Retired optometrist Mike Webber could be mistaken for thinking he was in a clinic in Whanganui, not Rarotonga.

While doing a stint for the New Zealand Aid Eye team in the Cook Islands last month, he bumped into an optometrist and an opthalmologist whose last names he recognised.

"I was talking to them over a cup of tea," he said.

"I knew their parents lived here and I thought, hang on a minute, if your parents lived here where did you go to school?"


They were opthalmologist Dr Jo Sims, who studied at Whanganui Girls College, and optometrist Richard Johnson, who studied at Whanganui High School.

Alongside Webber, who was educated at Wanganui Collegiate, they made up half of the six eye specialists for the Aid Eye team in Rarotonga.

"The fact there were three out of the six educated here ... it was quite a story," Webber said.

The team holds clinics at a hospital in Rarotonga once a year and assess for eye pathology or cataract surgery.

Dr Sims conducts part-time private clinics at Auckland Eye and she also runs uveitis (an inflammatory eye disease) clinics for the Auckland region.

She is also a senior lecturer for the Department of Opthalmology at the University of Auckland.

Johnson worked for a number of years in Austria and the United Kingdom before returning to New Zealand in 2004.

He has since been a part-time lecturer at the Optometry School in Auckland and is now principal optometrist at Greenlane Hospital.


Webber had planned to go to Rarotonga for a holiday but was called into the New Zealand Aid Eye team at late notice after another optometrist had to pull out.

He's had a number of trips to the Cook Islands even before the Aid Eye team was established in the 1990s.