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Friday / April 19.
HomeminewsLeading Optometrist Wins Multiple Business Awards

Leading Optometrist Wins Multiple Business Awards

Helen Summers, principal of Helen Summers Optometrist at Fannie Bay in Darwin has been awarded 2013 Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year. She was also awarded the Business Owner and Business Innovator awards.

The awards recognise Ms. Summer’s commitment to eye care in Australia and particularly to delivering eye health to Indigenous communities in remote Australia via her outreach program.

Ms. Summers was first inspired to work with Indigenous communities when she worked as a graduate optometrist in Kenya.

“After university I went looking for adventures. I started in Nepal, went overland through Iran and the Middle East then spent 12 months in Africa. I worked in Kenya as a locum, with artificial eyes. There I became very aware of the impact of not having access to vision care – on education and employment, and ultimately standards of living.

“When I came back to Australia, I could see it was happening here as well.”

Ms. Summers established Helen Summers Optometrist Eyecare Plus Darwin in 1998 with second-hand equipment and without the assistance of a bank loan. Soon after, she established outreach services to under-serviced regional and remote Indigenous communities in Katherine, Nhulunbuy, Kakadu and Arnhem Land. She still provides these services, along with her colleague, Emma Robinson.

“We’re out of the practice one or two days a week, often for longer periods when we travel to the most remote locations. It’s a semi-rough trip, but it’s rewarding – you make a difference to people every day.”

She said over 20 years of delivering eye care services to remote Australia, she has seen some improvements in Indigenous eye health. “But the more you do, the more you realise there is to be done – there’s huge need.”

In Fannie Bay Ms. Summer runs a solid clinical practice with three full time staff and two optometrists. She also lectures on diabetic retinopathy and dry eye, and next year will mentor students from Flinders University and New South Wales University. The practice itself covers the full spectrum of patients – from patients who rely on donated glasses to those who purchase designer American and European frames.

“It’s a great practice, with staff who genuinely share my passion and commitment. We all enjoy a great sense of job satisfaction.”