An ophthalmologist dedicated to improving the eyesight of rural, remote andindigenous communities and also a formidable rugby union player with theWallabies.

These have been the dual identities of Dr Mark Loane AM, who is setto receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Griffith University later this week.Medicine has always been paramount in his life; rugby was there just to entertainhimself, says the man who for the past 16 years has brought sight and hope toremote people as part of the Cape York Regional Eye Program.

The project uses a hybrid optometric/opthamological service to provide high gradeeye services to 13 remote Cape York communities. It is so successful it is beingreplicated in other areas of Australia.

“Medicine was always my long term commitment and the thing that carried methrough rugby,” says Dr Loane who captained Queensland to several distinctivewins over NSW in the 70s and also captained Australia for six tests between 1979and 1982.

Often described as a ‘folk hero’ on the field, and having completed his medicaldegree while still a Wallaby, Loane retired from rugby at 28 to studyophthalmology. “I originally started in trauma and obstetrics but I had always hada strong interest in vision and to me, eyes really are the most beautiful andimportant thing we possess.”

It was this passion for eye surgery and Loane’s upbringing in Far NorthQueensland that led him and his team to get to work on indigenous patients with
complaints mostly comprising cataracts, age related macular degeneration anddiabetic retinopathy — blinding caused by diabetes, a condition endemic in Cape

Asked about the progress he has made over the last 16 years, Loane is typicallymodest, saying he is not a believer in the Western idea of progress. “I like to do ajob as well as I can but it is usually a team effort and sometimes the recognition ofthat can go missing.

“The aim for us has been to make sure that people receive a service up there thatis as good as in any capital city and I think that we have achieved that. We have aturn up rate amongst the people of 95 per cent and that to me is an extra-ordinarycompliment; obviously they trust us and that is really the greatest single reward.”