Name: Associate Professor Barbara Junghans
Class of: 1972
Degree: BOptom, GradDipHEd, PhD
After graduation Barbara worked in private practice for three years and then commenced clinical supervision at UNSW part time whilst she did occasional locum work for twelve years. Barbara is now into her 45th year of teaching optometry. She has a GradDipHigherEd and has participated in every aspect of course and program delivery. Her commitment and innovation have been recognised by several prestigious awards for both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching plus promotion to Associate Professor based on outstanding teaching. She brought together Australia’s first network of optometric educators to carry out pedagogical research using a highly sought Australian Learning and Teaching Council Grant. Barbara is currently part of a worldwide expert panel on ocular lymphatics, but is perhaps better known for projects centered on the development of refractive errors and functional vision, both as seen under the electron microscope and through school-based population studies.
What made you choose to study Optometry at UNSW?
After I saw an optometrist to get glasses early in high school, my mother suggested optometry would be a good career but I recall saying ‘no way’. However, the aptitude tests in Year 10 suggested medicine, maths or social work. Optometry seemed to fit the bill, and you didn’t need to be on call 24/7.
What is your current position?
Associate Professor and part time Student Advisor
What is the best part of your role?
Every day is different. I get to help energetic students take a big step towards their dreams. I get to put one more piece into the jigsaw of vision science. The people I work with are all wonderful caring persons.
Who or what was the biggest influence in your career?
Dr Sheila Crewther, Professor of Visual Neuroscience, La Trobe University. Early on, Sheila was in the lab working as a vision scientist on a similar project to my PhD. She was a fountain of knowledge on all things ‘eyes’ from every point of view (biochemistry, anatomy, psychology, lab methods). She made everything seem so interrelated and sensible. Then, Sheila enrolled in optometry and became one of my students. The other students loved her: every single class she cut to the core of what I was trying to convey and challenged me ‘why’. My teaching has never been the same since.
Sheila conceived the idea of a Vision Education Centre to bring paediatric patients in their 1,000s each year into our clinic for our students to examine. She then challenged me to pull out the clinical data and publish a paediatric population study on functional vision. This data exposed the troubled eyes of Australian kids and drove an Australia-wide promotion by Optometry Australia to get children’s eyes examined and is now cited worldwide.
Can you name a career highlight?
Being awarded the Michael G Harris Family Award for Excellence in Optometric Education by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation in 2013 - the first non-north American to receive this award.
What piece of advice can you impart to graduating students or staff commencing in a role of academia?
There are always ‘connections’. You just have to look hard and work it out. Know the basic science as it currently is, and answers to questions will start flowing. But beware, there is still yet a lot to know: getting to know the unknown is the fun bit (be it your patients, or your work, or with other things in your life).