Tego Profile: Dr Diana Semmonds
Specialty: Ophthalmologist – private and public
Medical School: University of Sydney
Residency: Townsville hospital, Newcastle hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital
Significant other: Husband
Enjoys: Sport, yoga and travel
There were relatively few women doctors and even fewer women ophthalmologists 30 years ago when Dr Diana Semmonds was deciding on a specialty.
But ophthalmology ticked a lot of boxes for her. It’s a mix of medicine and surgery. And you get to see a broad spectrum of patients, she says. And it also offers stable hours.
“When I was a resident in the casualty department I realised I enjoyed surgery. So, it was a matter of finding a surgical specialty that would be challenging and rewarding but also would fit into a lifestyle with a family.”
An opportunity to have her own private practice was important, so ophthalmology ticked that box as well.
Now, with both her daughter and son in their 20s , she is still working a full week, and she would not have it any other way.
Dr Semmonds has had her own busy practice in St Leonards in Sydney’s north for most of her career. But she also believes in giving back. She is Vice President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, active on a number of boards and spends a day a week teaching registrars and operating at the Sydney Eye Hospital.
“There’s nothing like teaching, to be able to pass on your skills. But you also learn from your registrars. They ask you questions that sometimes challenge you, that you need to think about.”
Dr Semmonds says today’s registrars are a lot more streetwise than in her generation.“ They are keen and smart and are doing ophthalmology for the right reasons, to help patients, to help people.”
Dr Semmonds is sometimes called on to work with the health care complaints unit of the Medical Board of Australia, so she is aware of medico-legal risks. “I’m very careful with making sure my patients understand all aspects of their treatment, in particular operations, so that they are hopefully happy with their outcome. And I’m also very careful if they’re not happy to make sure that I address all the issues and try and allay any of their fears.”
She says she did not switch medical indemnity insurers lightly. “I certainly did my research before I switched to make sure that they would offer as good a service as the previous medical defence organisation did.”
As with most doctors, Dr Semmonds remembers a particularly rewarding case. For her it was a very short-sighted patient who had developed cataracts and could no longer wear contact lenses or glasses.
Dr Semmonds operated and implanted corrective lenses in his eyes.
“He said it was life changing. People who are totally dependent on glasses have in their mind a fear that if their glasses fall off or if they lose their contact lenses that they are blind.
“When you do the operation and they can finally see, they develop a confidence that they’ve never had in their lives and their personality changes a little and it’s just wonderful to see.”
And would she recommend ophthalmology to a young doctor?
“Yes. It’s challenging and constantly changing, so you’re always growing. It’s always interesting. Just go for it. Don’t worry about the fact that there are so many young doctors trying to get into a field. If you really want to do it, you can.”