ASO EyeWatch March 2020 edition

Message from the President Peter Sumich

Greetings and salutations! Hope your month is going well. There’s something I want you to do for ASO, but first may I introduce our newest team member Sally Symonds.  

Sally is our new National Media Manager and her job is to make you look good; well – all of us actually.  Sally has a long history of working in the area of health communications and media training and we look forward to the input of some ‘new eyes’ in our media and communications strategy.

Sally works with our ASO executive team to advise on messaging in our media releases and to negotiate the wicked wiles of the print and digital media.

Sally kicked off her term with a well-placed news item on Channel Nine News in Sydney which highlighted the advances in MIGS and the work of the ASO in lobbying to ensure that the procedure was covered under Medicare as a standalone item (and not merely when associated with lens surgery).  Dr Ashish Agar, our silky-voiced Vice President, gave a masterclass in media relations and carried the ophthalmology flag with distinction.

Sally is very keen to take your ideas, your patient stories and your good outcomes in both research and clinic to the mass media. All she needs is for you to contact her and to put yourself forward for media exposure. We can arrange media training for you if you would like it. I did some myself a few years ago – slightly confronting, but most worthwhile to learn a new skill. There are so many good stories to tell about our professional work. Local papers love them, and the television media are always on the lookout. 

The ’find a doctor’ portal on the new ASO website is gathering steam. If you have not uploaded your photo and contact details you may be missing out on new referrers and free exposure to new markets. We will ramp up the search engine optimisation once we get sufficient biographies uploaded.  We aim to make our website the first-place patients look when searching for an ophthalmologist. Furthermore, it is a complimentary service offered to ASO members so do make sure you take advantage of it and upload your bio now.

We make our first Canberra visit for the year in late March and I will report on the outcomes in our next EyeWatch. One key visit will be to Andrew Wilkie, the independent member for Tasmania. Mr Wilkie recently introduced a bill into parliament which seeks to banish differential rebating. It received little support from the major parties.  I will be asking Mr Wilkie how we can help support this great initiative which will reduce the out of pocket costs for many patients. One option for support of this might be Senator Murray Watt, a perceptive and discerning up and coming Labor Senator who has thus-far been a good listener to the ASO’s concerns. 

The MBS review has currently been completed by the task-force, however the reporting of the review is yet to take place.  Clearly this task is currently being submerged by COVID-19.  As more information comes to light the ASO will certainly keep you informed of any progress.  However, we are confident to say at the moment that there is nothing in the federal budget and nothing in the first two quarters of this year that you need to be concerned about in terms of the MBS review.

Finally, the Federal Budget is delivered in May and our CEO Mr Kerry Gallagher and I will be guests of Senator James McGrath from the Queensland LNP. We usually have a flying visit from the Prime Minister and Treasurer during the evening as they dart around the many dinner functions which pack Parliament House on the night. I went last year and was amazed that the Budget Night is more like a big party within the Big House with thousands of guests attending dozens of dinners to throng and lobby and connect. Last year I sat next to a Mining lobbyist, a senior partner from a major accounting firm and a tourism operator. They all have stories, complaints, suggestions and agendas. More than ever I realised that ophthalmology has to be seen to be there. All the good news stories in the world cannot replace a seat at the table where allegiances and relationships with governments are made.

Media Call Out

We are currently looking at a few mainstream media opportunities and we were hoping that you might be able to help us:

Do you have any incredible patient success stories? Patient outcomes that defied expectations? A national magazine is currently looking for incredible stories of defiance, survival and inspiration. Please get in touch if you can help. 

Do you have any stories of eye examinations that revealed another, unrelated medical condition and thus helped save the patient’s life?  Please email Sally, our Media and Communications Manager, now

EXPO 2020: See You There!

Preparations for your 2020 ASO Business Skills Expo is well underway.  Our annual Expo is about delivering ophthalmologists the business boost they need. That means new thinking, better skills, great efficiency and improved patient engagement.  Some of the highlights of the expo include:

Recent changes in personal super and tax legislation: one door closes and other opens

In this session you will discover:

  • How to survive a tax audit
  • The best super contribution strategies pre-30 June
  • The alternatives to limited recourse borrowing

Cybersecurity ….what are the risks?

In this session you will:

  • Gain an understanding of the differing methods of cyberattacks in the health sector
  • Discover what you can do to mitigate the risks and vulnerabilities
  • Learn about the privacy issues and obligations

Personal Insurance Essentials for New and Established Ophthalmologists

This session will reveal:

  • The “must have” definitions for ophthalmologists
  • Problematic Policy Wordings
  • The reason for massive premium increases

The Expo will be held again at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne on Saturday 20 June and Sunday 21 June and is free to all ASO members! Mark this event in your diary as one not to be missed! Register here.

Start ups are not for the faint hearted

When thinking about start ups and venture capital we often think of brilliant young entrepreneurs with exciting disruptive innovative ideas and spectacular returns. In reality, less than 5% of early stage investments go to the moon with most start-ups failing completely.

Day 1 Cataract Blindness

Day 1 Cataract Blindness is a tragic and upsetting complication which is fortunately very rare.

Dr Rohan Merani is conducting research on this topic and requests any data or experiences.

Central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) or paracentral acute middle maculopathy (PAMM) is an uncommon event after routine ophthalmic surgery.

We are seeking to put together an Australia and New Zealand-wide retrospective case series to identify possible risk factors.  Ethics approval for this study has been granted by the RANZCO Ethics Committee.  If you have been involved in the care of a patient who has had “patch off” vision loss, we would be very grateful if you could contribute to this study. Please email Dr Rohan Merani (  for further details.


The world continues to be gripped by the uncertainty that surrounds COVID-19.  We urge you all to take appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of yourselves, staff members, your families and your patients.  Should you be at all concerned, you may consider warnings similar to this for your website and other communications with patients prior to their attendance:

We request that patients do not attend our clinic if you have any of the following symptoms:  fever, cough, sore throat, conjunctivitis or shortness of breath AND if you have transited through, or left the mainland of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, South Korea or Thailand in the last 14 days and/or if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus. The Department of Health has a Coronavirus Health Information Line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1800 020 080.

Consider also having a note on your website stating when this information was last updated, as the list of relevant countries are likely to change frequently.

You may also like to send this message if the Member has their patient’s consent to communicate with them by email or text”

If you have returned from overseas in the last 14 days or been in close proximity to a case of Coronavirus (COVID 19)  please call [add your phone number] before your appointment. The Department of Health has a Coronavirus Health Information Line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1800 020 080.

Cornea Society and Eye Bank Update

Update by Dr Matthew Green

The 37th Cornea Society and Eye Bank Meeting was held in Auckland amidst fantastic weather and venue on February 28th and 29th. Over 50 topics were covered from diagnosing dry eye to the importance of sex. The quintessential debate of new-age DMEK vs it’s ageing cousin DSAEK was upstaged by a new surgical approach for endothelial disease, DWEK (Descemetorhexis without endothelial keratoplasty). Conference attendants were keen to hear the progress of trials in Syndey and Melbourne and look forward to results in the near future.

The conference was overshadowed by Coronavirus travel restrictions for key-note speaker Dr Fung-Rong Hu from Taiwan, who was unable to make the trip. However, her insightful presentations for the Doug Coster medal lecture on microbial keratitis and 2 others were delivered via video. The conference also had a Coronavirus pandemic update from Dr Rachael Niederer who conveyed the precautions being taken at Auckland hospital. She also alerted attendants to the fact that the conjunctiva can be an avenue for infection and conjunctivitis can be one of the first signs of infection.

Overall the conference was well attended and organised and delegates are looking forward to the next meeting in Perth in March 2021.

How Much of an Impact Do You Have On Your Patients?

Few of us are immune from political opinion; and many of us will engage in light banter with our patients during the course of a consultation.  But what is the impact of this seemingly harmless chatter on your patients’ opinion of you?  A recent article by John G Stewart, former communication director of the Democratic National Committee, reveals some thought-provoking issues.  A reminder also that the next ASO Bulletin contains some extremely useful information about both crisis communication and presentation skills so do make sure you check your mailbox for that issue. 

New Members

Welcome aboard to the new members who have recently joined the ASO: 

Dr Parth Shah
Dr Hemal Mehta
Dr Bill, Morgan
Dr Timothy Beckman
Dr Nicholas Cheng 
Dr Dujon Fuzzard
Dr Evan Heinecke
Dr Harrison Bennet

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email