Giving Back with Eye Hub
Sit down with Dr Sonia Moorthy and her passion for giving back to the community and her industry is clear. John Caruso meets the locally based ophthalmologist who’s doing her bit to improve access to healthy eyes, here and in regional communities.
You may have met Dr Moorthy from Eyehub Buderim in our previous issue, a self-described ‘country girl at heart’ who has studied and practiced in multiple continents across the globe. From the UK to Asia and now here in Australia.
“My junior years as a doctor were spent in Scotland and then in Hampshire, England which is where I started a year-and-a-half of ophthalmology, and it became apparent that my future wasn’t in the UK,” she said. “I’m a tropical girl who loves the sun, I didn’t have family in the UK, and I had a brother in Melbourne who was completing his aerospace engineering degree.
“Melbourne appealed because of its reputation as a cosmopolitan, multicultural city,” she explains.
The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital has a long history as a respectable and prestigious institute, and it was here that Dr Moorthy lay the foundations for her chosen career.
“Coming into Australia as a foreign graduate to train in ophthalmology is difficult, the doors are shut to foreigners like myself, however I was determined to succeed,” she said.
“I completed my training in Sydney and then went to sub-specialise in paediatric ophthalmology in Singapore and London. The issue with sub-specialising is that you can get pigeon-holed into only doing your sub-specialty field, and ophthalmology in Australia, especially in regional Australia is not like that, you must deal with whatever comes through your door. You don’t have specialists in floors above and below you who can help, and this was something I considered as my sub-specialist training went on,” she says.
A move back to Australia meant working across multiple areas and a continued focus on developing her skill levels. An opportunity arose in Cairns where locum work was required.
“There was a great need for paediatric and general ophthalmology in Far North Queensland where the catchment area goes all the way to Cape York and beyond and west to the Atherton Tablelands,” she said.
“I also was appointed as a visiting medical officer at the public hospital in Cairns where a lot of the public work comes via private rooms because the private rooms are better equipped in terms of their set-up compared to the public hospital. It was here that I got to treat indigenous children and bulk bill them, providing an avenue to seek treatment and care and subsequently if they needed anything done I could do that in Cairns or refer them onto Brisbane,” Dr Moorthy explains.
As a result, children didn’t have to wait years to be seen. “Healthy vision for young children is important when you consider there’s only a small window to correct early eye problems.
“Working in Cairns was a real game-changer for me. I had skills I could utilise to help these children and that’s something I didn’t take for granted.”
Practicing in regional Australian communities is not just about treating indigenous children. There’s a large percentage of the general population that have difficulty accessing care, such as people who are disabled or people with multiple social issues.
“Every Australian should be able to access health care in equal measures and now I’m focusing my attention on the community in Emerald, a small Queensland town, 275 kilometres west of Rockhampton. I’m doing that on a fly in, fly out basis and the work I’ve been doing there has been well received so I feel it’s meaningful and worthwhile,” Dr Moorthy explains.
Combined with the ongoing work at her practice in Buderim and the work in the Central Highlands, there’s an additional aspect to Dr Moorthy’s ethos of ‘giving back to the community’.
“I’m an examiner for the Royal College of Ophthalmology looking after the registrars that sit for their basic science exams,” Dr Moorthy explains.
“It involves physiology of the eye as well as basic clinical skills and that’s something that needs to be completed in the first two years of the four-year training period. It’s a vital component that sets you up for the rest of your training and it’s an important foundation to grasp. I’m in a position after practicing independently for the last four years, where I can offer my experience and expertise, especially after practicing in Far North Queensland where you’re making all the health care decisions for your patients without the support of nearby sub-specialists.”
A testament to the quality and level of care that Dr Moorthy provides is evident in the fact that patients regularly travel from Emerald and Cairns to see her here on the Sunshine Coast.
The ongoing work that’s being performed is acknowledgment to Dr Moorthy’s parents and the sacrifices and commitment they made to support her studies and career.
“My father used to say ‘it is not the things you do in life that matters, it’s the things you never did’,” she said.
It’s part of Dr Moorthy’s life that’s she’s forever grateful for.