Want to know more?

Contact Us

An Eye on the Future

Empowering First Nations Ophthalmology: Hannah Wood's Inspiring Journey

ANZEF is strongly committed to increasing the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ophthalmologists. Third-year ophthalmology trainee Dr Hannah Wood is a recipient of an ANZEF scholarship and her story not only highlights the impact of financial support but the importance of mentorship and community engagement in shaping the future of Indigenous eye health care.

Growing the First Nations ophthalmology workforce is a cornerstone of ANZEF’s work. While there is still a long way to go before parity is reached, the ANZEF Scholarship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander VTP Trainees and our close partnership with the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) are a step in the right direction for the future we all want to see.

Dr Hannah Wood was raised in the Ngunnawal lands in Canberra and is passionate about giving back to her community. She is currently based in Geelong for six months as part of her training.

Making a change

Hannah (second from the left) at Medical School Graduation with siblings and dad.

After studying politics as an undergraduate, Hannah worked as a Parliamentary researcher, but decided to make the change to studying medicine.

“I decided to switch the people I worked for from those in power to those with little. I wanted a way to work more directly with marginalised populations.” she explains.

“Thinking that the best way to do this was to learn a skill and then take it to remote Australia I signed up for medicine. Once I started medical school I had a quick affinity to ophthalmology when I discovered the work of Lions Outback Vision. When I spent some time on the road with the team I knew I had found my calling.”

Hannah’s cultural background as a Torres Strait Islander played a role in shaping her journey. She says she was raised by Elders who allowed her to stand on the shoulders of her peoples’ collective knowledge. She was also cognisant of making the most of the opportunities presented to her.

“I hope that by learning skills I can help to lift my community in the way those before me have. Through dispossession my people have a weakened sense of identity, yet a strong sense of community,” she says.

“Finding a way back to my community has always been a goal for me. Once I finish training I hope to give back to the community that has raised me.”

Finding support through scholarships

As a recipient of the ANZEF Scholarship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander VTP Trainees, Hannah has found support not only financially but also through mentors and role models who help guide her journey.

“Having support from a number of sources has been such a relief through training. Financial support has allowed me to participate in training, which to me had been a pipedream since medical school,” she says.

“People caring, reaching out and offering wisdom has softened the difficulty of a challenging training program. My understanding of how ophthalmic practice can be achieved has been moulded by seeing those around me. People who smash glass ceilings and making reality of ideas previously deemed impossible.”

Hannah cites Dr Tim Henderson OAM, Head of Ophthalmology and the Eye Department in Alice Springs Hospital, as one of her role models, and says she aspires to practice and care for patients in the same way.

“I have the greatest respect for Dr Henderson, from his connection to patients, his willingness to embrace the community he serves and support for local people like Cheeky Dogs artist Dion, whose artwork is emblazoned on the team uniform,” Hannah says.

Hannah and friends at Tennant Creek Hospital in 2017.

“I want to give patients comfort and offer culturally accessible services that make engaging with health services straightforward.”

On a personal note, Hannah says one of her other role models is her mother, whom she aspires to emulate as someone who is a supportive community member with a “pay it forward” attitude.

“My Mum was always someone who tightly held kindness and empathy for all around her, she always had a listening ear, and generosity beyond compare,” she says.

Going home

In addition to her ANZEF scholarship, Hannah was recently selected for The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) Going Home project, which will take around 20 Torres Strait Islander medical students, junior doctors and consultants from a variety of specialties to the Torres Strait Islands.

“The project is a research trip, set out to determine ways in which we can best serve the needs of a geographically isolated and disparate group of communities,” Hannah explains.

“We will spend time hearing from the community, travelling the islands and listening. It is my first trip to the Torres Strait and I am incredibly excited – and just a hint nervous.”

Elephant Rocks at Denmark (L) and Shothole Canyon Exmouth (R) – taken during Hannah’s Lions Outback Vision WA Circuit.

When she’s not working, Hannah relaxes by being outdoors in nature, gardening and planting trees.

“I spend a lot of time foraging seeds, acorns, saplings and bulbs. These grow in my ever-increasing collection of plants until the pressure valve is released and all my neighbours take on some of the forest,” she says.

“Being in Geelong I also have the luxury of fresh ocean adjacent to visit, something that always makes my heart feel at peace.”