trip the students were able to consult in Fitzroy Crossing Hospital and were then split up to work in different communities in conjunction with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. As an added bonus the Lions Outback Vision Van was in the area during their visit and the three students were able to see the positive impact this new facility brings to eye care delivery in the region.
Dr John Farmer from Leunig and Farmer Eyecare has been travelling with and mentoring each group for the past 4 years. He says, "the experience of being in and delivering eye care in these communities is invaluable. Not only does it broaden their understanding of eye care and the role of the clinician, but also they experience the communities and the needs of rural and remote Australia and the difficulties the people and health professionals face in these locations." John has watched the program develop and says that it provides a unique experience learning experience for selected students, one he feels helps to shape them in to better clinicians.
The Judy Glover Scholarship runs in May each year and is available to 3 final year optometry students with a keen interest in Indigenous eye health and remote optometry. Applications for next year’s scholarship will open up in February 2018.