The Observatory

Q&A with Andrew Harris

Andrew Harris has been an optometrist for over 25 years. For 15 years, he served on the National and Victorian Division Boards of Optometry Australia. During his tenure as President of Optometry Australia, he helped to negotiate the end to the fee cap for optometry services giving optometrists more opportunity to invest in services and equipment. The end result is a more flexible primary eye care sector, better diagnostic outcomes for patients and a reduction in the risk of under or over referring. 
Last year, we welcomed Andrew as a new Board member for Vision 2020 Australia. We ask Andrew what he wants to achieve while on the Vision 2020 Australia board and what 2017 will bring for the field of optometry. 
  • What new technology or treatments should optometrists look out for in 2017?
The use of OCT imaging will continue to become a more mainstream investigation. This also is true for corneal assessment with topography and more patient friendly visual field assessments. Ophthalmology and optometry are working in a more integrated way than ever before. Contact lenses and spectacle lenses continue to improve and a broader range of products demands optometrists stay on top of what is available and appropriate for their patients.    
  • What do you think will be the biggest changes in optometry over the next few years?
With an ageing population there will be greater demand on the entire eye care workforce. There will be a requirement for greater efficiency, integration and cooperation. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy/ macular oedema, macular degeneration, glaucoma and the like will change as will referral criteria and roles within the health system. Along with technology and technique changes, there will have to be a flexibility to embrace change for beneficial outcomes in our community.  
  • Have you noticed any changes in the types of conditions patients are presenting with since you first started practicing as an optometrist?
There are definitely more people with diabetes and the related eye diseases that accompany that. When I graduated intraocular lenses were coming into their own as aphakic lenses were being phased out. Cataract surgery is absolutely fantastic now. Macular degeneration is easier to diagnose as there are successful interventions and glaucoma is being managed more successfully. Consequently there is a relative drop in low vision patients although an ageing population means there are many people with low vision.  
  • What inspired you to join the Vision 2020 Australia Board?
The eradication of avoidable vision impairment and blindness is a simple and appropriate ideal. The landscape is changing in this area (technology, population demographics, workforce etc.) and being part of the discussion and response has appeal to me. My previous experience gives me some skills to hopefully make a positive contribution in this area. 
  • What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
To work with a team (Vision 2020 Australia board, staff and the sector as a whole) to effect some positive change and use some different skills from my clinical skill set.
  • On a personal note, can you tell us something that most people don’t know about you / or would be surprised to know about you?
I am an obsessive windsurfer. In the late 90s when I was somewhat fitter and considerably more impulsive (stupid) I sailed from Tarifa, Spain to Morocco and back, and so I guess I can say I’ve windsurfed from one continent to another. These days my limit is two or three hours on the water. 
Thank you Andrew for your time and welcome to Vision 2020 Australia! 
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About the Author

Andrew Harris

Andrew Harris is a well-known Melbourne optometrist registered by the Optometry Board of Australia since 1990. Andrew has owned and run his own optometry practice in North Melbourne since 1992. Andrew has a depth of experience as an optometrist and leader of the optometry sector having been involved in optometry leadership at both the state and federal level. In 2016, Andrew joined the Board of Vision 2020 Australia.View author's posts
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