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Sixty years in ophthalmology and never a dull moment!

14/12/2023

A photograph of Dr McGuinness, seated in his office surrounded by ophthalmic equipment.

Much of Dr Roger McGuinness’s life has intertwined with his career in ophthalmology. In fact, he even met his wife through his colleague.

Sixty years into his career, Dr McGuinness has made significant contributions to ophthalmology, with milestones that many can only dream of.

So, it’s bittersweet that the end of 2023 will mark the conclusion of Dr McGuinness’s career journey – but his professional legacy will continue long thereafter.

A fork in the road sparked a career shift

Dr McGuinness wasn’t always destined for a career in ophthalmology. A neurosurgeon at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary in Wales, Dr McGuinness struck up a friendship with the legendary ophthalmologist Dr Fred Hollows long before Dr Hollows pioneered his worldwide sight-saving initiatives. ‘Fred was working for his fellowship when I first met him in 1963, while I was a junior neurosurgeon. He piqued my interest in ophthalmology,’ said Dr McGuinness.

The real clincher for Dr McGuinness’s shift from neurology to ophthalmology was witnessing the life-changing impact on patients. ‘The results of ophthalmology were gratifying, to say the least. Not only are you restoring or preserving sight, but you’re also giving patients back their mobility, independence and quality of life,’ he said.

Dr McGuinness’s professional and personal relationship with Dr Hollows didn’t end there. Before completing his training at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, Dr McGuinness worked alongside Dr Hollows for the Medical Research Council, under the supervision of the esteemed Professor Archie Cochrane. Their population study focused on eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts, in Rhondda Valley, South Wales.

Together with his wife Jannette, Dr McGuinness later relocated to Australia in 1970 to work with Dr Hollows at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital. ‘I was introduced to Jannette shortly after she travelled to England on a P&O passenger liner. She shared a cabin with Mary Hollows’ [Fred’s wife] niece. We’ve been together ever since – married for 58 years,’ he said.

Dr McGuinness photographed at age 30. A photo taken at Fred and Mary Hollows’ house in Cardiff, Wales in 1965. (Prenet in the photo is Jannette (Dr McGuinness’s wife), Fred Hollows, Mary Hollows, Mary’s niece and Dr McGuinness.

Left image: Dr McGuinness at age 30. Right image: Taken at Fred and Mary Hollows’ house in Cardiff, Wales in 1965. (Left to right) Jannette (Dr McGuinness’s wife), Fred Hollows, Mary Hollows, Mary’s niece and Dr McGuinness.

Milestones and the moments in between

A career spanning 60 years (with a passion to match) ensured a lifetime of ophthalmological achievements for Dr McGuinness.

When reflecting on his career highlights, a standout moment included being one of the first doctors to diagnose Labrador keratopathy in the Indigenous community of the Northern Territory.

‘This condition afflicted the Wave Hill Activists led by the Lingiari brothers. The poor working conditions exposed Indigenous workers to ultraviolet light and dust particles, causing eye injuries that were consistent with Labrador keratopathy. My research team, including Fred, examined cases that were later published in the Medical Journal of Australia,’ Dr McGuinness said.

Dr McGuinness’s career longevity also provided a unique opportunity to explore a variety of ophthalmic technologies, both old and new.

‘I’ll never forget my first eye surgery. It was a left-handed cataract extraction using a Graefe knife, which was standard practice. It’s the same knife featured in the Sherlock Holmes story, “Silver Blaze”, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was also an ophthalmologist,’ he said.

The Graefe knife was eventually retired in favour of more advanced ophthalmic innovations. Included among these are intraocular lenses (IOLs) for cataract surgery – before which patients were aphakic. ‘To this day, I still view IOLs as a significant contribution to ophthalmology. It radically changed the results of cataract surgery. The use of viscoelastic Healon is a close second,’ he said.

A phtotograph of Graefe knives on display at the Royal North Shore Hospital A photograph of Sonia Pham, Carolyn Tay and Dr Roger McGuinness.

Left image: Graefe knives on display at the Royal North Shore Hospital. Right image: Sonia Pham (left), Carolyn Tay (middle) and Dr Roger McGuinness.

Laying down roots in Bondi

Dr McGuinness joined the Vision Eye Institute team in 2007 – ‘and I’ve never taken a sick day since!’ he said. The wealth of knowledge and experiences that Dr McGuinness has shared with his Bondi Junction colleagues have undoubtedly contributed to the high-quality eye care provided to the local community.

A spirited professional, Dr McGuinness will be missed by many, particularly by those who have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with him.

‘Working with Dr McGuiness is a delight. He is very friendly and has a lot of passion for his patients. His knowledge and history of ophthalmology is impressive and always surprising – you learn something new whenever you work with him,’ said Sonia Pham, orthoptist at the Bondi Junction clinic.

‘It’s been a great pleasure working with Dr McGuinness,’ says Carolyn Tay, Orthoptic Team Leader. ‘He always has stories to share, and his patients are very fond of him. Congratulations on your retirement, and I wish good health and happiness to you and your family! We will miss you at Bondi!’

To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Bondi Junction team bid farewell to Dr McGuinness at our recent continuing professional development (CDP) clinic event. It was a send-off truly befitting of his professional legacy.

Dr Roger McGuinness at and colleagues at his farewell celebration following retirement. Dr Roger McGuinness socialising with colleagues at his farewell celebration following retirement.

Images captured at Dr McGuinness’s farewell celebration, held at the Bondi Junction clinic.

So what’s next for Dr McGuinness?

‘I plan on catching up on some reading and getting stuck into my garden. I also have grand plans to join a wine and food society and enjoy the spoils that come with it.’

After 60 years in the field, a retirement itinerary is much deserved. Congratulations on your prestigious career, Dr McGuinness, and best wishes for your future!

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Date last reviewed: 2023-12-14 | Date for next review: 2025-12-14

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