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simon hanna

This story was created and shared by Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA).

With regular visits to optometrists and ophthalmologists when he was young, Simon has always felt engaged with the world of optometry. As a member of ‘a family of myopes’, visits were never a foreign experience, with regular examinations for his childhood strabismus acquainting him with the lenses and equipment from an early age. Now twenty years into his optometry career, he reflects on what he’s achieved across the industry.

‘I’ve always been interested in healthcare, so combined with my experience as a child, optometry was a good fit coming out of high school. That said, throughout school and university, I couldn’t have envisaged how my career would pan out. I suppose most people don’t,’ he said.

After graduating from the University of Melbourne in 2003, Simon commenced work at the Australian College of Optometry, where he completed a post-graduate Diploma in Advanced Clinical Optometry and a Certificate of Ocular Therapeutics.

In 2006, Simon’s career as a multi-faceted optometrist took off. He both moved into private practice and in 2011 found an opportunity to give back to the profession by taking on a clinical teaching instructor role at the University of Melbourne, mentoring and coaching final-year students.

‘It was a very interesting role. I was involved in the inception of the mobile eye clinics, screening school students and aged-care residents, and trained the final-year Optometry students on working with different patient groups in a variety of settings. It was an opportunity to give back to the profession and equip the next generation of Optometrists with the tools they needed to provide best patient health outcomes.’

Crafting the Institute of Excellence

In 2014, Simon’s career shifted again when he commenced work with Optometry Australia (OA) as a clinical policy advisor. He worked in a range of policy areas including DVA and clinical practice policy, but it was there that he found his passion and developed expertise in Medicare.

‘That’s when I really got involved with Medicare policy and interpretation, representing the profession to the MBS Review Taskforce in 2016. In 2017 I was offered the opportunity to be Head of Education at OA to expand and improve the quality of the organisation’s educational offering. As part of this work, I wanted to ensure the CPD offering to members was at an exceptional standard, and so I led the creation of the Institute of Excellence.

‘We built the Institute of Excellence during a time when OA members, and indeed the entire profession, were going through a time of change. The OBA’s amendments to registration requirements relating to CPD hours and learning plans was one of the changes that faced the profession and rattled some members. It also came at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic placed additional pressure on members both personally and professionally, so the work we did in streamlining CPD for members was pivotal at the time.

‘A lot of people recognise me from my education work at OA, and I am proud of what we accomplished, particularly during the pandemic. People wanted to feel a sense of normalcy in their work and life, and it was a privilege to bring optometrists that important education and show them optometry was still moving. Especially when people were struggling with lockdowns, it was a privilege to do it for the profession,’ he said.

Working across the industry

simon hanna board photo

Following his time with OA, Simon continued to work in a variety of roles in the optometry sector. In 2019, Simon created his own company, iCare Consulting, which focuses on Medicare billing and audit assistance for practices, and in 2022, he commenced work with Bausch & Lomb as their National Professional Services Manager. In December 2022, Simon joined the OV/SA Board of Directors at a time when the organisation is potentially facing great change with the Integration project.

‘It’s an interesting time for the organisation, and I’m honoured to be in a position to help shape its future and ensure members are well supported and represented as a result of the change. I’m honestly really blessed and fortunate to have the career I’ve had thus far. I think the journey has partly been one of being in the right place at the right time, but I’ve tried to do the best I can to advance the industry along the way.’

Throughout his career, Simon makes it clear he has always sought to explore different aspects of the industry and tackle new challenges whenever possible.

‘What drives me is the ability to be dynamic in my career, to do things a bit differently and be constantly evolving my skillset and what I can offer the profession. We need optometrists on the ground loving what they do, and I’m excited to continue finding new challenges and opportunities to advance the great work my colleagues do at the coalface.

‘The vast majority of my time nowadays is optometry-facing. I’m passionate about the industry, and I get my energy from being able to stand in front of my peers and speak about what’s important to them and their patients. Whether it’s about Medicare policy, contact lenses, or something else, I really enjoy when I get the ability to stand in front of optometrists and talk to them about whatever’s relevant to them in the industry,’ he said.

simon hanna presenting

What’s next?

With optometry evolving every day, Simon has no intention of slowing down. As an OV/SA Board Director, consultant, and policy advisor, he has a clear view on where the industry is headed and what needs to be done to get it there.

‘I would love to see optometry and optometrists continue to evolve. Whether it’s the association, the contact lenses industry, Medicare, or something else, it all needs to evolve and change to meet what’s coming next. For me, that means looking into AI, fast moving technology, advancing scope of practice, and ensuring we are meeting patient needs. If optometry can evolve to meet those needs and take advantage of those opportunities, we’ll be in a good place to provide the best eye care to all Australians.

‘There’s a lot of work to be done in the policy and advocacy space to get there, and there’s a lot of work around adopting technology to get it to where it needs to be in the next twenty to thirty years. It’s certainly a challenge, but very achievable and I am excited to be a part of it. The future of optometry is what we make it,’ he said.

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