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Interview with Ophthalmologist Dr Shuan Dai

Dr Shuan Dai

I am vocationally trained in ophthalmology in Beijing, China and again in Auckland, New Zealand. I am a consultant ophthalmologist specialising in paediatric ophthalmology and strabismus. I spend two thirds of my time working in the Eye Department of Greenlane Clinic Centre and Starship Children’s Hospital of Auckland District Health Board, the tertiary eye care centre for Auckland and New Zealand. I am the clinical lead in paediatric ophthalmology and strabismus and principal supervisor for the paediatric ophthalmology fellowship program. I am the chair of New Zealand Paediatric Ophthalmology Interest Group. I am the visiting paediatric ophthalmologist for the Blind and Low Vision Education Network of New Zealand (BLENNZ) which is the national centre for children with severe visual disability. BLENNZ is recognised as one of the world’s best facilities for children with special needs and low vision. I am very proud of being part of their team and contributing to their success. I have an honorary senior lecturer appointment in the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Auckland. I have been a supervisor for PhD, MD, junior research fellows, registrars and medical students. I enjoy clinical research and have published over 40 peer reviewed journal articles. I spend a third of my time in my private practice through Eye Doctors, Ascot Hospital in Auckland.

Why did you decide to make it your profession to help people with their eyes?
I decided to become an ophthalmologist when I was age 10, when one of my distant relatives lost vision in one of his eyes due to cornea infection. Seeing him struggle with getting employment, marriage etc. made me want to become an eye doctor so I can help people like him. I went to medical school, once I completed the internship, then got direct entry into three years’ vocational ophthalmology training in Beijing. During my ophthalmology resident training in Beijing, I developed a strong interest in paediatric ophthalmology which led me to a clinical research fellowship job in England. My interest in helping people in need took me to Lebanon where I worked as a volunteer ophthalmologist for Lebanese and Palestinian refugees. In 1995, I moved to New Zealand with my wife, Hong Duan, a GP specialising in children and women’s health.

Why do you believe vision is such an important sense to look after?
Over 90% of our information is acquired through the visual system and it gives people the ability to see his/her world and the world of others. It gives us the joy of appreciating the beauty of life and the universe. Observing the suffering of many of my patients over the years in my ophthalmology practice I became even more appreciative of the value of “being able to see”. I feel very privileged to be in a position where I can make some difference, however small or large that might be, to other’s vision needs.

What is one thing you want all people to know about looking after their eyes?
With advances in knowledge and technology most eye diseases can be treated effectively if they are identified early. We need to empower everyone in our community to become a champion for raising awareness of eye diseases in our world to prevent unnecessary visual loss, especially visual loss in younger children from congenital cataract and vitamin deficiency where delayed diagnosis is still common.