" To be able to restore someone's eyesight
is such an amazing and humbling privilege..."
All photographs on the home page have
been taken by Dr. Colin Chan
I have been a doctor for 23 years. I have been privileged to perform over 7000 eye procedures. The morning after an operating day is still the highlight of my week- there is nothing quite like witnessing a patient's joy at being able to see again.
This privilege that I have is thanks to many people and institutions. Of course, my family that has always supported me. Then there are the many clinical teachers I had at Melbourne University where I did my medical degree, St. Vincent's Hospital where I was an intern, resident and then registrar and finally the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital where I was trained in ophthalmic surgery. And of course last but not least, my mentors at the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute and University of California, Irvine in the USA where I did my fellowship in laser eye surgery, refractive and corneal surgery.
It was there where I was one of the first surgeons internationally to perform collagen crosslinking for keratoconus, a treatment which has saved many young people from having corneal transplants. Since then I have also been privileged to be amongst the first surgeons in Australia and internationally to have access to new and exciting technology such as laser cataract surgery and
SMILE laser eye surgery.
I am a strong believer in "paying it forward" and while I cannot at all repay my mentors, I can certainly teach the next generation of eye care professionals. That's why I am involved in the design of the curriculum for ophthalmology registrars at the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and have been the supervisor for registrar training at Vision Eye Institute. I am a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney and this involves medical student teaching, registrar teaching as well as teaching of ophthalmologists. For example, I am the Unit Director for the first semester of the Diploma in Cataract and Refractive Surgery.
Teaching has always been and always will be one of my passions as I firmly believe that improving knowledge and education is a key way to improve eye care in Australia.I am also deeply involved in teaching Optometry as optometrists take on an increasing role in primary eye care and therapeutics in Australia. I am an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Canberra, helping with the curriculum development and lecturing. 4 months ago I delivered 11-12 lectures over 3 days. I will be back there early this year for another round of lectures.
I do recognize the importance of being a good global citizen as well. The Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO) is one of the largest international organizations of eye surgeons and is dedicated to the improvement of standards of eye care in the Asia Pacific through education and research. I regularly lecture and chair sessions at the annual congress which has usually more than 5000 eye surgeon attendees. In 2015, I was grateful to receive an Achievement Award from APAO for my contributions. Recently my main role in APAO has been to act as the Convenor for Satellite Congresses held in the smaller Asian nations which have not yet had the opportunity to host the main annual Congress. In 2018, we held a Satellite Congress in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. In 2019, I headed to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I am truly excited to be part of raising eye care in the Asia Pacific.
All of this, as well as my research commitments like being on the Human Research and Ethics Committee of the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists, certainly keeps me busy. So if I am not at the clinic, I am certainly not off playing golf! I am great believer in embracing a broad variety of work related to my profession and being an eye surgeon, as ultimately I think this makes me a better doctor and human being.
My own laser eye surgery journey
I had laser eye surgery now 15 years ago. I had finished my eye surgery specialist training and I was about to move to Los Angeles, USA for a year to do a fellowship in laser eye surgery - it was a busy and wonderful time. I had been completely content to wear glasses and then contact lenses since the age of 11 for shortsightedness or myopia.
The birth of my first son changed that. Those of you that are parents can identify with the concerns I had. Will I be a good enough dad? What if I do something wrong? And then what if my glasses or contact lenses fall off and I can't see where he goes?? For example, like on the beach or when he is learning to swim? I suddenly began to feel dependent on them and I didn't like that feeling.
So I began to think about having laser eye surgery. And my steps took to me the very practice I work in today- Vision Eye Institute, Chatswood, Sydney. One of the advantages of being a doctor is that you know other doctors and their reputation and I had no hesitation in speaking to Dr Gerard Sutton and Dr Michael Lawless (now my colleagues) about laser eye surgery. The key to laser eye surgery is suitability and the best surgeons have a reputation for saying "no" to people unless you are a good candidate. Even though I was a doctor, the risks were explained in detail to me and again it is important to understand there is no such thing as risk free surgery.
I also wanted the surgery performed in Australia. Australia really does have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and that is largely due to the professional and ethical standards the doctors expect from themselves. Sometimes I think we lose sight in Australia of how lucky we are.
The day itself went by in the blur as did the surgery- no eye pun intended :) Most patients will comment to me that the surgery is much quicker than they expected and that was certainly my experience.
That was 15 years ago and not a day goes past that I don't think about how much it has changed my life. I still sometimes have the urge to push up my non-existent glasses up my nose. I have two sons now and I think about the freedoms I have enjoyed playing with them but also knowing I can keep track of them.
Of course I am older now and I am experiencing the decrease in near vision (presbyopia) that comes with being a middle aged man. Most likely I will have further laser eye surgery in a few years time such as blended vision to help my reading vision but that's a story for the future.
I hope it helps to know that I too was a potential laser eye surgery patient like you, hoping for the best and a bit anxious about the risks and unknowns. In the end, it's important you make as informed a choice as possible which is right for you. I always encourage second opinions if you want more reassurance. My main job as your doctor is to inform you and help guide your decisions.
I am a keen amateur photographer. My mum and grandfather were good painters so I guess there is a little bit of art in the genes. Plus I think having an Ophthalmology brain also lends itself naturally to photography. Photography especially wildlife and bird photography , involves planning, precision and most importantly, patience. Good reaction skills also help. Nature also quietens and humbles the soul and gives you enhanced appreciation for life and it's diversity.
All the photos on this webpage are photos I have taken and if you want to see more, my instagram feed is: aneyefordetails
I often get asked "How do you find the time to fit in your hobbies with such a hectic work schedule that involves treating patients and research and teaching commitments—all while bringing up a young family?" I think if there is something you are passionate about, you find a way to fit it in your day. And you find flexible solutions. Most of my photography for example, is done on the way home when I might pull the car over for 15 minutes. I think it’s important to have these moments of where you take time out - sometimes you have to look after yourself a bit so you can keep looking after others.
I started learning Kung Fu 9 years ago as I wanted my sons to learn from a young age something that taught them about mental and physical discipline as well as Chinese philosophy and heritage.
Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the icons of Chinese culture and heritage. Australia is my home but I feel very strongly that retaining elements of your heritage enriches yourself and society. Ultimately Shaolin Kung Fu is a form of "physical meditation"- the aim is to improve your mental strength and inner spirit/energy by physical activity.
A/Prof. Colin Chan: beyond the bio
Dr. Colin Chan consults at Vision Eye Institute Chatswood NSW
Tel: 02 94249999