Interview with Ophthalmologist Dr Robert Griffits
I have been practicing ophthalmology at Lake Macquarie since 1994. Located 120 kilometres north of Sydney, Lake Macquarie adjoins the City of Newcastle, and is classed as regional.
The scope of regional practice has some elements of both capital city and rural practice. I am a general ophthalmologist, meaning that I treat a spectrum of eye disorders by medical and surgical modalities. Most ophthalmologists in rural and regional centres tend to be generalists in contrast to capital city practice where there seems to be a much more entrenched sub-specialisation model prevailing.
Life is good both professionally and in lifestyle. Whilst I was educated and grew up in Sydney, I have never regretted leaving the big smoke. The community is socially cohesive and friendly, with an enduring sense of community. Patients are appreciative and thankful of medical practitioners. I live and work within my community of patients.
Referral to the practice is still largely on the basis of word of mouth rather than advertising or a need to go out and chat up the referrers. A medical reputation and competency is a common subject of discussion at the local bowling club, and my hairdresser generally can give me a fair indication about how I am tracking. My ophthalmology colleagues in the area are generally collegial, and we work well and constructively together.
Why did I choose Ophthalmology?
Well, a few years out of medical school, I decided that I would like to become a specialist, and the choice was either anaesthetics or ophthalmology.
Fortunately, I choose Ophthalmology, and I have never regretted it. I don't think that I am neurotic enough in the form of obsessive compulsive behaviour to be an anaesthetist. A few of my friends are anaesthetists, and a look in any of their clothes draws will reveal neatly bundled paired socks, carefully iron handkerchiefs and all manner of ritualistic behaviours. There is a clear role for the obsessive compulsives in the professions, and that is for anaesthetists and airline pilots.
Ophthalmology is about careful attention to detail, even minutiae, be it in the nuances of the eye examination, or in the execution of fine ophthalmic surgery. I like doing things with my hands, either when making things in my shed, or when at work in the operating room. In particular, I like fine careful strokes, rather than the broad course strokes such as when cutting open someone's belly. The rewards of ophthalmology are immense.
Why do you believe vision is such an important sense to look after?
Sight is arguably the most important of the senses. Sight is required for so many aspects of everyday life. We need it for ease of navigation and awareness of proximity. We need it for occupation and recreation. Most of all we need it to fully appreciate the wonderful beauty of the amazing life on earth. The current ophthalmology techniques and technologies are just so effective at restoring and maintaining sight. Ophthalmology just keeps on getting better.
Can you tell us about the benefits of eye surgery?
Cataract surgery is incredibly successful and cost beneficial. Since I started practice the procedure has evolved from one which patients approached with trepidation to one that is considered passé. Cataract surgery results are really significantly better, it is safer, and involves less inconvenience. Let's not forget the people whom have made it so: the pioneers in new surgical techniques, the research scientists, as well as the engineers whom have given us such amazing technologies and instrumentation.
Advances in therapeutics have meant that we can successfully treat the wet form of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusion. We now have many drugs to treat glaucoma. There has never been a better time to practice ophthalmology.