Exclusive interview with a Seychellois who is making Seychelles proud |12 October 2019
Seychellois Don Williams nominated as one of the best optometrists in the UK
Seychelles NATION: Who is Don Williams?
Don Williams: I was born and bred in the Seychelles and attended various schools including English River, La Digue school and notably Mont Fleuri school. My father (Despilly Williams) and the paternal side of my relation are from La Digue and my mother’s side (Micheline Renaud) is from Mahé. I grew up with my uncle, Bernardin Renaud, most of my early years to teenage years and that is where I discovered the importance of education among other things. Mr Renaud is a special man, a visionary, an achiever; he raised all five of us as a single Dad and we all have been successful and hindsight tells me that is because of the way we were raised, not evident as a teenager of course but proven to be fruitful now. I always had a passion for learning however I was always also full of energy! (And still is!) My late teenage years and early adult life were spent with my aunty Vero and Uncle Jacques at La Misère.
I then went on to attend the National Youth Service (NYS) for two years and had the best two years of my late teenage life. It gave me and my peers this sense of independence and I learned to be self-sufficient and I am also proud to say that I have kept in touch with a lot of people including administrators from my NYS days. Like most Seychellois students, you then ended up at the Seychelles Polytechnic where I did my ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels and I was also part of the Seychelles national weightlifting team. Weightlifting provided me with structure and an avenue to discharge my energy. My coach, William Dixie, was excellent and up until today, I go to the gym 5 days a week, 5am on a Sunday morning even on cold winter mornings and rarely miss a session even at the age of 45. I’m sure Dixie would be glad to hear that!
A while after finishing Polytechnic, I joined the Ministry of Health and formed part of an amazing team at the Eye Clinic and the lead nurse who was an excellent nurse at that time, Inese Freminot, was very keen to send me for further training.
Seychelles NATION: Tell us more about your journey
Don Williams: I then won a scholarship to study Optics in Paris and spent three years there and then soon after I came to Birmingham, UK where I have been for almost 20 years. I have got a family of my own, an extremely hard working wife and two girls, Cierra (Cici – 10 years old) and Anissa (Nissa – 22 years old) and they keep me on my toes. We are all very close and we do however have our moment from time to time which adds to the fun!
I studied Optometry at the ‘Institute of Neuroscience & Visual Science’ at Aston University, Birmingham. I graduated with Honours in 2004 and did extremely well at University. I then went on to register with the General Optical Council, UK, The British College of Optometrists. Of recent past, I became a member of the ‘World Council of Optometrists’ and then became a member of the ‘American Optometric Association’.
I then undertook further studies at Ulster University where I attained my Post Graduate Diploma in Refractive and Cataract Surgery, Professional Cert Medical Retina and Prof Cert Glaucoma where I was awarded Distinction for my effort. I have also recently been awarded a distinction for my M.Sc. thesis ‘New approaches to diagnostic testing in glaucoma’; using various diagnostic devices especially the latest software (GMPE) on one of the most advanced Heidelberg Spectralis Optical Coherence Tomography (Eye Scan) in my private practice. Ophthalmic diagnostic using OCT (Eye Scan) and various other high calibers diagnostic imaging devices remains my main passion. I am also on the specialist register with the General Optical Council after completing further studies in therapeutics. I am currently following some further training in Glaucoma at Bradford University. I am also actively involved in glaucoma research and imaging of the nerves inside the eye for its early detection and for the detection of various neurological conditions.
Alongside running my own private practice, Edgbaston Private Eye Clinic, I also work at Birmingham Midland Eye Centre (BMEC) in the highly specialised complex surgical glaucoma department led by pioneering Glaucoma Ophthalmologist, I. Masood. BMEC is the second largest Eye Department in the UK and highly reputable for Ophthalmology. I would routinely go to theatre and attend highly complex surgical eye procedures. It is always very rewarding to be among the best brains in the world where Ophthalmology is concerned.
Seychelles NATION: Tell us more about how you started Edgbaston Eye Clinic in Birmingham
Don Williams: Edgbaston Eye Clinic was set up with the aim of providing the most in depth eye examination using some of the most advanced ophthalmic equipment and software in the world. Other than running my own clinic and seeing my own patients, I would routinely accept referrals from various clinicians for very specific tests. Patients travel as far as Wales to come to my clinic. The furthest that a patient has travelled is Edinburgh in Scotland. That is a five-hour drive!
Edgbaston eye clinic is now regarded as one of the best private consulting eye/diagnostic suites and to maintain that standard, I have to keep investing in newer diagnostic software and also offer newer treatment for conditions such as glaucoma. The less invasive the treatment modality, the better for patients as the risk of post op complications is lessened. To be able to provide various types of medical laser treatment for conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease etc in my clinic will add to the arsenal of treatment that I currently offer to my patients. I am also very proud to be the first Optometrist in the whole of the UK that has been trained by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists to do these various medical Laser surgical procedures.
All these years of studying, learning and working in various excellent hospital eye departments under and alongside some fantastic brains in the ophthalmic industry have resulted in our association to shortlist me as one of the best ‘5 Optometrists’ in the UK. Just to be nominated and being one of 5 finalists is an amazing personal and professional achievement and it is the pinnacle of clinical success and excellence in my profession. To win this prestigious award, would be the ultimate achievement however I am content as one of the best 5 in the whole of the United Kingdom. To come from a small island state, ascend the clinical excellence and academic ladder in that fashion and then to be recognised as one of the best is in itself very rewarding. Should I win, I’ll be the first non-UK born clinician to achieve this very prestigious accolade.
The last stage of this process is the ‘voting stage’ where anyone can vote and the more votes the better! Anyone can vote using the following link:https://www.mi-vote.com/aopawards2020/
The voting process is simple, click on the link, enter your name, click submit, scroll down to ‘Optometrist of the Year’, submit and then tick next to my name & photo-Don Williams and then press ‘Cast your vote’ button which is in red.
Seychelles NATION: What is your motto in life?
Don Williams: To reach this height in one’s career requires dedication, time as it takes many years of reading research papers, years of studying and it also doesn’t come cheap. What makes it gratifying is when professional colleagues in the UK use words such as ‘innovative, breaking barriers, trailblazer, unique, inspiring, etc’ to describe your achievement. This makes it all worthwhile. One of my aims in life is to inspire the younger generation to really go out there and work hard to achieve their dreams and goals, be passionate and just ‘go for it’. One thing with me is, I am fearless in my approach, strong-minded, confident and if I falter, I will rise stronger with more vigour. Never give up..!
Seychelles NATION: Do you miss Seychelles?
Don Williams: I seldom come to the Seychelles and this is mainly due to my charged schedule. However all the clinical skills, experience amassed and accolade would one day benefit my fellow countrymen/women as my aim is to resettle in the Seychelles at some point once I have completed all my various academic and professional projects.
EDUCATION AND CREDENTIALS
1997-2000: BTS Physique/Optic L’ESOP, Paris, France
2000-2004: B.Sc (Hons) Optometry , Aston University, Birmingham
2009-2010: PGDip Refractive&Cataract Surgery (Distinction), Ulster University,
2015-Professional Cert Medical Retina (Distinction) Ulster University
2016-Professional Cert Glaucoma (Distinction) Ulster University
2018-Dip Tp (IP)- Aston University (Distinction)
2019-GOC Registered Therapeutic Specialisations: Additional Supply Specialty, Independent Prescribing Specialty, Supplementary Prescribing Specialty
July 2019: M.Sc-‘New approaches to diagnostic imaging in glaucoma’ (Distinction, Aston Uni,)
2019-2020: Higher Cert Glauc (Bradford Uni)
2019-UK’s First Medical (Glaucoma) Laser Optometrist
2019-Finalist ‘UK Best Optometrist’
Compiled by Vidya Gappy