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Dr Richard Le Mesurier has had a significant impact on the lives of so many people throughout the world through his contributions to blindness prevention and has been, undoubtedly, a key driver in the success of the Vision 2020: The Right to Sight Initiative.
In 1987, Richard started what was to become a long-term and important engagement in the Western Pacific region. He created the leaders for the future of ophthalmology for the Pacific and PNG through initiating and conducting training programs. He replaced the fly-in, fly-out eye team visit approach to the Solomon Islands by developing locally led ophthalmology and a sustainable outreach eye health system throughout the 8 Provinces. This was to lay an important foundation and precedent in the region for sustainable development.
Richard returned to sub-Saharan Africa in 1990 to develop and deliver the game-changing microsurgery and PCIOL program. He trained 135 public sector ophthalmologists in modern microsurgical cataract surgery with IOL implantation. This catalysed the onset of modern cataract surgery across the continent; bringing young and aspiring surgeons to the forefront of ophthalmology, many of whom have now risen to be leaders.
In Ghana, through his role as Field Coordinator to the National Eye Care Program, Richard established the National Eye Care Secretariat and PBL Committee. This once again laid a strong base for an integrated eye health system in the country that has been sustained well beyond the direct involvement of Richard. He was also instrumental in setting up the first National Optometry training program at the University of Kumasi – a critical piece to the development of the primary eye care system.
In 2002, Richard returned to the Pacific as Regional Coordinator for IAPB for 6 years. During this time, he enabled all but 2 countries in the region to ratify the VISION2020 initiative and set up Prevention of Blindness Committees. He also continued to provide region surgical training. Building on this success and important relationships, he brought a radical change to the operating structure of IAPB by providing a comprehensive regional plan, developing sub-regional co-chairs with funded coordinator roles to support the ambitious program that has enabled the increased awareness of community eye health to advantage the most disadvantaged.
Richard then spent 8 years as the Regional Chair. His previous success in the region was pivotal to enable VISION 2020 Australia to leverage AUD$40million funding for the Australian Blindness Initiative which drove a strong collaborative effort throughout the Western Pacific region of IAPB members, governments and other stakeholders. His diligence in understanding the prevalence of trachoma in the region laid the foundation for the recently completed Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust-funded research investigating the Pacific Trachoma Enigma.
Richard’s contribution to community eye health and public health ophthalmology has been extraordinary, being recognised by others as the ‘grandfather of ophthalmology in the Pacific’. His commitment to creating quality comprehensive eye health has been significant. He is incredibly generous with his abilities and time dedicated to training, mentoring and leadership development. His direct efforts have developed the next generation of ophthalmology and and primary eye health professionals and the impact of his dedication will be felt for generations to come.