Update to Alumni from the Head of School

Head of School Update

As I sit down to write this foreword, I realise that this is the last alumni newsletter  update that  I will write as Head of School.

I step down as Head of School in February 2019 and will return to the School as a Scientia Professor and as Associate Dean (Enterprise) in the Faculty of Science. I am delighted to announce the new UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science Head of School is Professor Lisa Keay. Lisa (pictured left) has had a long-standing affiliation with UNSW, firstly graduating in Optometry, working at the Institute for Eye Research and Cooperative Research Centre for Eye Research at UNSW, completing her PhD at UNSW, and most recently as a research collaborator and visiting academic.  Lisa completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and comes to us from The George Institute for Global Health.  She is the Deputy Director of the Injury Division and Head of the Eye Health Program at The George Institute. She has a wealth of experience in health systems research and will bring enormous strength to the School in this area. 

Over the past twelve years of my tenure, the School has worked hard to deliver new education programs including a postgraduate entry degree in Optometry, Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics, Bachelor of Vision Science, Doctor of Clinical Research in Optometry, Masters in Community Eye Health and this year, a Graduate Certificate in Myopia Management. We have revised and refreshed our coursework Masters program with the introduction of many new courses with blended and online teaching and there are almost 60 PhD students enrolled through the School. Across all our programs we have almost 600 students. This would not have been possible without a committed and collegial team of staff at the School, a hard-working executive and supportive visiting staff, mentors, placement providers, visiting committee, Faculty and our external partners. We have focussed on recruiting and retaining outstanding staff including developing staff to fulfil their potential and fostering a research culture to deliver international recognition for UNSW in an area of research strength. UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science is now ranked within the top five schools in the discipline for research output internationally which is a remarkable accolade and testament to the quality of the research at the School. Ten academic staff received national and international awards recognising their contributions to innovative education and research excellence in 2018 alone. I congratulate and thank all on assisting with these efforts over the years and it has been my absolute privilege to work with such talented people.

While I seem to acknowledge this every year, 2018 has proven to be another busy year at the School as we move towards 2019 to the trimester model and we transition between our two optometry programmes, the Bachelor of Science Bachelor of Optometry and the Bachelor of Vision Science, Master of Clinical Optometry, which are being taught in parallel.  Staff have been working extraordinarily hard in re-organising their courses from 12 weeks to fit into the 3x10-week model and to cope with double teaching.  I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Dr Pauline Kang and Dr Edward Lum who have so ably assisted with this process.

In 2019 we commence teaching the Graduate Certificate in Myopia Management, which is the world’s first university accredited program. It is designed to provide advanced knowledge and clinical experience necessary for registered optometrists to prescribe evidence-based treatment for the management of myopia.  Overseas optometrists can also take part in this program by undertaking individual myopia courses offered through the Masters of Optometry program.  If you would like to find out more, please keep reading here, you still have time to enrol!

We welcomed several new staff to the School last year including  Professor Eric Papas who is leading the development of research capacity in measurement of visual quality and dynamic vision. He will also assist in developing and mentoring our talented Early Career Researchers and will support our clinical trials at the Eye Research Group at the School. 

Dr Edward Lum  re-joined the team last year from his postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Waterloo and has been helping the School with converting our programs to trimesters.   Dr Nayuta Yoshioka (pictured left) recently completed his PhD and has joined the School as a Lecturer and will be teaching in both our undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the areas of myopia and vision science.

We welcome Amanda Lea, who is an UNSW alumnus. She joins the UNSW Optometry Clinic as a staff optometrist in paediatrics and binocular vision. Sowjanya Siddreddy has also joined the Eye Research Group

Our congratulations to our many staff who were nominated and successful for a number of awards for 2018. University wide awards were received by  Dr Blanka Golebiowski and Professor Eric Papas, both awarded Vice Chancellors Awards for Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision and Dr Alex Hui for Educational Excellence.  Dr Juno Kim was recognised as one of the top five lecturers for first year student teaching across the University. Faculty awards were received by Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert for Innovation in Teaching, Dr Alex Hui for Excellence in Teaching, Dr Nicole Carnt for Knowledge Exchange and Dr Jack Phu for Research Excellence at an early career stage (pictured right).

Externally, Mark Willcox was awarded the 2017 H B Collin Medal; I was awarded the Glenn A. Fry Award from the American Academy of Optometry and  Professor Helen Swarbrick (pictured left) was awarded the Max Shapero Memorial Lecture Award from the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of the American Academy of Optometry. I also received the Donald Korb Award for Excellence awarded by the American Optometric Foundation and the H B Collin Medal for Research in Australia in 2018.

We were delighted that Dr Ashik Mohamed was awarded the UNSW Young Alumni of the Year in 2018 (pictured below with the Dean of Science, Professor Emma Johnston). Ashik completed his PhD at the School in 2017 and is currently the Head of the Biophysics at the L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI).

Several academic staff were promoted in 2018.   My congratulations to  Dr Ajay Vijay Kumar, promoted to Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Dr Vinod Maseedupally to Lecturer, Drs Nicole Carnt and  Alex Hui promoted to Senior Lecturer and Drs Simin Masoudi and  Debarun Dutta to Senior Research Associate.  Dr Sharon Oberstein was appointed as Education Focussed Lecturer and Deputy Clinic Director and Dr Kath Watt (also awarded her PhD in 2018) was appointed as an Education Focussed Senior Lecturer in addition to her Clinic Director role.  Isabelle Jalbert was also promoted to Associate Professor and was appointed to the Faculty of Science as Associate Dean, International and Engagement and I was promoted to Scientia Professor and have taken up a role as the Associate Dean, Enterprise in the Faculty of Science.

In early 2019, we finally move into our space on Level 3 of the Rupert Myers Building, where we have new research laboratory space, state-of-the art active learning space, new optics teaching and research laboratory and dispensing laboratory, plus much needed shared office spaces. Level 2 and the west section of Level 3 have been refurbished to extend our preclinical laboratory, expand the psychophysics laboratory, expand our higher degree student space and clinical trials area. The space project has been a long time in the making but we are excited that this has now come to fruition. This will deliver a huge improvement in our teaching and research facilities and will allow us to deliver on many of our planned strategic initiatives in education and research excellence. We owe a huge debt of thanks to our Laboratory Manager, Dr Dale Larden for his expert management of this project.

Last year we also relaunched our  Dry Eye Clinic. At UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science we have world class researchers working in basic and translational research in dry eye. We  were fortunate last year to have been successful in obtaining funding for a new suite of dry eye diagnostic and management equipment, which will allow us to offer evidence-based management to our own patients and those referred by our colleagues, to better train student optometrists and to remain at the forefront of research in this area. For more information please read here.

Finally, I would like to again acknowledge the support of my staff, colleagues, visiting staff, visiting committee, stakeholders and friends for their kind support over the past 12 years.  

January 2018

Wow, didn't 2017 fly by! 

I am proud to be writing the foreword for this alumni newsletter as 2017 was an amazing year in education, research and social engagement. I sincerely thank each and every one of our staff for their outstanding contribution to the School and UNSW Sydney. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of our Clinic Supervisors, Visiting Committee and Visiting Academic staff for their continued support.

It’s hard to believe that we are almost halfway through the year already!  As you can see from our 2015 highlights we had a fantastic year. My thanks and congratulations to the dedicated team of academic and professional and technical staff at the School, our visiting committee and visiting staff who have done an outstanding job.

Welcome to our mid-year newsletter. A lot has happened since our last edition and in April we were delighted to welcome the new President and Vice Chancellor of UNSW Australia, Professor Ian Jacobs, to the School. There is considerable enthusiasm in the School for the new strategic directions for the University in academic excellence in research and education, social engagement and global impact. These themes are a great fit for the School and we look forward to making a significant contribution to these endeavours.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome our new optometry and vision science students and to congratulate our class of 2014 as they join the profession and move into the next part of their career as eyecare providers.

Research highlights include success in national competitive grant schemes including the NHMRC Development Grant scheme, ARC Discovery and ARC Linkage awards. The Ocular Surface Science and Dry Eye Conference attracted international and local researchers, clinicians, industry and patient advocacy groups. Ten new PhD students started with the School in August 2014 and we congratulate the 12 PhD students who graduated in 2014.