By Ian Williams
Quality eye care is a service which award-winning therapeutic optometrist Dr Tamra Karolewicz believes should be a right for everyone – and she’s been clocking up some serious miles to ensure people on the Eyre Peninsula don’t miss out.
Based at Eyre Eye Centre in Port Lincoln, Tamra makes an eight-hour round-trip every fortnight to deliver in-depth eye examinations to Aboriginal families living in remote areas at Ceduna.
She’s also helping to introduce new drop-in style eye examinations to encourage more Aboriginal people to have their eyes tested.
“Everyone deserves to see equally … so we’re providing a service to rural patients who are unable to travel to get the eye care they need,” says Tamra.
“This will enable early detection of sight-threatening conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma to potentially save an individual’s vision and significantly reduce the risk of them going blind.”
In another key initiative, Tamra delivers voluntary eye education talks in schools and is promoting the introduction of sunglasses as part of school uniform policy.
“Evidence shows that if we educate people at a young age to protect their eyes from harmful UV, we can reduce the incidence of eye disease later in life,” she says.
Tamra has been based in Port Lincoln for the past 18 months after graduating from Flinders University where she won a clinical excellence award.
Her commitment to making sure everyone has access to the best eye care was recognised at this year’s Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards when she won the top prize for rural health.
“The award has helped raise understanding of the complex work undertaken to provide the Eyre Peninsula and Indigenous communities with high quality eye health care,” says Tamra.
“It has also promoted the understanding that strong local community relationships provide fertile ground for innovatory health care, particularly in rural settings.”
Tamra is a strong believer in staff development and recently implemented an innovative training program for all assistants in her workplace.
She also wants to expand her scope of practice to include nursing home and hospital consultations for people whose mobility is restricted.
And when she has time, Tamra is planning to volunteer in Nepal for a couple of months, working with other optometrists to treat vision impairment in remote communities.