The top achievers from the Masters of Orthoptics course at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) were acknowledged at a celebratory event for academics, students, their families and supporters in late May. Having had to cancel last year’s event due to the pandemic, this year the Orthoptics discipline in the UTS Graduate School of Health presented professional and academic achievement awards to current students and recent graduates from 2019, 2020 and 2021.
In a very personal address, Lynn Sinclair, Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) reflected on her family’s experience with vision disability before emphasising the importance of eye health and the work performed by eye health professionals.
Congratulating the award recipients she said, “Celebrating student success is the most important and exciting thing that we get to do as academics each year”.
Presenting the awards, Professor Kathryn Rose, Head of UTS’ Orthoptics Discipline, said the 2021 Orthoptics Prize and Scholarship Evening was especially important this year given last year’s cancelled event.
Challenges and Rewards
The Master of Orthoptics course was described by many as both challenging and rewarding. They were united in acknowledging the high level of support received from colleagues and academics as well as practitioners during clinical placements.
The 2020 Frank Martin Orthoptics Scholarship recipient was Samaha Noor, whose parents stood proudly in the room alongside her.
“I would like to thank my parents for providing me with the environment to study as I wish, the staff who supported me throughout my undergraduate degree who helped me to achieve a high grade and be eligible for this award, as well as the staff currently providing me with the education I need for my career as an orthoptist,” Ms Noor said.
To young orthoptists, I’d say when you’re on placement, say ‘yes’ to everything… I was really shy and reluctant at first, but this is the best way to learn – just do it.
Kyriacos Antoniou, 2020 recipient of The George Street Eye Centre Scholarship thanked the teachers for their hard work, commitment and knowledge. Additionally he said, “I would like to thank my uncle who’s honouring me with his presence tonight. He has played an inspiring role in my life and education over the years and without him, this would not have been possible.”
Speaking to mivision, Ashleigh Vrajlal, 2019 recipient of The Orthoptics Australia Prize which recognises outstanding achievements in professional practice subjects, highlighted the importance of hands-on learning during clinical placements.
“The course is really practical, and although I felt really nervous before clinical placements, I learnt a lot and gained confidence at every one of them.”
Having worked for a year, Ms Vrajlal said placements prepared her well for the workforce.
“I was fortunate to be offered a permanent role in the practice that had provided my placements, so I knew what to expect. Even so, as a student, you sometimes take a back seat and then, once you’ve graduated and you’re working in a clinic or hospital, you realise the patient in front of you is your responsibility. That can be quite scary.
“To young orthoptists, I’d say when you’re on placement, say ‘yes’ to everything – if they ask you if you want to do something, say yes, volunteer to do things – I was really shy and reluctant at first, but this is the best way to learn – just do it.”
Similarly, Xanthe Harrison, 2020 recipient of The Lance/Jolly Prize and The Orthoptics Australia Prize acknowledged the importance of placements during her training. “I wasn’t the most confident student when I first began my professional practice subjects, but the industry opportunities UTS provided me to gain practical skills and knowledge not only in Sydney but also interstate, are ultimately what I attribute to my achievements,” she said when receiving her award.
Acknowledging the support of Orthoptists Australia (OA) and her experience as a student member of the Association, Ms Harrison said, “It was an invaluable opportunity to have OA collaborate with UTS to enable its student members to attend the events and continuing education days.
“Meeting orthoptists already working in the field and hearing from experienced clinicians further broadened my understanding of our scope as orthoptists early in the degree and excited me for my career.
“After only a few months of working as an orthoptist, I am proud to say I have joined a wonderful and supportive industry and am excited to see where my career takes me.”
Congratulations to all recipients on their outstanding academic and professional achievements.
The Frank Martin Orthoptics Scholarship, donated by Professor Frank Martin, paediatric ophthalmologist and presented to the student with the highest GPA based on the most recently completed tertiary qualification:
2020: Samaha Noor (current final year student), and
2021: Melinda Mo (current first year student).
The George Street Eye Centre Scholarship, donated by Dr Con Moshegov, ophthalmologist and presented to the student with the highest GPA from a rural, regional or interstate area:
2020: Kyriacos Antoniou (current final year student).
The Lance / Jolly Prize, donated by Neryla Jolly, senior orthoptist and presented to the student with the highest average mark in the orthoptics course:
2019: Eleena Tran (recent graduate / alumna)
2020: Xanthe Harrison – (new graduate / alumna)
The Orthoptics Australia Prize, donated by Orthoptics Australia and presented by National OA President Jane Schuller, orthoptist, to the student who achieved the highest mark in professional practice subjects (clinical) in the final year of the orthoptics course:
2019: Ashleigh Vrajlal (recent graduate / alumna), and
2020: Xanthe Harrison (new graduate / alumna)