2020 was a challenging year for all of us here in Australia and around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Teaching, research activities and social events for our Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Clinical Optometry students were all impacted. Perhaps the biggest challenge was the suspension of face-to-face teaching in March and the transition to online learning. Special care was needed to ensure that our standards of teaching quality were maintained for these online classes.
Our new first year students have been supported by our dedicated fourth year peer mentors. This program is designed to assist first years’ transition to university life by providing them with program advice from older students as well as an opportunity to make friends. The adaptiveness of our peer mentors was demonstrated by their shifting to online, weekly catch ups as soon as Covid-19 restrictions suspended face-to-face social activities.
Our final year (Stage 5) Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Clinical Optometry clinical students’ rotations and placements during mid-April to May were also cancelled. During stage 5, students would normally examine many patients across a range of clinics, with a variety of conditions. This valuable clinical experience is necessary for their eventual registration as optometrists. Fortunately, the Australian government issued new Covid-19 recommendations in early June and our final year students were able to resume their work at the Optometry Clinic.
On August 4th, 2020, the School of Optometry and Vision Science recognized the diligence and achievements of 2019’s graduating cohort with our annual prizegiving awards (delivered over Zoom, of course). Dr Jack Phu from the Centre for Eye Health was our keynote speaker. Dr Phu’s inspirational speech encouraged the graduating cohort to find opportunities to shape how the profession will meet the challenges raised by the pandemic. Ivy Kol, the 2019 UNSW Student Optometry Society President, spoke on behalf of the graduates and award winners also with an outstanding speech, sharing her thoughts about the resilience and professionalism of Optometrists in these trying times. This annual prizegiving event is a wonderful acknowledgment to all the undergraduate and postgraduate students who excel in their academic life. We sincerely thank our donors and sponsors for their continued support of our School and students.
Towards the end of the year, UNSW delivered its first digital Open Day on 5 September 2020. This turned out to be a vibrant and engaging digital event that showcased what our university has to offer to prospective students. The most popular component proved to be the ‘live’ lecture schedule, a rotating showcase of UNSW faculties and services. The ‘live’ lecture was available on demand for prospective students to watch before the end of the year.
In September the inaugural SOVS student led conference was held.
The conference was spearheaded by Master of Clinical Optometry student Judy Nam and Lecturer Dr Jack Phu, along with the support of their organising committee. They took the initiative to create a conference solely for students which was aptly named “Seeing Beyond 2020." Originally scheduled as a face-to-face conference for July 2020, it was rescheduled to 4 September 2020 as a fully online event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enlisting the help of the Optometrists Association NSW/ACT, recent graduates and a myriad of optometrists, clinicians, UNSW faculty and alumni, this online student led conference covered topics from practising during COVID-19, leadership, ownership of a practice, career pathways and research to interactive workshops on science communication and live demonstrations on gonioscopy.
This was a jam-packed schedule, but it was also a great success and the school is grateful for all those who volunteered their time. For more details on the conference, see this article in Mivision [https://www.mivision.com.au/2020/11/seeing-beyond-2020-inaugural-unsw-sovs-student-conference/]
Finally we thank our School of Optometry and Vision Science 2020 Executive Team for the Optometry and Vision Science Student Society: Claudia Jiang, Stephanie Huang, Rodger Zhang and Paula Gu for their valuable contributions to the School, and especially for their leadership during a challenging 2020.
We are delighted to introduce to our alumni the 2021 Optometry and Vision Science Student Society Executive Team:
President: Azba Mashood
Vice-President: Amy Yu
Treasurer: Khang Lam
Secretary: Shanice Perumal
Photo: L to R: Shanice Perumal, Khang Lam, Amy Yu, Azba Mashood, Claudia Jiang, Stephanie Huang, Rodger Zhang, Paula Gu
Dr Pauline Kang,
Director of Learning and Teaching and
Ms Michelle Wanandy