While initially scary, being involved in running a practice day-to-day has been an amazing opportunity to grow personally and professionally at an exceptional rate.
I remember like it was yesterday: sitting in my first optics lecture and feeling relieved to have made it into optometry. It had been a long journey, having completed a degree in medical science, without knowing where that would take me next.
behind every successful outback trip there is a team working tirelessly to ensure the operation runs smoothly
Five years after that first lecture, the next major feeling of relief I experienced was when I finally graduated with a Master of Clinical Optometry – the culmination of half a decade of blood, sweat and tears. Having achieved this proud milestone, the next monumental step was to apply for graduate jobs and this brought its own dilemma; whether to relocate to a new, exciting, remote area, or stay in the comfort of the big city. When I applied to a Sydney-based George & Matilda (G&M) practice two years ago, I didn’t expect it would lead to a working life that encompasses the best of both these worlds.
Our humble practice in Maroubra, established in 1994 by my treasured mentors Kyriacos and Katerina Mavrolefteros, has opened my eyes to optometry’s true potential to help fellow Australians. Uniquely, this practice not only caters to the locals of Maroubra and surrounding suburbs, but also to the communities of outback NSW, including Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, Enngonia, and Cobar. My mentors, supported by the Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS), regularly travel to these towns as the G&M Outback Optometrists, working to improve access to eye care and fostering strong links with local general and allied health practitioners; Aboriginal health workers and visiting ophthalmologists. They have delivered a comprehensive optometric service to patients in these communities for the last 17 years, providing them with spectacles and contact lenses (through the NSW Spectacle Program, if required) as well as treatment options for pathologies and referrals to visiting ophthalmologists.
While this work sounds straightforward, behind every successful outback trip there is a team working tirelessly to ensure the operation runs smoothly. That’s where our practice manager and I come in. We oversee outback appointments, order dispensed spectacles, process Vision Australia or Department of Veterans’ Affairs claims, and finalise GP reports and referrals to ophthalmologists, all while simultaneously providing a full optometric service back in Maroubra. This unique setup delivers several benefits. Because I am in Maroubra to ‘hold the fort’, my mentors can visit outback communities more frequently to see patients in need.
While daunting at first, working as a sole practitioner so early in my career has delivered more experiences than I ever thought possible. Of course this has come with its fair share of challenges. As a well-established practice, our patients were accustomed to seeing an older and ‘wiser’ practitioner, so they found being seen by someone new and younger understandably difficult. Winning them over has been rewarding, particularly when in some instances, they’ve come to book appointments and thanked Kyriacos for his service over the years, before announcing that they ‘would like to see Antigone from now on’. I have also found it gratifying to follow in my mentors’ Greek-speaking footsteps – it wasn’t until I worked in Maroubra that I truly appreciated the value of speaking a second language and the positive impact it has on patient care.
With so much excitement and opportunity to learn in my working life, I have developed a love for teaching and sharing knowledge. This has led me to take on new roles, including supervising UNSW and Deakin final year students, contributing to publications and lobbying within the Young Optometrists (YO) subcommittee. YO is an organisation that has been dear to me since my very first year of university. I appreciate the support and friendly environment it provides to recent graduates and students, as well as the platform for mentoring, networking and education. Through YO, I am able to improve my knowledge and expertise, while also giving back by offering my own experiences for others to learn from.
I am proud to be part of the YO and G&M family at this early stage in my career, and hope to continue growing my confidence and solidifying my knowledge in this wonderful profession we call optometry.
Antigone Kordas graduated from University of NSW with a Master of Clinical Optometry in 2019. She works as the optometrist at Maroubra Optometrists by George & Matilda in Sydney.