School of Medicine

Department of Ophthalmology


  • The New Zealand National Eye Centre (NZ-NEC) is the culmination of more than eight years of collaboration and planning between many researchers in the field of ophthalmology, optometry, eye health and visual sciences in the University of Auckland.
  • The New Zealand National Eye Bank has been based in the Department since 1991.
  • The department is home to the administrative office of Glaucoma New Zealand.
  • All clinically qualified members of the Department provide clinical expertise to the Auckland District Health Board.



The University Department of Ophthalmology and Ophthalmology Department, Auckland District Health Board are based on two separate sites - the Department of Ophthalmology occupies the fourth floor of building 504 on the University of Auckland's Grafton Campus and the Ophthalmology Department, ADHB is located approximately 5kms away at the Green Lane Clinical Centre site. Shuttle buses run between the sites every 15 minutes. A population of more than 2.0 million use the tertiary ophthalmology services provided within Auckland.



The University Section of Ophthalmology was created as a sub-division of the Department of Surgery in 1968. The foundation Clinical Reader was Dr Hylton LeGrice OBE, until Dr Gillian Clover was appointed as the first Sir William and Lady Stevenson Senior Lecturer in Ophthalmology in 1983. Dr Clover was appointed to Associate Professor in 2000 and retired from her academic position in 2001.


A significant donation by the industrialist and philanthropist Dr Maurice Paykel, augmented by generous support from the local ophthalmic community and other donors, allowed the establishment of the first Chair of Ophthalmology in New Zealand in 1997. The department expanded significantly in 1998 following the appointment of Professor Charles McGhee as the foundation Maurice Paykel Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology. He relocated from the University of Dundee, Scotland, with several of key staff in 1999.

The ophthalmology team has expanded from a team of 4.5 in 1999 to over 50 staff, research students and honorary staff (refer staff page for further detail) in 2010. Significant appointments since 1999 include Professor Colin Green (2005), the first recipient of the W & B Hadden Professor of Ophthalmology and Translational Vision Research in 2005. Colin is an eminent cell biologist with an international reputation in research into wound healing particularly the eye, skin and nervous system. Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer was initially appointed as the Sir William and Lady Stephenson Associate Professor in 2001 and thereafter appointed to full Professor in 2008. Professor Danesh-Meyer has an international profile for research in glaucoma and neuro-ophthalmology and provides clinical services in the public and private sectors.

All academic ophthalmologists hold posts with Auckland District health Board (ADHB). Dr Sue Ormonde, Senior Lecturer, is currently the Clinical Director of the Department of Ophthalmology, ADHB.


The Department of Ophthalmology Today


The Head of Department is Charles NJ McGhee, The Maurice Paykel Chair of Ophthalmology. Professor McGhee, a leading corneal expert, heads a large research team primarily focussing on corneal diseases. He also provides tertiary clinical services in both the public and private eye care sectors. Professor McGhee also holds an honorary Professorial position at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

The University of Auckland Department of Ophthalmology occupies an entire floor in the Pathology Building on the FMHS campus and accommodates academic, laboratory and general staff as well as the New Zealand National Eye Bank, Glaucoma New Zealand, and the New Zealand National Eye Centre. Research and teaching facilities consist of; 2 fully equipped laboratories, a state of the art wet-lab facility, clinical examination rooms, a teaching laboratory and a confocal microscope. There is also a University of Auckland Department of Ophthalmology research room at the Greenlane Clinical Centre.


The department is based within the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. The medical school enrols 160 students currently in each of 6 years and Ophthalmology is taught in second, third and fifth year, this number is gradually increasing over the next few years to a total of 250 students per annum. A large School of Optometry and Vision Science is also based within the faculty and collaborative research and teaching is inherent to the relationship between Ophthalmology and Optometry under the banner of the New Zealand National Eye Centre.

Clinical research interests of the Department of Ophthalmology include cataract, corneal transplantation, refractive surgery, keratoconus, tear film abnormalities, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, inherited eye diseasesvision in childhood and diabetic eye disease. Laboratory based interests include: in vivo confocal microscopy, in vitro confocal microscopy of keratoconus, corneal topography, pharmacokinetics of ocular drugs, genetics of inherited retinal and corneal dystrophies, gap junction channels in the cornea, molecular basis of lens transparency and tear film physiology. In the first 20 years from 1999 to 2019 the department received research grants totalling nearly $40 million, and published nearly 1000 journal articles, books, and book chapters.


The New Zealand National Eye Bank, with four members of staff, is located within the Ophthalmology department and very close clinical and research links are maintained between the Eye Bank and the Ophthalmology department. The Eye Bank provides tissue for more than 240 corneal transplants throughout New Zealand each year.

Glaucoma New Zealand, a charitable trust established to eliminate blindness from glaucoma, is also situated within the department. They have 3 staff who offer a wide range of services for example; regular communication with members by either newsletters or public forums and professional education opportunities.

New Zealand National Eye Centre (NZ-NEC) was established in 2008 to form a focus for researchers in the fields of ophthalmology, optometry, eye health and visual sciences in New Zealand. NZ-NEC is a unique eye research centre in that includes the two ophthalmic professions – the Department of Ophthalmology (Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences) and the Department of Optometry and Vision Science (Faculty of Science). The stated Vision of NZ-NEC is:

“To become a foremost international vision research, clinical and teaching centre through excellence, innovation and collaboration”

For further information please visit the sites of our affliated organisations:


Foundation Clinical Reader in Ophthalmology: Dr. Hylton LeGrice OBE., M.B.,FRCS(Eng.), FRACS, FRACO, FRCOphth., DO(Lond.), D.Obst.(NZ)


Hylton LeGrice was educated at Kings School and Kings College in Auckland, and is a graduate of Otago Medical School. He was awarded both the Sir Carrick Robertson Surgical Prize and the TWJ Johnston Memorial Prize in Medicine, for final year medical students at the Auckland Clinical School.

After spending his intern years in Auckland he attended the Royal College of Surgeons of England, in London. Passing the Part One Fellowship examination, he was appointed Registrar at the Croydon Eye Unit in London where over a three year period he achieved comprehensive surgical experience under the tutelage of one of the pioneers of microsurgery of the eye, Dermot Pierse. Dr. LeGrice then spent the next three years as Senior Registrar at Moorfields Eye Hospital City Road, London and passed his Final FRCS examination soon after taking up this post. He was ultimately appointed Senior Resident Surgeon where he was in charge of the Senior Registrar establishment at Moorfields City Road.

On returning home he took up the post as a part-time Visiting Specialist Surgeon to Auckland Hospital, as well as setting up in 1968 his own private consulting practice in Remuera. In 1970 he was appointed as Foundation Clinical Lecturer and soon after, as Foundation Clinical Reader in Ophthalmology at the Auckland School of Medicine. As a solo figure, without even clerical assistance, he established, and then conducted the first undergraduate teaching programme in Ophthalmology in Auckland. Dr. LeGrice continued in this teaching post for the next thirteen years until Dr. Gillian Clover was appointed full-time lecturer in 1983 and ultimately became Associate Professor.

Whilst continuing his private practice and having completed a twenty-year period as a Visiting Surgeon at Auckland Hospital, Hylton made a decision in 1988 to step down from the Consultant Staff in order to pursue other interests. For many years he had been Deputy Chairman of the Visiting Clinical Staff at the Mercy Hospital in Epsom, and was the Staff representative on the Board of Management of this hospital. He also stepped aside from this task because of a possible conflict of interests when appointed in 1984 to the Board of Southern Cross Healthcare - the founder of private health insurance in New Zealand, and the owner and operator of a nationwide network of thirteen surgical hospitals. Hylton was also a Ministerial appointment to the foundation Board of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in 1989, and was Chairman from 1993 to 1996.

Dr. LeGrice was previously Deputy Chairman and has for the last five years been the Chairman of the Southern Cross Medical Care Society and Chairman of the Southern Cross Hospitals Trust. He is presently also a Director of Montana Wines, this country's largest Winemaker, and also of Metlifecare Ltd., New Zealand's largest Retirement Village Operator with sixteen Retirement Villages nationwide. He is a Member of the Institute of Directors.

In the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 1995 Dr. LeGrice was admitted as an Officer of the British Empire (OBE.) for his contribution to the community in the fields of Medicine, Education, and Music.