After nine years as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), Dr David Andrews will leave the position this month.
Dr Andrews has accepted a role as CEO of the Australian Veterinary Association, where he will use his experience and skills to direct the next stage of that organisation’s journey.
Advising the departure, RANZCO President Prof Nitin Verma AM, said Dr Andrews had led the College into a very strong position across its core areas of ophthalmic education, advocacy and membership services.
“David has nurtured an environment of professionalism and specialisation within the College office, bringing us experts with the specific skills and attributes we need for the future. He will be leaving us a much stronger and resilient organisation than when he started,” Prof Verma said.
Speaking to mivision, Dr Andrews said he has been proud to lead the development of several key initiatives during his time at RANZCO, the first of which laid the groundwork for many to follow.
“Early on, I focussed on improving governance across many areas. Whereas committees had traditionally been appointed by word of mouth and terms had been open ended, I invited expressions of interest for a fixed term.
“To the surprise of many, there was keen interest in getting involved by Fellows who had not been on a committee before.”
Dr Andrews said the result of the change was the generation of fresh ideas and the ability for people to pass on their knowledge as committee members transitioned. Perhaps the most visible of ideas to come from the rejuvenated committees has been a focus on diversity and inclusion in committees, the reinvigoration of Women in Ophthalmology, the launch of a Reconciliation Action Plan and the effort to attract more Indigenous medical graduates into ophthalmology and most recently a focus on more sustainable surgical and medical practices.
“We have been quietly working on increasing our Indigenous representation in ophthalmology for years by providing scholarships to junior indigenous doctors to attend ophthalmology meetings, matching senior Fellows with young Indigenous doctors and, where there is interest, mentoring to prepare them for the Training selection process,” said Dr Andrews.
Dr Kris Rallah Baker became the first Indigenous ophthalmology Fellow in 2018. This year two Aboriginal and two Maori trainees joined the program and more applied for selection.
“We are also getting closer to our target of having 35% women on all committees. By chipping away each year, we are doing really well.”
Another early achievement was to modernise the constitution. One outcome was building the balance sheet from AU$9 million nine years ago to $35 million today, which in turn, is enabling the College to achieve more.
“We had several trusts and bequests, as well as state branches, that were operating autonomously.”
He said bringing them back into “one family that works together” has reduced risks and enabled RANZCO to fund more scholarships, research and local development.
“Off the back of that we were able to achieve charity status for RANZCO, enabling members to make tax deductible donations. This has encouraged more members to get behind the Foundation. They’re excited to see their money put to work.”
As the only accredited provider of ophthalmic education, Dr Andrews said there has been a “massive” effort put into meeting conditions set down by the Australian Medical Council (AMC).
“About six years ago, the AMC announced new standards, which included processes for cultural safety, Indigenous trainees, complaints etc. We were the first College to undergo inspection against these standards and since then, we’ve worked through two more inspections. We’ve successfully achieved almost all AMC requirements, and expect to complete the remainder in 2022, which means going forward, it’s a matter of introducing enhancements and implementing the new curriculum we have planned for 2022.”
During Dr Andrews’ time he has also made a point of working more closely with optometrists and patient support groups.
“The College didn’t think too much about anything other than what ophthalmologists do. Now we work with Optometry Australia, and patient support groups on referral guidelines and government advocacy. We’re much stronger when we do this together.”
Asked about any regrets, Dr Andrews said the greatest is to have missed the opportunity to bring the World Ophthalmology Congress (WOC) to Australia, planned for February 2022, due to COVID-19. In the meantime, Dr Andrews said he hopes to get to RANZCO Congress at the end of this month (February).
“We have succeeded in expanding RANZCO Congress – it’s now more comprehensive than ever before with lectures on a range of non-science topics such as unconscious bias, cyber-security, supporting patients, and sustainability. I’m looking forward to being at this year’s Congress to catch up with, and farewell, colleagues.”