An eye for the Pacific

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It’s no secret that Specsavers Hastings Optometrist and Partner Niall McCormack is passionate about giving back to his community. Amongst a very long list of community endeavours, Niall has trained graduate optometrists, volunteered his optometry services for the NZ Special Olympics and supported The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ’s work in Fiji. In 2017, Niall even founded Eye Care for Africa, a charity that helps to provide eye care to some of the most marginalised groups in the countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya (donate to the cause here).

While being unable to travel due to COVID-19 was a hindrance for many, Niall didn’t let it stop his passions.

He recently hosted a one-hour webinar training session, organised by Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, and attended by nurses and health extension officers studying a one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Eye Care from the Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji. The Institute was built by The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ that continues to support the eyecare training programs in conjunction with the Fijian Ministry of Health.

“I participated in the Zoom outreach session because I’ve worked at the Pacific Eye Institute before and know the sacrifices these students have made in leaving their families for a year and how worthwhile the course is for the people of the various Pacific Islands,” he says.

Niall’s session was focussed on two key case studies – a patient with a concussion and a paediatric case.

Student Kalesi Vosabecs says: “The presentations were very helpful to us in so many ways. The case study about children presenting with myopia due to increased screen time was my personal favourite. When kids present to my clinic with myopic symptoms in future, I will be much more equipped in knowledge to be able to care for them. Also, I personally have two sons so I have decided to cut down their screen time and exercise their eyes with other activities that he recommended.”

Another student Preenka Venkataiya agrees and says: “I really appreciate everything we learnt. I know it will help me a lot in my field of work next year and beyond.”

Niall says that he thoroughly enjoyed the session and while the students were quite shy at the start, they soon warmed up and were participating in large discussions about eye care.

“I’m pretty well versed with the operation of The Foundation in Fiji after volunteering there in the past, but it did re-emphasise to me that the students are all very worthy of their places on the course. They certainly knew what they were talking about,” says Niall.

To anyone interested in hosting a similar session, opportunities for 2021 outreaches with The Fred Hollows Foundation AU and NZ – both over Zoom and in person – will be announced around February, with applications closing in March. To register your interest now and ensure you don’t miss out on any announcements, email Duchesne.Markham@specsavers.com.

Niall says: “It’s a really good experience for any optometrist to get involved with and you’ll always feel an immense sense of satisfaction on completion.”

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