Associate Professor Lauren Ayton, a clinical researcher in the Department of Surgery (Ophthalmology) at University of Melbourne is one of 10 women to receive a 2021 Strategic Grants for Outstanding Women.
The program, an initiative of Melbourne Medical, is designed to assist high-performing early to mid-career women in academia to negotiate some of the challenges faced as they pursue career progression towards senior academic and leadership roles.
Offered biennially, the grants create an opportunity for recipients to build connections and visibility in line with their research, clinical and teaching goals.
Assoc/Prof Ayton described the grant as “a great opportunity” to further her research effort and develop her team’s skills. With a strong interest in vision restoration, retinal pathology and clinical assessment of visual performance, she heads a team investigating inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) – the most common cause of blindness in working-aged Australians. Her team works closely with surgeons and scientists at the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital to develop and assess new IRD treatments, such as gene therapy.
“The grant will not only help me support staff salary, but also has budget for training. I am using the grant to upskill key members of my team in genetics, and I will be completing the Australian Institute of Company Directors course for more leadership skills etc.,” explained Assoc/Prof Ayton.
“It is rare to find support for things like staff training, and I am very excited about the fact we’ll be able to provide additional qualifications for the optometrists in my team in genetics, making them well positioned to play key roles in the emerging roll out of ocular gene therapy in Australia. I’m also excited about the fact that the program supports female academics in such tangible ways. As we know, there is a real issue with dropout for women as they move to higher levels of academia, and this initiative shows the Melbourne Medical School’s commitment to supporting diversity,” Assoc/Prof Ayton said.