In September 2023, we welcomed back our Alumni community to the Rupert Myers Theatre for our first Alumni hybrid event. We had a small but enthusiastic audience face to face and online to hear from UNSW experts across the domain of Evidence Based Optometry (EBO). 

The evening kicked off with an introduction to EBO by Dr Kirsten Challinor, a neuroscientist academic with more than 20 years’ experience publishing cross-disciplinary research from vision science, cognitive science and dementia and ageing. Kirsten gave an excellent introduction to EBO, highlighting her work as a project manager embedding evidence-based practice principles into the national regulatory body for Optometry guidelines in the 2000s. She also discussed facilitating the embedding of evidence-based practice in several other settings including medicine, psychology, and aged care. 

Next up was Dr Terry Ho, currently a Lecturer at University of Canberra, an Adjunct Lecturer at UNSW Sydney, and a Fellow of America Academy of Optometry. Terry completed a PhD in 2018 on EBO, following the CareTrack system developed for medicine. Terry discussed his learnings whilst developing the iTrack Care system for Optometry. He highlighted his recent work on patient-centred outcomes, public health, and vision and ageing research. 

Following Terry was a focus on Glaucoma EBO by Dr Melinda Toomey, a recent PhD graduate.  Melinda is a therapeutically endorsed optometrist and clinician-researcher who has a wide range of clinical, education, leadership, and research experience across a variety of healthcare settings. Melinda showcased her doctoral thesis which investigated methods to improve the delivery of glaucoma care by Australian optometrists. Melinda is now a Research Fellow at The University of Queensland investigating ways to support evidence-based hearing and vision care for people with cognitive decline. Melinda is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. 

Dr Rajendra Gyawali then presented on how he utilised implementation science methods in understanding the gaps in care delivery and co-designed a novel online tool for optometrists to support evidence-based eyecare practice for people with diabetes. Rajendra, an optometrist and health service researcher, led the development of new optometry schools in Nepal, Maldives, Malawi, Eritrea and Vietnam before moving to UNSW Sydney for his PhD. He is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University where he currently works on developing and implementing tools and programs to improve healthcare delivery across a range of settings. 

The final presentation was from Ms SL Stephanie Yeo, Scientia PhD Candidate at UNSW Sydney and owner/optometrist of two independent practices in Perth, focussing on occupational optometry, myopia control and complex contact lenses. Stephanie gave an excellent round up of EBO for contact lens compliance, with a focus on her PhD investigating contact lens infodemiology and the impact of online contact lens information on contact lens wearers.   

A panel discussion was facilitated by Professor Isabelle Jalbert, UNSW Optometry evidence-based practice expert, who worked with Kirsten in the 2000s to embed EBO into optometry practice standards and supervised Terry, Raj and Mel in their impressive PhD studies. The depth of experience and knowledge developed at UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science was evident in this discussion. 

We look forward to hosting further hybrid Alumni events in 2024 

Dr Rajendra Gyawali @UNSW Sydney
Dr Kirsten Challinor @UNSW Sydney
Dr Melinda Toomey @UNSW Sydney
Ms Stephanie Yeo @UNSW Sydney