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Thank a sight-saving hero, thank an Ophthalmologist

A staggering 9 in 10 Australians report that “sight” is their most valued sense, but few know the crucial role Ophthalmologists play in eye health.

The Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO) is hoping to change this by increasing awareness this — and every — World Ophthalmologist Day.

Also known as Ophthalmologist Day or International Ophthalmology Day, it is an unofficial professional day of celebration for all specialists in medical and surgical eye disease that is marked annually on August 8.

ASO Chief Executive Officer, Kerry Gallagher, said while it is currently a lesser-known date on the Aussie calendar, he hopes this will soon change.

“As many as 1,100 Ophthalmologists are working around the country right now restoring sight to everyday Australians and improving our quality of life,” he said.

“Sadly though, few people know the difference between the scope of practice of an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist.

“An Ophthalmologist has the highest level of medical training in the eye health sector and is not only a specialist eye doctor, but they are also eye surgeons,” Mr Gallagher said.

In fact, Ophthalmologists will soon be among a small cohort of just three medical specialties who are legislated to use the title of “surgeon” in Australia.

Mr Gallagher said while Optometrists can conduct annual or regular eye tests, patients with known eye conditions should be seeing an Ophthalmologist for management.

“More than half of all Australians self-reported having one or more chronic eye conditions in 2017–2018, and this includes for common conditions such as Cataract, Macular Degeneration, and Diabetic Retinopathy,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Undetected or unmanaged, these conditions can lead to vision loss or blindness – and in Australia, around 90 per cent of all cases of blindness are preventable with appropriate medical care.

“We can address the significant rates of preventable blindness by increasing public health literacy around the importance of eye health and the roles of different eye health professionals.

“This includes starting with the basic step of getting all Australians to commit to an annual eye check.”

You can show your support for the campaign by sharing your stories and photos with the hashtag — #ThankanOphthalmologist — or downloading and using the ASO’s promotional materials.

Find out more about World Ophthalmologist Day and the ASO’s “Thank an Ophthalmologist” campaign by visiting www.asoeye.org/world-ophthalmologist-day

What does an Ophthalmologist do?
An Ophthalmologist is an eye doctor and surgeon who specialises in diagnosing and managing disorders of the eye and visual system. In simple terms? They save the gift of sight!

How many sight-saving heroes are out there?
There are currently almost 1,100 registered Ophthalmologists in Australia. It is a highly competitive medical speciality, with around 135 applications each year for just 32 positions across Australia and New Zealand.

Why are eye surgeons the ultimate authority on eye health?
Ophthalmology requires a minimum of 12 years of tertiary study, first attaining a medical degree, completing internship and residency as a doctor, and then undertaking further specialist study as an Ophthalmologist. There are some conditions only their specialist-trained eye can see!

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