Three years out of university, Specsavers Innaloo Optometrist David Hsu is already making his mark on Australian optometry, having recently shared his vision for the profession with MPs at a Vision 2020 Australia event held at Parliament House. Spectrum talks to David about what he learned in Canberra, the factors that have contributed to his growth as a young leader, and what he hopes to see in the future of optometry.

Last month, David was nominated by Optometry Australia (OA) to attend the ‘Rising Stars in Eye Health and Vision Care’ networking event, which was held on 12 September 2017 at Parliament House. The exclusive cocktail evening was an initiative of Vision 2020 and its member organisations and was designed to introduce early-career professionals from various sectors of eye health – optometry, ophthalmology, low vision and rehabilitation – to parliamentarians and policy decision-makers.

David was selected as one of approximately 30 ‘Rising Stars’ due to the leadership he has demonstrated within the optometry profession since graduating from QUT in 2014. He was appointed as Chairman of the OA Early Career Optometrists WA chapter in January 2016 – a role which he continues to hold – and has also been an Optometry WA board member since October 2016.

At the Rising Stars cocktail event, David and the other young eye-health professionals spoke with politicians such as Martin Rocks from the Federal Department of Health’s Indigenous Health sector, Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale, and MPs Andrew Wilkie, Tim Wilson and Jane Prentice.

“This was an opportunity for us to build the necessary bridges as young advocates for the optometry profession,” David says.

Advocating for optometry
Earlier in the day, prior to the Rising Stars event, OA also held a series of advocacy workshops at Parliament House for the 12 early-career optometrists attending the cocktail evening. The key policy priorities for optometry were discussed, including the Medicare rebate freeze.

“For optometry to remain a sustainable profession we need the Federal Government to stop the freeze on Medicare rebates for optometry and reinstate annual indexation of the MBS consistent with CPI,” David states. “The patient rebate for optometric services is 5% less today than it was in 2012.”

David notes that another major policy issue related to the provision of best practice access for middle-aged Australians. “As part of the 2014-15 Budget, the Federal Government announced changes to the frequency with which patients would be able to access a Medicare rebate for a comprehensive eye examination from two yearly to once every three years for patients below 65 years of age. This was not helpful as the prevalence of most preventable eye diseases increases significantly after the age of 40, and research shows the rate of undetected ocular disease at a population level can be significant. This is a potential risk for patients.”

Commenting on his interest in advocacy, David says, “Being an early-career optometrist, I recognise that I still have decades of the optometry profession ahead of me. I feel that it is my own responsibility to ensure that the career path that I have chosen for myself remains sustainable through the future years. If I see a potential problem ahead, I need to find a positive solution for it.”

Leading by example
In addition to being active within the broader optometry profession, David has been active within the Specsavers community, acting as a peer mentor for the Specsavers Graduate Program, of which he was a member prior to completing the program in February 2017. He also completed Specsavers’ two-year leadership and management development program, Pathway, in June 2017 and is positioned to become a Specsavers Joint Venture Partner in the near future.

“Specsavers no doubt has contributed towards my growth not only as a health professional but also as a person,” David comments. “Being a peer mentor for the Specsavers Graduate Program and completing Pathway has added to my leadership experience. In fact, Pathway has taught me important lessons that can be applied to my growth as a future leader in optometry and as an advocate for the profession, such as Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change.”

Despite his achievements to date, David’s personal career aspirations are fairly modest: “At the end of the day, all I want is to be a respected optometrist within my community as I truly enjoy the social interactions I share with my patients. I take joy and pride in knowing that I have affected in a positive way the lives of different people from all walks of life.

“It is undeniable that optometry is changing, so I really hope that I can inspire other young optometrists to really think about the profession,” David adds.