Heather Mackintosh


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23 November 1951-5 August 2009

With the recent death of Heather Thomasina Mackintosh the ophthalmic community in New Zealand has lost a highly valued and esteemed colleague.

Heather was born in 1951 and her family immigrated to New Zealand from Britain in 1963. Her father, who was an ordained Anglican minister, was Vicar of parishes in Invercargill and Milton, and was a highly regarded chaplain at Dunedin Hospital. Heather's secondary schooling was at St. Hilda's College in Dunedin where she became a prefect in her final year. She then entered the University of Otago Medical School, qualifying in 1976. Heather commenced ophthalmic training at Christchurch Hospital in 1977, and moved to the Wellington Ophthalmic Department in 1980. She became a Fellow of RACS and RACO in 1982. Her assistance to fellow ophthalmic trainees and her willingness to teach are well remembered and it had been anticipated that Heather would undertake teaching and care of trainees during her impending retirement.

In 1979 she married Theo Wilms, an agricultural scientist with a special interest in the cultivation of orchids. They have two sons, Heath and Peter, and Heather was justly proud of their achievements. Heath is studying medicine, and Peter is a lawyer.

Heather commenced ophthalmic practice in Taranaki in 1983 with Dr. Arthur Talbot, and when he retired she was joined by Dr. Kevin Taylor. She was Consultant Ophthalmologist to the Taranaki District Health Board, and over the years provided outreach eye services at Hawera. Heather was a regular attendant at RANZCO Conferences and remained fully conversant with the latest developments in ophthalmology, although confining her individual practice to aspects of ophthalmology in which she felt she could achieve a high standard of care.

Heather demonstrated dedication to her ophthalmic practice and patients. Her compassion, humility and her supportive and caring attitude endeared her to all who knew her. She will be greatly missed by colleagues, friends and patients. The Chair of the Taranaki District Health Board, paying tribute to Heather's work, described her as a universally loved and respected doctor whose skills will be sorely missed.

Heather was a wise and unstinting supporter of The Save Sight Society of New Zealand and contributed significantly to its affairs as Treasurer for over a decade, holding that office at the time of her death. Heather, ably assisted by her secretary Raewyn Laurence, ensured significant and continuing improvement in the financial resources of the Society which are the major source of funding for Ophthalmic research in New Zealand and are also dedicated to raising public awareness about preventable causes of blindness. The annual SSS photographic competition, initiated by Heather as a fundraiser, enables photographers to exhibit their work. Her loss will be keenly felt by the Society and its Board of Directors.

Heather's Christian faith and values had a profound influence upon her life and being. Heather and her husband, Theo, were active participants in the Anglican community in New Plymouth. She was a keen gardener who particularly enjoyed the many wonderful gardens in Taranaki. There were annual skiing expeditions with friends and she twice climbed Mt. Taranaki. With Theo she shared a keen interest in the arts and they recently spent time pursuing this interest in Europe. A large collection of cookery books reflected her love of cooking and entertaining family and friends.

Heather died suddenly on 5 August 2009. Heather will long be remembered with affection and esteem, and for her outstanding contributions to every sphere of her life. We extend our sympathy to Theo, Heath and Peter, and to all Heather's family in their great loss.

Allan Panting

This obituary is based upon that prepared by Dr Gillian Clover and Theo Wilms and submitted to The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists publication Ophthalmologists' Exchange


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