Dr Antonio Taufaeteau began his studies to become an eye doctor three years ago at Fiji National University. In April, he will begin his fourth and final year of training, with the ambition to return to his home island of Vava’u, Tonga to help provide high-quality eye care to the people in his community.
For Dr Antonio and other students in the Pacific, scholarships are invaluable. Without them, further study to become an eye nurse or doctor would be out of reach for most. Regular donations from our generous community of supporters provided Dr Antonio with a scholarship that covers his course fees, textbooks and an allowance for rent. It meant he could go on outreaches - also funded by donations - and learn from leading eye doctors like Dr Mundi. It also allowed him to move his family to Fiji with him while he gains his qualifications.
"Since starting eye care, I have never looked back. I enjoy everything about it, but the most amazing part is the cataract surgeries. Watching people cry when they see their loved ones faces or see the light after being in the dark for years" - Dr Antonio
Dr Antonio grew up in a small village called Utungake - a separate island connected to Vava’u by a small bridge. You can drive across the bridge if the weather is good, but if there are bad storms, or the tide is high, the village can become shut off to the rest of the island.
Growing up in Va'vau - Dr Antonio learnt to appreciate the most important things in life; family, friends, culture and to trust God in everything he does - going to church is an important part of his life. He is the middle of five children, with two sisters and two brothers. He has many happy memories of his mother, father and siblings, feeding the pigs and cows and spending hours admiring nature and swimming.
He has a wife and three lovely children, two boys and one girl; aged six, four and one. He loves spending time with his children, taking them to the park and movies, simply playing with them.
While studying has been a challenge at times, especially during a global pandemic, having his family by his side in Fiji has been the support he's needed to get through this journey of becoming an eye doctor.
He was Medical Officer for Vava'u, where he met Dr Mundi and his outreach team. There is a high prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure in Tonga and because of this, there are long-term complications such as diabetes eye disease and hypertension in the eye. At the time, the eye clinic in Vava'u had one local eye nurse to perform screenings, and Tonga itself didn't have a single eye doctor.
His love for Vava'u, its people and his community, are the reason Dr Antonio decided to work in eye care. Most people on the island rely on farming, fishing, weaving and handicrafts to earn a living. Losing one’s sight is like losing one’s life when you are no longer able to provide for your family. Observing cataract surgeries on Dr. Mundi's outreach; seeing how quickly people, including some of his family and close friends recovered and returned to work, encouraged him to specialise in eye care.
Dr Antonio is excited to return to Tonga and collaborate with Dr Duke, providing high-quality eye cate to the people of his country.
More eye nurses and doctors are needed in Tonga and throughout the Pacific. Dr Antonio's wish is that people will continue to offer this opportunity to other young doctors and nurses in the Pacific who want to change people’s life by giving them vision.