IDEAS Van visit to Churchie

By David Miles – Churchie Old Boys’ Manager on July 22, 2016

A recent visit to the School by three esteemed Old Boys from the medical profession was a wonderful opportunity for them to share their specialist knowledge with the Year 11 students. The benefits were two-fold as it enabled them to provide an invaluable and interactive educational experience to the students whilst also providing a wonderful opportunity for them to reconnect with Churchie and rekindle some schoolboy memories. Dr Anthony Russell (1986) an Endocrinologist, Dr Rowan Porter (1985) and Dr Andrew Kleinschmidt (1989) who are Ophthalmologists, shared insights into the motivations and work of the IDEAS (Indigenous Diabetes Eyes And Screening) Initiative.


Interestingly, 94% of vision loss in Indigenous Australians is preventable or treatable. Hence the IDEAS Initiative was launched in 2013 to provides a first class specialist service aimed at reducing preventable blindness in Indigenous Australians with diabetes. Arising from this initiative is the IDEAS Van (pictured above). Equipped with state of the art equipment, the van travels 5,000 km per month to 13 regional hubs around Queensland spending one day at each location. A volunteer ophthalmologist, optometrist and orthoptist see up to 31 patients in one of its three treatment rooms.

Access to the van is through a telehealth retinal screening program. 3,712 patients from 51 communities have received a grading report from Professor Paul Mitchell of Westmead Hospital. Since March 2014, 2,073 patients have been referred for treatment on the IDEAS Van at one of the 102 clinics conducted in rural and remote Queensland.

Rowan, Anthony and Andrew also dedicate time to the van each month to treat patients. Anthony to remote sites such as Cunnamulla, Cloncurry and Mt Isa; Rowan travels to Charleville, Cherbourg and Palm Island; and Andrew to Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Toowoomba.

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