A wonderful life

A short while ago I attended a service to celebrate the life of Dr David Cockburn OAM who passed away recently at the age of 91.  Many of David’s colleagues and friends were in attendance at this event, as well as some of his old patients from his optometry practice.  It was a wonderful afternoon, as people shared all their great memories about this outstanding man, who was not only a brilliant clinician but also an exceptional educator and researcher.

David was a lecturer and clinical instructor when I did my optometry course back in the 1980s and he was a truly inspirational and engaging teacher.  I was very lucky to go through optometry when you had truly remarkable individuals like David, Professor Barry Cole, Dr John Nathan and others leading the way.  These were people with incredible drive who took the optometry course from one floor of an office building in Collins Street to a degree course – with a worldwide reputation – at the University of Melbourne.  As Barry Cole stated in a recent tribute ‘David was a leader of change in optometry for the whole of his career and had a profound influence on the development of the profession from 1955 to 1995’.

David established his first private practice in his mother’s flat in Hampton and the present practice – which is one of the most outstanding optometry practices in Australia – is only a few doors away from this original location.  Interestingly, but not surprisingly, David was one of the first optometrists to prescribe and fit contact lenses.  I did my practice visits there as a student and it was an incredible experience that left a lasting impression me and the way I continue to practice optometry.  At age 75, David retired from his private practice in Hampton which continues as Gutteridge, Douglas and Wells Optometrists.  Up until recently, David would – without fail – still come into the practice on Fridays to have fish and chips for lunch with his colleagues.

As evidenced by the tributes following his passing, David’s teaching and mentoring inspired many optometrists and undoubtedly made them better clinicians and practitioners.  That definitely applies in my case and I feel blessed to have known him as a teacher, colleague and friend.  He is survived by two sons, Richard and Scott, daughter Sally, five grand children and two great-grand children.