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Celebrating International Women's Day 2018 - interview with Dr Genevieve Oliver

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Dr Genevieve Oliver is an ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon, working at Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide. Dr Oliver is also currently doing a PhD researching neglected and emerging retinal infections such as dengue, Ebola and toxoplasma

What made you interested in becoming an ophthalmologist?
When I was a kid, the only doctor I knew of was Fred Hollows, then a living Kiwi legend. I was inspired to do medicine, but it wasn’t until fourth year at med school that I fell for ophthalmology. I found myself in this insanely busy medical diabetic clinic in Auckland, and some nurse stuck me in the very dark clinic of an ophthalmologist who handed me an ophthalmoscope and put me to work. As I examined the retina, she described what I was seeing. That was my Epiphany. Since then, I have never looked away from ophthalmology or from the retina.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
It’s mundane, but I love discharging patients from clinic... it’s great when they no longer need my care! Having the opportunity to do research is deeply rewarding but also confirmed for me how much I enjoy clinical medicine and just how satisfying ophthalmology is.

What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome to get where you are today? 
It is a long, long road to becoming an ophthalmologist. I used to find it hard looking sideways at my friends who spent the best years of their lives not studying and not vitamin D deficient.

What do you know now that you wish you had known starting out? 
I think life would have been easier if I'd had more self-belief when I was starting out. As a registrar, I had very encouraging and supportive consultants and mentors, but a pretty bad case of impostor syndrome. It was only when I was preparing for the RACE that I realized that if I had any hope of passing, I had to back myself. I wish I had seen Amy Cuddy's TED talk back then: fake it 'til you become it!

What do you think needs to happen in order to press for progress in ophthalmology today? 
As ophthalmologists, we are facing an ever-expanding workload and increasing demands on our time and resources. As a collective, we have a powerful voice to advocate for our patients in terms of funding, research and better health outcomes. Collaboration also inspires diversity, innovation and success.