Select Page

From left: Michael White (Visique Whakatane), Sushmita Chinchankar (BOptom student) and Ian Finch (Visique Whakatane)

Last month’s newsletter introduced the Rural Health Interprofessional Programme (RHIP) and SOVS’ first engagement with this initiative by sending BOptom student Sushmita Chinchankar to participate (click here for that story). Sushmita’s RHIP placement was with the highly experienced Ian Finch and Michael White at Visique Whakatāne.

The partnership with RHIP might be new, but Ian and Michael have been mentoring students for more than 20 years. Ian has been an Optometrist for more than 30 years, first in England and since 1991 as co-owner and partner at Visique Whakatāne, and has been an Honorary Teaching Fellow (HTF) with the School of Optometry and Vision Science since this position was created in 2016. Honorary Teaching Fellows are representatives of the practices around New Zealand and Australia who host BOptom students for placements or externships during their final year. In 2018 alone the School welcomed 32 new honorary optometry staff to its ranks. Honorary Teaching Fellow status enables mentoring optometrists to access valuable online library resources at the University of Auckland, to enjoy discounted attendance at School of Optometry & Vision Science events such as the SOVS conference, and to receive occasional podcasts of interesting guest lectures.

We asked Ian what he enjoys most about teaching. For him there is no downside to mentoring bright, young students who keep you up to date with research in optometry, challenge your ways of thinking and bring new ideas into the practice. While people might find the idea of teaching and being responsible for a student frightening, for Ian it is a way to introduce them to the reality of being an optometrist in rural New Zealand. There are specific challenges which come with running a rural practice. An optometrist has to be a specialist in all areas and to be able to triage problems to other medical practitioners. Ian will look at the whole person, not just the eyes. “A person is coming in with a pair of eyes. Not a pair of eyes on a person.” In fact this is where he sees the biggest challenge for young students from mainly urban backgrounds: they are missing a broad experience with different lifestyles.

When asked what he would say to a reluctant mentor, Ian responded with: “Kids don’t take a lot of time and they are inspiring. This is a great chance to show them how the real world works and it keeps you young and informed. Open your mind to a broader kind of thinking!”

If you are not currently a placement or externship partner and would like to know more about what this involves please click here or contact Gini Parslow (