Dr William Cunningham

Cataract and Retinal Surgeon

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Dr William Cunningham

Cataract & Retinal Surgeon

Book an appointment
“Helping people by delivering expert ophthalmic care. That’s what matters to me.”

– Dr William Cunningham, MBChB FRANZCO

Dr William Cunningham’s professional background

Discover more about this New Zealand eye expert below

Will is an acknowledged expert in cataract and vitreoretinal surgery who splits his time between the Eye Institute and working publicly at the Greenlane Clinical Centre. He attended medical school at the University of Auckland, where he received the top prize for Ophthalmology (Calvin Ring Prize in Ophthalmology) and the top prize for Surgery (Sir Carrick Robertson Prize for Surgery).

Will became a fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (FRANZCO) in 2015 then went on to complete two further fellowships in vitreoretinal surgery.

Ophthalmic experience
  • Consultant Ophthalmologist, Subspecialist in Vitreoretinal Surgery, Medical Retina and Cataract Surgery, Auckland City Hospital and Eye Institute. February 2017 – Present
  • Vitreoretinal Fellow, Ophthalmology, Royal Perth Hospital & Lions Eye Institute. February 2016 – February 2017
  • Vitreoretinal Fellow, Ophthalmology, Waikato Public Hospital. December 2014 – January 2016
  • Senior Registrar, Ophthalmology, Auckland City Hospital. December 2012 – December 2013 & June 2014 – December 2014
  • Senior Registrar, Ophthalmology, Tauranga Eye Clinic. December 2013 – June 2014
  • Ophthalmology Registrar, Waikato Public Hospital. December 2010 – December 2012
  • Ophthalmology Anterior Segment Clinical Research Fellow, University of Auckland. December 2009 – December 2010
  • Ophthalmology Non-Vocational Registrar, Auckland City & Waikato Public Hospital. December 2007 – December 2009

As a child, Will attended Parakai Primary, a small rural school Northwest of Auckland, before receiving a combined sporting/academic boarding scholarship to attend Mount Albert Grammar secondary school in Auckland.

In 1999, after leaving high school, Will completed a 1-year Certificate in Health Science (Hikitia Te Ora) at the University of Auckland – during that year Will also excelled in an extracurricular capacity, representing Ponsonby Rugby Club, The Auckland under 19’s and trialling for the New Zealand under 19 squad.

The following year Will attended medical school at the University of Auckland. Upon exiting medical school, he received the top prize for Ophthalmology (Calvin Ring Prize) and the top prize for Surgery (Sir Carrick Robertson Prize).

As a junior doctor, Will completed a one year academic/clinical fellowship at the University of Auckland under the supervision of Professor Charles McGhee. The following year, he joined the official RANZCO Ophthalmology training scheme. Upon its completion, Will went on to complete two further year-long fellowships in vitreoretinal surgery, the first at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, New Zealand. The second at Royal Perth Hospital and Lions Eye Institute, Perth, Western Australia.

Will is committed to improving eye health across the New Zealand and the Pacific. He usually travels to the Pacific Islands 3-4 times per year to assist the local eye surgeons with complex patients and previously served as the chair of the RANZCO Māori and Pasifika Health Committee.

Training and principal qualifications:
  • MB ChB (Auckland)
  • FRANZCO Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists

Dr Cunningham completed a one year academic/clinical fellowship at the University of Auckland before commencing Ophthalmology specialty training. After becoming a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (FRANZCO), Dr Cunningham completed an extra two years of vitreoretinal subspecialty training. His first year was spent at Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand, and then at Lions Eye Institute and Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Australia.

Fellow Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (FRANZCO)
  • RANZCO Ophthalmic Basic Sciences and Competencies Examinations – Completed June 2012
  • RANZCO Advanced Pathology – Completed February 2013
  • RANZCO Advanced Clinical Examination – Completed August 2014
  • RANZCO Approved Fellowship – Completed December 2015
Undergraduate Education, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB), December 2005
  • Bachelor of Human Biology (BHB), December 2002
  • Certificate of Health Science (Hikitia Te Ora), December 1999
School Education
  • Mt Albert Grammar School – Deputy Head Boy (1994-1998), Auckland, New Zealand
  • Parakai Primary School, 1986-1993
Dr Cunningham’s specialisations:

Vitreoretinal surgery:

The most advanced technologies in vitreoretinal surgery; the smallest 25 and 27 gauge “sutureless” vitrectomy instruments, revolutionary wide-angled and 3-dimensional retinal viewing systems – and he can perform all surgeries under local anaesthetic. These techniques allow for a quick, safe, pain-free operation with a faster postoperative recovery.

Conditions treated with vitreoretinal techniques include:
  • Retinal detachment
  • Epiretinal membrane
  • Macular hole
  • Intraocular tumours
  • Complex cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Retinal vein occlusion
  • Floaters
  • Complications post complex cataract surgery
Cataract surgery:
  • ‘No needle’ anaesthesia (safe for patients on aspirin and warfarin)
  • No pain (numbing anaesthetic gel)
  • No sutures (“key-hole” small incision surgery)
  • No eye patch (useful vision through a clear protective shield returns in minutes)
  • No worries – sedation provided by a specialist anaesthetist, if you desire

Outside of work, Dr Cunningham enjoys spending quality time with his wife Hayley, son Joshua and daughter Zara. Before embarking on his medical career, he was a representative rugby player for North Harbour (1990-1993) and Auckland (1995-1999).

Although Will no longer plays rugby he still enjoys keeping fit through other non-contact sports. He has always had a passion for music and still enjoys playing the guitar and drums when he has time.

Publications

2020 Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, Freundlich SEN, Connell CJW, McGhee CNJ, Cunningham WJ, Bedggood A, Poole P Enhancing Māori and Pasifika Graduate Interest in Ophthalmology Surgical Training in New Zealand/Aotearoa: Barriers and Opportunities

2020 Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology (in submission), Rapata MEJ, Cunningham WJ, Patel DV, Zhang J, Hadden PW, McGhee CNJ Iris melanocytic tumours in the North Island of New Zealand

2017 Retinal Cases & Brief Reports, Cunningham WJ, Balaratnasingam C, Chen Y, Chen FK Cuticular drusen in an Indigenous Australian

2017 Journal of Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology (open access journal), Cunningham WJ, Mason S, Cain J, McAllister I Bilateral posterior ischaemic optic neuropathy secondary to diabetic ketoacidosis – An unfortunate cure for diabetic retinopathy.

2017 Journal of Vitreoretinal Diseases, Cunningham WJ, Michael E, Welch S, Crosby N, Host B, Polkinghorne P The Auckland Endophthalmitis Study: The incidence and management of endophthalmitis following intravitreal Bevacizumab

2012 Cornea Cunningham WJ, Moffatt SL, Brookes NH, Twohill HC, Pendergrast DG, Stewart JM, McGhee CN. The New Zealand National Eye Bank study: trends in the acquisition and storage of corneal tissue over the decade 2000-2009.

2012 Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, Cunningham WJ, Moffatt SL, Brookes NH, Twohill HC, Pendergrast Trends in the distribution of donor corneal tissue and indications for corneal

DG, Stewart JM, McGhee CN. transplantation: The New Zealand National Eye Bank Study 2000-2009.

2010 Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Chew SS, Cunningham WJ, Gamble GD, Danesh-Meyer HV. Retinal nerve fiber layer loss in glaucoma patients with a relative afferent pupillary defect.

Awards and prizes

Calvin Ring Prize in Ophthalmology, Auckland Medical School, 2004

Sir Carrick Robertson Prize for Surgery, Auckland Medical School, 2004

Herbie Towers Academic Boarding Scholarship, Mt Albert Grammar School, 1994-1998

Coca-Cola Sports Scholarship, Mt Albert Grammar School, 1994-1998

Membership to professional societies:
  • Fellowship of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (FRANZCO) – Member
  • Australia and New Zealand Society of Retinal Surgeons (ANZSRS)
  • RANZCO Maori and Pasifika Health Committee
  • Ophthalmology New Zealand (ONZ)