QEI education pays dividends

10 Apr, 2024

Dr Jonathan Lai is having a full circle moment at the Queensland Eye Institute, as the past student has returned to the fold as a clinician and teacher.

Dr Lai spent a year of his undergraduate medical degree with QEI’s corneal transplant cell research team, completing a project under QEI senior scientist Peter Madden.

He says it was a great experience and cemented his commitment to become an ophthalmologist.

“QEI had that great integration with the laboratory and research, as well as the clinicians who were in the same building,” Dr Lai says.

“During my student placement, although I was based in the lab doing research, I still had interactions with the clinicians. I’d go down to help and watch in the clinics and learn as well.”

In the years since, Dr Lai completed medical and surgical residencies at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, the Mater Hospital, and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. He then did further subspecialty training in glaucoma and neuro-ophthalmology at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital and at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

Seven people sit or stand around a table with square foam blocks in front of them, using surgical implements to practise suturing. A man with short dark hair and glasses lifts his hand to demonstrate the suturing technique.
Dr Jonathan Lai instructs on basic suturing skills at an education event at QEI

With such an impressive resume, Dr Lai’s career could have taken him anywhere. But he chose to return to Brisbane, joining the clinical faculty at QEI and accepting a visiting role at The Mater Hospital Brisbane.

“QEI just feels like home,” Dr Lai says.

“I’ve kept connections here ever since I was a student. And as a training ophthalmologist, QEI has been the home for education because the teaching sessions and the wet lab have been here,” he says.

While Dr Lai appreciates the familiarity of QEI, he also embraces the organisation’s broader goals.

“Because QEI also has education and research as priorities, it shifts the culture,” he says.

“And I think it creates a much more welcoming environment for everyone involved with the Institute, including students and patients.

“I think patient care is improved by the fact that there’s other aspects to the institute apart from just clinical work,” Dr Lai says.

A noticeable change at QEI since Dr Lai’s student days is the way education is delivered, a shift he sees as inevitable.

“I think we have to embrace technology a lot more and how we deliver education, especially for working professionals,” he says.

“During COVID we started exploring digital solutions, like virtual workshops and teaching, and even doing case discussions online.

“It’s nice having the social interaction of in-person events, but we have lots of new options now to explore how we deliver the same sort of teaching through different formats.”

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