This year, Vision Eye Institute Melbourne celebrates twenty-five years of patient care.
The clinic’s long history makes for an interesting story. In 1991, several refractive surgeons from the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital established the original Melbourne Excimer Laser Group. Founding members of the group included Prof Hugh Taylor AC and Vision Eye Institute’s Dr Joe Reich AM.
The group secured Victoria’s first excimer laser and designed the accompanying laser suite at the historic Warwillah House on St Kilda Rd, says Dr Reich. The clinic officially opened in 1995.
‘I was privileged to be the first surgeon to perform a refractive excimer procedure in Victoria.’
However, it wasn’t long before an increase in patient demand and advances in laser technology meant a move was necessary. In 2003 the clinic relocated to its current site at 600 St Kilda Rd and built Victoria’s first fully accredited laser theatre.
Now, a quarter of a century after opening their doors, Dr Reich reflects on the clinic’s ability to not only survive but thrive where others have come and gone. ‘What I think we’ve done well since the start is to always put patients first,’ he says. ‘That includes providing long-term follow-up care, as well as regularly upgrading to the latest laser technology.
‘The clinic – now known as Vision Eye Institute Melbourne – is currently equipped with the highly sophisticated and fast Schwind Amaris 1050RS excimer laser and the Alcon Wavelight FS200 femtosecond laser. This technology means we can offer individual mapping and customised PRK and LASIK treatments. The Schwind Amaris also allows us to give patients the option of “no touch” PRK.’
Dr Reich has witnessed some giant leaps in technology over the years. ‘After PRK came LASIK. Now the evolution of multifocal intraocular lenses has meant our long-sighted patients can get great distance and reading vision – that’s been a major breakthrough in the last five years. At the same time, we’ve greatly improved our management of post-operative discomfort.’
Dr Abi Tenen, another doctor partner, says the clinic’s deep heritage and years of surgeon experience speak volumes.
‘It’s incredible to think that we have over 120 years of experience between the five surgeons here.’
But it’s more than just experience, Dr Tenen continues. ‘It’s also the fact that we offer comprehensive service around refractive issues. That’s the strength of our clinic. We don’t only just laser [laser eye surgery] – we also perform refractive lens exchange, implantable contact lenses, cataract surgery, keratoconus treatment and pterygium removal, while also treating other corneal conditions such as recurrent erosions, and perform corneal grafts.
‘This means we can really consider which treatment option is best for the patient, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. And being part of the wider Vision Eye Institute network means that we can easily call another ophthalmic subspecialist for advice or quickly on-refer if appropriate. For example, we might see something suspicious in the retina while assessing a patient for vision correction and we can liaise with one of our many retina doctors.’
Dr Reich, who was awarded a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2019 for his significant contribution to ophthalmology, has seen a move from primarily younger patients seeking vision correction to patients of all ages. ‘The oldest patients we’ve treated have been in their 80s. They’ve had cataract surgery elsewhere but haven’t been satisfied with the visual outcome, so we correct them with laser eye surgery. There’s no age limit to laser.’
In recent years, the clinic has also started treating the children of past patients – the greatest compliment of all, notes Dr Reich proudly. Here’s to the next twenty-five years!
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