Professor Allison McKendrick has been appointed as the inaugural Lions Eye Institute (LEI) University of Western Australia (UWA) Chair in Optometry Research.
The establishment of a new endowed Chair in Optometry Research cements Western Australia’s position as a global leader in the research and treatment of vision challenges.
Professor McKendrick, a world leader in clinical vision sciences, will commence in the role later in the year, bolstering the research capacity of UWA’s optometry program and the LEI’s translational research.
The UWA optometry course is Western Australia’s first and only Doctor of Optometry degree and was introduced in 2020 to tackle an increase in eye complications from chronic diseases and conditions suffered by millions of Australians.
Professor Garry Fitzpatrick, Head of Division – Optometry at UWA, said the establishment of the endowed Chair was an exciting milestone in the journey of the program.
“With the inaugural cohort of students now in its second year, the course will receive a huge boost from the appointment of Professor McKendrick, who will amplify our efforts to build first-class optometric research,” Professor Fitzpatrick said.
“Professor McKendrick will oversee a research strategy focused on the earlier detection and management of ocular disease and the development of innovations in the delivery of eye care, in order to reduce preventable blindness and increase the accessibility of eye health services.”
Professor Bill Morgan, Managing Director of the Lions Eye Institute, described the Chair appointment as a game-changer for eye health research and care in Western Australia.
“This move will put LEI and UWA at the forefront of vision research outcomes and translational research worldwide,” Professor Morgan said.
“Professor McKendrick will provide a key link between ophthalmology, optometry and research, which we know will have a significant impact on addressing eye disease and vision loss.”
Professor McKendrick has been a Professor in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences at The University of Melbourne. Her specific research interests include the study of glaucoma, neurological diseases, and how normal ageing affects vision. She is particularly interested in using technology in novel ways to assist in the detection and management of eye disease.
“I look forward to commencing this exciting new role at LEI/UWA, and to contributing to the goal of earlier detection and improved management of eye disease in the community,” Professor McKendrick said.
PREMIER MEDICAL RESEARCH HUB
The LEI UWA Chair in Optometry Research complements a dedicated strategy by LEI and UWA to invest in translational ocular research, with the two organisations also partnering to develop the Ian Constable Chair in Discovery and Translational Ophthalmic Science. This role will establish a dedicated vision neuroscience group in Western Australia.
The LEI is also establishing the Lions Curtin Chair in Ophthalmic Big Data. Together, these three new Chairs will significantly strengthen Western Australia’s position as a premier medical research hub, where world-class scientists work together with leading health professionals to change the understanding of eye disease and delivery of eye health care.
UWA’s Doctor of Optometry program aims to address the critical shortage of eye health professionals in Western Australia. Graduates will help meet the challenges associated with an ageing population, and the increasing ocular complications from chronic health conditions.
The program will produce high-calibre optometrists with a focus on early detection, diagnosis, treatment and management of eye diseases, and rehabilitation of ocular conditions. The program includes a comprehensive research curriculum.
Professor Fitzpatrick said he was grateful to the Lions Eye Institute for collaborating with UWA on the Chair and research capabilities of the program, as well as clinical placements.
“Students will gain hands-on patient experience through clinical placements with the Institute throughout the state,” he said.