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Dr James Muecke AM

South Australian ophthalmologist and blindness prevention pioneer, Dr James Muecke started his medical career in Kenya, and has been awarded Australian of the Year 2020 for his passionate approach to fighting blindness.

Since starting his medical career in Kenya, 56-year-old Dr James Muecke AM has been passionate about fighting blindness. His focus now is the leading cause of blindness in adults – type 2 diabetes – a spiralling epidemic that's impacting nearly one-in-ten Australians. It's the fastest growing cause of vision loss in Aboriginal people and the sixth-biggest killer in this country. James wants to challenge our perception of sugar and the impact it has in the development of type 2 diabetes.

James is an eye surgeon, humanitarian and social entrepreneur, and for over 30 years has been fighting blindness in Australia and some of the poorest countries of the world. In this fascinating and at times confronting keynote presentation, James uses powerful stories from his work with social impact organisation Sight For All, to outline the three key elements of social entrepreneurship - a spirit of adventure, a humanitarian spirit, and an entrepreneurial spirit. He also discusses the ingredients that make up an entrepreneurial spirit and how you can harness your passion and use these ingredients to change the world for better.

Previously, James co-founded Vision Myanmar at the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology in 2000. The $1 million program has developed and operated eye health and blindness initiatives in Myanmar. Inspired by this program's success, James also co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aiming to create a world where everyone can see. With 80% of world blindness avoidable – and almost 90% in poor countries – James treats blindness as a human rights issue. In 2020, he was awarded the Australian of the Year for his commitment to fighting blindness and improving health outcomes for disadvantaged communities.