Happy New Year from the SOVS Team!

I hope that you had a restful break and were able to spend some quality time with family and friends for the holidays.

I am delighted to be writing to our alumni to provide you with a round-up of 2023 news and achievements for our UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science Team.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our dedicated staff for their unwavering commitment to providing our 600 odd students an outstanding student experience for 2023.  We have worked hard to introduce some new and innovative ways of teaching which has included renewed focus on vertical integration of our teaching program.  Clinic Staff have enjoyed assisting in the ‘pre-clinic’ laboratory, the use of online proximal platforms has amplified our students learning experiences and the innovative use of H5P interactive books in our undergraduate curriculum. AI is here to stay, and we are embracing this but actively using AI in our teaching. 

We have been recognised with UNSW awards for our teaching and congratulate Associate Professor Sieu Khuu who received a UNSW Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching, Dr Maitreyee Roy who received an Educational Excellence Award: Academic Staff from the Faculty of Medicine & Health, Ms Amanda Lea and Dr Daisy Shu who received Honourable Mentions in the UNSW Exemplary Teaching Practice Awards.  Feedback from our students is consistently high, with our courses often top-scored at the Faculty and University level.

Our Short Courses, which have been introduced to our SOVS portfolio in 2023 have proved to be extremely popular and highly rated by attendees.  Attended by domestic and international students and kindly sponsored by AOC, CSL Seqirus, Bayer and Lumenis, our short courses for 2023 included Evidence Based Myopia Management and Dry Eye Disease: Diagnosis and Management. Our 2024 offerings include the newly created Advanced Paediatric Eye Care (to commence in February), Dry Eye Disease: Diagnosis and Management to run again in March 2024, as well as Evidence Based Myopia Management later in the year.  Advanced Optical Dispensing short courses are also in the pipeline.  For more information about these courses – see here

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) for our second- and third-year Vision Science students commenced in 2023 and we were fortunate to be able to send our first cohort to our industry collaborators Zeiss, EssilorLuxottica, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Brien Holden Foundation and the Macular Disease Foundation Australia.  The students who attended had a fabulous time and we received some excellent feedback from our industry partners.  We are hoping to have more industry partners come on board next year to assist with our WIL placements. Read more here

Over the past few years, we have been actively increasing our enrolments through the Gateway program.  “Gateway is a three-year program and early admission pathway for students in Years 10, 11 and 12 who attend a Gateway school or live in a low-socioeconomic area based on SEIFA criteria”.  Our school has had consistently high uptake of offers through this program and Gateway students have excelled in their studies.  Most of these students will come to SOVS on a conditional offer, but for the first time this year, we were able to make a small number of unconditional offers, giving students more time to plan for studying with us.  

As everyone is aware the rising cost of living is affecting all Australians.  Based on feedback from students, I worked with our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to create a student financial hardship survey.  This was adapted from the  Universities Australia Student Finances Survey. We had a strong response from our Stage 1-5 students and not surprisingly the data showed that finances were a source of worry for a significant proportion of our students.  As an outcome from this data, we have set up a student advisory group, to work together with staff to co-design some initiatives to roll out in 2024.  We are teaming up with our colleagues from UNSW School of Business to develop financial literacy programs.  We also will review financial support available from UNSW and in 2024 we will seek industry support to help fund some grants in aid for the high costs in final years of our program.

We are so incredibly grateful to Young Optometrists who once again have donated $5000 to the student equipment grants in aid.  The equipment costs for final year students are substantial and we are fortunate to have been able to distribute the one grant from YO and another 11 small grants that were kindly funded by the Faculty of Medicine & Health. 

Professor Lisa Keay and Dr Wilson Luu

As an alumnus of UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science, you undoubtedly recall the financial challenges posed by equipment costs during your final years.  If you’re inclined to contribute and support the next generation of Optometrists, we invite you to donate via this this QR code below: 

Christine Craigie

This year we were successful in securing $1.4M in research funding to support our work during 2023.  We published 252 journal articles and 10 book chapters with over 170 of those articles published in 1st quartile of journals.  

We are tremendously excited and proud to have our staff have been recognised as being in the top 100,000 scientists worldwide by c-score (a metric related to citations of their research papers) or a percentile rank of 2% or above in the sub-field (in other words within the top 2% 

During 2023 the UNSW SOVS community was devastated by the passing of Christine Craigie, an alumni and longstanding supporter of our School and the Optometry profession.  Chris graduated as an Optometrist in the class of 1980 and started clinical supervision in our teaching clinic in 1988.  Throughout the 1990s she made significant contributions to contact lens teaching and tutorials.  She spearheaded the legislative changes in therapeutic prescribing and helped set up our relationship with the late Michael Knipe and the Hobart Hospital Eye Clinic. She was a passionate and tireless supporter of the optometry profession and our school, and her extraordinary contributions will be long remembered.

We were also saddened to hear of the loss of Ian Sim.  Ian was a pioneer in Optometry in many senses of the word.  He was an innovative contact lens practitioner, hospital optometrist, active in the profession and helped forge a path for optometrists to undertake therapeutic training in WA.  A kind and thoughtful man, he was responsible for Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton’s first visit to Australia from the UK.  In 2015 we were fortunate to re-live the moments of the 50-year graduating class in optometry and invite Ian and his colleagues to return to UNSW to celebrate.

Ian Sim

Our international visitors were plentiful during 2023.  In May 2023 we hosted Assistant Professor Joe Nemargut, a renowned Practicing Orientation and Mobility Specialist and Assistant Professor at the School of Optometry, Université de Montréal, who worked with our Orientation and Mobility team. 

Professor Kiyofumi Matsuda from the Graduate School for the Creation of New Photonic Industries, Japan visited Dr Maitreyee Roy and team during May.  Dr Roy's team were excited to have Professor Matsuda visit and learn from his expertise with the Digital Gabor Holography for Phase Imaging.

Dr Jihong Wang, Chief Ophthalmologist and Director of the Department of Ophthalmology, Affiliated Hospital of Jiangnan University in China visited with us for a few months to observe in our UNSW Optometry Clinic including our myopia clinic. 

Professor Fiona Henriquez visited us from the University of West Scotland to work with Scientia Associate Professor Nicole Carnt in their mutual area of research. 

Visiting academic, Associate Professor Takehiro Nagai from the School of Engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology has been visiting with us this year and is working with Associate Professor Juno on material perception.  

Visiting academic, Professor Etty Bitton, School of Optometry, University of Montreal visited with us in November 2023 to work with Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton AO and colleagues on dry eye research. 

Dr Maitreyee Roy also hosted Professor Rajiv Raman, Senior Consultant, Department of Vitreoretinal Services at Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, India during November 2023.  Professor Raman is an expert in ophthalmology, with a focus on macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vascular occlusions. He gave an excellent talk whilst here on: “Exploring the transformative potential of deep learning in the field of diabetic retinopathy care and its practical implications for clinical practice.”

We also had short visits throughout the year from Professor Rajiv Mohan, Professor Robert Shanks, Professor Mary Marquart, Professor Cintia de Paiva, Dr Marianne Coleman, Dr Debarun Dutta and Professor Iwaski.

We had a stellar year with awards and our top 2023 highlights include:

  • Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton was honoured in the Kings Birthday Honours List with an Officer of the Order (AO) “for her distinguished service to optometry as a researcher, mentor and role model, to tertiary education, and to national and international organisations”.

  • Conjoint Professor Arthur Ho, one of our longest serving academics was honoured with a Member of the Order (AM) in the Kings Birthday Honours List for his "significant service to optometry as a researcher, designer and educator".

  • The Late Richard Grills (one of our former Visiting Committee members) was posthumously honoured with a Member of the Order (AM) in the Kings Birthday Honours List for his “significant service to community eye health, and to the ophthalmic optics industry”.

  • Professor Mark Willcox received an Honorary Doctorate (DSc) from the University of Waterloo, Canada

  • Emeritus Professor Eric Papas received two significant awards for 2023 including the British Contact Lens Medal from the British Contact Lens Associate and the Charles F. Prentice Medal from the American Academy of Optometry 

  • Associate Professor Maria Markoulli received the American Academy of Optometry Korb-Exford Dry Eye Award

  • Daisy Shu received the ASIP George K. Michalopoulos Junior Faculty Scholar Award for the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) 2023 Conference

  • Fiona Stapleton (ranked # 2) and Mark Willcox (ranked # 7) as the top contact lens experts in the world by Expertscape

  • UNSW SOVS was named the top institution in the world for contact lens research once again

  • The promotion of Dr Vinod Maseedupally in July 2023 to Senior Lecturer

  • The promotions of Dr’s Jackie Tan and Maitreyee Roy to Associate Professor and Dr’s Sheela Kumaran and Jessie Huang-Lung to Lecturer all effective 1 January 2024

I’d like to thank our wonderful placement hosts, in metro, rural, regional and interstate areas.  We extend our gratitude for your invaluable assistance in training the upcoming generation of optometrists.  Next year we are excited to resume our international preceptorships for our final year students after a four-year hiatus. 

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge and recognise our 90+ visiting academic staff for their valued contributions and continued support of our school and students.

Our staff here at UNSW SOVS have worked extremely hard this year to provide an outstanding student experience to both our undergraduate and postgraduate students.   The research that they have also undertaken has been cutting edge and recognised internationally – read more here.

As we eagerly anticipate the year ahead, we extend our warmest wishes to our alumni.  

Here’s to a year of productivity and success in 2024!

Professor Lisa Keay 
Head of School, UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science