With a curiosity in the anatomy of the eye sparked when he participated in a high school experiment with an ox eye, Dr Angus Turner went on to succeed in combining his love of the outback and his passion for eye health to forge an extraordinary medical career.
A Rhodes Scholar, Angus graduated from UWA's Medical School in 2000 and then completed his ophthalmology training in Melbourne before returning to WA. His two passions, eye care and health outreach would combine with the launch of The Lions Outback Vision van, making state-of-the-art eye care available to people in regional and remote areas.
“The Medical School at UWA was a fantastic opportunity for me. There were plenty of opportunities for me to go to Kalgoorlie or Kununurra. These times were really formative in my passion and interest evolving for outreach work. I was always thinking, ‘how would eye surgery and ophthalmology fit in in that context?’”
Working in communities right across the State, Angus identified that while most hospitals had good eye surgery facilities, most equipment used for many common conditions was falling behind the standard of care. Angus lobbied to rally funders and in 2015, he become the first active director of the Lions Outback Vision Van, a fully mobile facility designed to complement existing eye health and optometry services to screen for conditions before people become blind or lose vision.
The van travels thousands of kilometres a year to support 16 different communities; from Esperance and Albany in the south, through to Kalgoorlie and Katanning and as far north as Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek. More than 40 patients visit the van per day, presenting with a wide range of conditions, including glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy; both common conditions that can cause vision loss if not treated.
The work of Dr Turner and the Outback Vision van team has contributed to halving the rates of preventable blindness, particularly amongst indigenous people, through improved access to eye care.
Reflecting on his experiences at the UWA Medical School, Dr Turner said he was grateful for the opportunities to spend time in the bush, which fuelled his passion to connect with people who need access to equitable eye care.
“Fortunately, at UWA we’re given the opportunity to think beyond the box and invent new ways of doing things, consider how to be curious in the world around us and do something useful for society.”
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