We commenced 2021 filled with optimism for the start of a new year and used our experience from 2020 to make the most of all available time for student learning. Once again UNSW went into shutdown in June with student and staff unable to attend campus. We were able to continue telehealth consultations for patient care and student learning, but when it was obvious the lockdown was going to be extended, we negotiated a return to campus for essential patient care.
The clinic staff pivoted to online learning building on their experience from 2020. They worked with students delivering a wide variety of clinical experiences from communications skills, improving differential diagnoses and developing management plans. Small groups and individual sessions, with a variety of tutorials, case presentations, virtual patients, grand rounds and journal clubs helped to maintain engagement for students and staff. The student experience has been enriched by these adaptations.
We have further embedded strict infection control protocols for students and staff and were able to resume student led essential patient care in September transitioning to busier clinics once state regulations eased.
A highlight of the year was the three international grand round sessions held throughout the year. The sessions helped us to maintain close ties with our international placement providers. It was a delight to hear case presentations from Makerere University, Uganda, University of Alabama, USA and Hong Kong Polytechnic, Hong Kong and to meet with the many colleagues we have forged partnerships with over the years. The quality of presentations from these schools and our students was exemplary and we were able to exchange clinical experiences across the globe.
Our Clinical Optometry students have again shown a willingness to adapt to such major change with resilience, agility, and enthusiasm despite the impact of changes over two years of their program. The clinic team has once again been outstanding. They returned to campus whilst most other staff in the university have been working from home and committed to delivering excellent service to our patients while ensuring students gained the appropriate learning and demonstrated their competence.
Our clinical teaching has been generously supported by our Alumni who took on hosting our students in Private Practice Placements including replacements for when borders were closed, and our students could not travel overseas or interstate.
Many of these placements were organised with very short notice and in the context of the uncertainty of almost weekly restriction changes. The level of support, guidance and help given to our students was incredible and played a huge role in ensuring our students graduated this year. One of my favourite times of the week is spending an hour with students while they are on placement. I enjoy hearing about the range of experience, the insights they gain from their experience and the enthusiasm that comes from spending time with you (our hosts) whilst on placement.
In 2021, the clinic has been able to upgrade our equipment to enhance our diagnostic capabilities with a Zeiss CIRRUS 6000 OCT and Humphrey Visual Field Analysers (HFA 850 and HFA860) and improve telehealth and teaching capability with additional Topcon slit lamps from Device Technologies and Heine BIOs with cameras. In addition, the Dry Eye Clinic now also has a Lumenis Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) machine.
Our UNSW Optometry Clinic has been generously supported by industry for our instrumentation, contact lens and dispensing presentations and mentoring programs throughout the year.
A huge thanks to the community that creates our future profession: Alcon, BOC, Capricornia, Coopervision, Designs for Vision, Device Technologies, Eyetalk, European Eyewear, Essilor, Gelflex, Humanwear, Hoya, Innovative Contacts, Johnson and Johnson, Medmont, Menicon, Opticare, Optimed, Optos, Rodenstock, Shamir, SUNIX, and Zeiss for their continued support.
Dr Kathleen Watt
UNSW Optometry Clinic Director