Dr Willoughby eyes off OAM

Gawler eye surgeon, Dr John Willoughby (right) is set to receive an OAM for his service to the community. Standing alongside him is nurse Helen Graetz and her husband Brian Graetz.

In recognition of his service to ophthalmology and his achievements in sailing, Gawler eye surgeon, John Willoughby, is set to be awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM).

John discovered his passion for country ophthalmology in 1979 when he began practicing in Kangaroo Island and Angaston. 

“I’ve been a qualified doctor since 1972, so next year will be 50 years,” Dr Willoughby told The Leader.

“I started (practicing) in Angaston in October, 1979, and went up there every Tuesday for the first 30 years.

“For the last 20  years, I’ve been based in Gawler, and going up to Angaston once a month.”

Nurse, Helen Graetz joined Dr Willoughby’s side in 1980, working as his instrument nurse in theatre for cataract surgeries.

The pair have been a dynamic duo for the past 40 years.

Dr Willoughby is the current director and ophthalmologist at Gawler Eye and Laser Clinic.

In the mid 1990s, he gathered a team of specialists who performed clinics and surgeries in Tonga and Tuvalu.

Dr Willoughby told The Leader the trips to Tonga were funded by Australian Aid, and Helen, along with her husband, Brian, accompanied him on several trips.

The team of volunteers has completed an incredible 19 clinics in the past 24 years.

With many notable achievements, Dr Willoughby said it is hard to pick just one that stands out the most, but he did say he’s very proud of his company, Roving Eyes Pty Ltd.

“I have a million highlights. Roving Eyes brought modern cataract surgery to the Barossa and Gawler.”

With 14,000 cataract surgeries being performed across the region, it’s no wonder this accomplishment holds a special place in his heart.

“I’ve loved what I’ve done. I’ve been in a career that’s very rewarding. It’s a fun specialty,” he said.

Alongside his booming career, Dr Willoughby is also an avid sailer. 

He has been a member of the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron since 1987, and has competed in races across the nation.

Following his win in the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race in 2010, he went on to compete in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.

It is with these achievements and service to the region that Dr Willoughby was honoured with an OAM.

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