Asia Institute Tasmania

Public lecture | The East Timor Eye Project


A/Prof Nitin Verma AM,Head of the Dept of Ophthalmology at the Royal Hobart Hospital, a Clinical Associate Professor at the School of Medicine, University of Tasmania.

Start Date

13th Mar 2018 6:00pm

Crisis often leads to opportunity. This presentation is focused on the efforts of the global ophthalmic community’s efforts in rebuilding the eye health services in Timor Leste after it gained its independence from Indonesia in 1999. The separation was bloody and almost all infrastructure was destroyed.

What began as a low key humanitarian project in 2000 to address unoperated cataracts, evolved into a comprehensive effort to help set up the eye health services for the future. Piggybacking on the eye program, other needs of this young nation in the fields of education, sanitation, local government cooperation, fisheries and tourism are now also being addressed. The Program started off as an Australian initiative but now volunteers of the program come from all parts of the world.  The impact of eye programs in the community is very visible and its positive flow on effects extend to other projects resulting in improvements in the community.

Ophthalmologists can afford to dream big and work outside the “box” and multiply the effects of their inputs to extend to other ways to improve the lot of the people they have chosen to serve.  The ultimate aim is to make ourselves largely redundant and leave the Timorese self-reliant with a sustainable, independent eye health program.

Nitin Verma AM is a leading ophthalmologist with a special interest in retinal disease. Nitin studied medicine at CMC, Vellore, India and has ophthalmology qualifications from India, Germany and Australia.  He is the Head of the Dept of Ophthalmology at the Royal Hobart Hospital, a Clinical Associate Professor at the School of Medicine, Uni of Tasmania and Sydney and is in private practice at Hobart Eye Surgeons. Nitin is Director Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO); Director of RANZCO Eye Foundation; Director of the Macular Disease Foundation, Australia (MDFA), Chair of MDFA Grants Committee and member of the Medical Committee; The national Hospitaller for St John Ambulance Australia and Secretary of the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Gateway Project. Nitin initiated, and leads, the East Timor Eye Project and is President of the Tasmanian Medical Volunteers.  He was appointed Honorary Consul in Tasmania for Timor Lestein 2006 and was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for Prevention of Blindness (Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology) in 2009 and The Order of Timor Leste and the Order of Australia, in 2010, for his service to ophthalmology. In 2017 he was inaugurated as Commander of the Most Venerable Order of St John.