Hills Lifestyle Magazine | Hills based eye surgeon in world first
Have you heard the name Kerrie Meades? If you haven’t, you’ve almost certainly heard of laser vision correction.
As Chief Medical Director of personalEyes, Kerrie is one of the pioneers of laser cataract surgery and the first Ophthalmologist to perform Intracor (near vision treatment) in Australasia. Kerrie was involved with the introduction of Supracor (a new corneal approach to treating presbyopia) and Kamra (a mini-ring, much smaller than a contact lens, implanted within the cornea). She also has a passion for cataract and refractive surgery.
Kerrie was recently the first surgeon in the world to combine Mplus multifocal intraocular lenses with cataract surgery, a process in which custom designed lens replace the patient’s cataract lens, effectively removing the need to wear glasses post surgery.
Kerrie has published many papers on cataract, refractive surgery and general ophthalmology and has presented at many events both in Australia and overseas. She has also spent a lot of time travelling the world and being actively involved in charitable cataract work in China and Tibet and refractive work in Vietnam.
Kerrie’s work has taken her around the world, but the Hills district still holds fond memories for her and she marvels at how much the area has grown. ”My father was a property developer and he spent a lot of time developing property in Seven Hills. I loved to ride horses – still do today – and we would often stay in Toongabbie and ride, jumping fences and riding through the creek. We saw all the housing come in and the entire region change from what was a very country area to what is now almost fully urbanised. I have such good memories of the area. It was a fun place to be growing up.”
In 1977, Kerrie graduated with Honours from the Sydney University and spent four years in hospitals through New South Wales, including a stint as Senior Resident in Ophtalmology at Repat General Hospital Concord. It was during her time here that she met someone who would impact on her life forever. Dr Medduma B Kappagoda, from Sri Lanka, worked as Staff Specialist in Opthamology at Concord while Kerrie was interning.
”He was a very intelligent man and a great mentor. Unfortunately he died about 5 years ago from cancer. I highly admired him and he had a lot to do with me getting into Opthamology and actually enjoying the specialty.”
It was while she completed her first term of interning that Kerrie realised Opthamology was where her future lay, despite originally considering being an Obstetrician. Immediately I felt that I fitted into the opthalmologist scene. I just felt like I belonged.
Having grown up with glasses herself since the age of 5, Kerrie knew the challenges vision impaired people faced. ”If you wore glasses at school, people called you ‘four eyes’. It was always something I hated when I was growing up. I just wanted to look normal. I was 15 when I got contact lenses and it was purely for cosmetic reasons. All the other girls at school looked great and here I was, wearing the most horrible big glasses. All of that really sticks in your brain. It affects your confidence and what you do with your life.
”I come from an era where women didn’t have careers, and they certainly weren’t surgeons! But feeling confident and being able to help others feel the same was a huge motivation for me and the reason why I went into surgery and got the surgery done myself. If you have a particular problem yourself, you have a passion to learn about it and do something about it, for yourself and for others.”
After a number of years in public and small private practises, Kerrie established her own Opthamology company personalEYES, which was first set up in Castle Hill in 1988. She now has offices throughout Sydney and affiliates throughout South East Asia.
One of the highlights of her career was her charity work in China. Explains Kerrie ”A big part of why doctors do charity work is so they can give something back to someone and I was very grateful for the years I spent in China. Doctors go into medicine really wanting to help someone and when you go on those types of trips, money isn’t part of the deal. You’re working specifically to give someone back their sight. We worked on 40-50 cataracts a day and these people went from being poor and blind, to suddenly realise they COULD survive!”
The trip changed the direction of Kerrie’s life and her whole outlook on life. ”To be able to see is the way we survive. To be able to give that gift to someone is an amazing experience.”
It’s been a long journey and a busy one, from the days spent riding horses as a child in Toongabbie in Sydney’s Hills to the desolate hills in some of China’s poorest regions. So what was the biggest lesson Kerrie learned? ”Be true to yourself. If it doesn’t feel right for you and your family, don’t do it.”