Seven outstanding optometrists will be recognised for their work at the O=MEGA23/WCO4 conference in Melbourne, which runs from 8–10 September.
Following an open nomination period earlier in the year, Optometry Victoria South Australia has selected three finalists for the new Rising Star Award and four finalists for the Optometrist of the Year Award.
we created these new awards to highlight the contributions of outstanding individuals across the full spectrum of the profession
The winners of each award will be announced at the Meet and Greet Down Under social event on Saturday, 9 September 2023.
The Rising Star award recognises an optometrist in the first ten years of their career who has displayed excellence in innovation, academic publishing, community outreach, or has otherwise distinguished themselves in the profession.
Optometrist of the Year Award
The Optometrist of the Year Award recognises a member who has made an outstanding commitment to the profession over the last year, through innovation, initiative, or demonstrated care.
“Optometrists make such an enormous contribution to our communities, and among our diverse membership so many individuals are going above and beyond, whether that be in research, teaching, outreach, or innovation.
Optometrists tend to be quiet achievers, and as the professional association with around 90% of all optometrists as members in Victoria and South Australia, we felt it was time for us to recognise some of the amazing work that is happening in our optometry community,” said OV/SA CEO Ilsa Hampton.
“Following a great suggestion from a member, we created these new awards to highlight the contributions of outstanding individuals across the full spectrum of the profession,” she continued.
In contrast to the Life Member Award, which is presented from time to time to members for achievements over a long career, OV/SA conceived the new awards as an initiative to recognise individuals at other stages of their careers who go above and beyond for patients, advocacy efforts, or the wider profession.
“Our Life Member Award has a long history, and our Life Members are a respected part of the community, but it is an award that tends to be more retrospective in nature. We wanted a way to highlight optometrists doing important work here and now, and also recognise and encourage newer optometrists who are already making great contributions, despite being at the start of their careers,” said Ms Hampton.
Members submitted strong nominations covering an array of achievements, which made the task of identifying finalists a difficult one for the inaugural year of the awards.
‘It was challenging to narrow the nominations down to just a handful of finalists. We have so many members doing incredible work, and there are a number of submissions that very nearly made it through into this final group. The finalists we did select are all exceptional individuals, and any of them would be fitting candidates for their nominated award,” Ms Hampton said.
The nomination process took place in June, with an OV/SA working group made of up OV/SA board members, staff and a member representative shortlisting candidates and the Early Career Optometrists Victoria South Australia (ECOV/SA) Committee confirming candidates for the Rising Star Award. The OV/SA Board will make the final decision for both awards in time for the presentation in September.
Rising Star Finalists
Alexis “Ceecee” Britten Jones
Dr Alexis “Ceecee” Britten-Jones is a postdoctoral research fellow at The University of Melbourne and a staff optometrist at the Australian College of Optometry (ACO). Having graduated with a PhD in 2021, she has published 29 peer-reviewed articles in leading medical and ophthalmology journals, has spoken at optometric institutions at Birmingham and Cambridge, and presented at the British Congress of Optometry. Ms Britten Jones is a regular contributor to Optometry Connection, NZOptics, and Optometry Today (UK).
“I love teaching, and I am always motivated by my students, mentees, and peers; they inspire me to be better. I’m also inspired by other optometrists who have made a difference in research; they’re the people whom I look up to,” Ms Britten Jones commented.
Kai Lyn Goh
Kai Lyn Goh has worked in several clinical practice and volunteer settings, with a particular affinity for pre- and post- LASIK patients. In 2015 she volunteered with Cambodia Visio, helping to make a difference to communities without ready access to eye care. She is currently working as a researcher at The University of Melbourne exploring multimodal imaging to predict progression in age-related macular degeneration. Ms Goh has published three papers and has been recognised with a number of awards, grants, and scholarships.
“I know that I only have a certain amount of time to work, and so I figure I might as well try and do the best I can with the time I have. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities because of optometry, and it’s my hope that optometry continues to take me to interesting places,” said Ms Goh.
Jillian Campbell is a clinical supervisor and lecturer at The University of Melbourne Eyecare. She is a regular speaker on contact lenses and corneal conditions, and has published on key topics such as anterior segment optical coherence tomographer. Ms Campbell served on the Early Career Optometrist Victoria South Australia committee for three years, has completed volunteer work as an optometrist in India and Vanuatu, and also works with rural Aboriginal communities, and was selected this year to complete the World Council of Optometry OPAL course for leadership and advocacy within optometry.
“My core motivation for continually striving for excellence in optometry is deeply rooted in the development of a growth mindset. I am driven by the joy of learning, evolving, and understanding that challenges are simply opportunities for growth. There’s a deep sense of fulfilment in aiding individuals to better their lives by improving their vision,” said Ms Campbell.
Optometrist of the Year Award Finalists
Jacqueline ‘Jacqui’ Warren
Jacqui Warren is the Senior Lecturer and Placement Coordinator within the School of Optometry and Vision Science at Flinders University. In 2019, she ran Australia’s first optometrist-led clinic at a public hospital ophthalmology department in Modbury, South Australia, and in 2023 established a collaborative model of care designed to bridge the gap between community-based eye care and hospital-based services and reduce the burden on the public health system. Ms Warren is an advisor for the Department of Veterans Affairs, has explored intravitreal injections and their role in optometry through a recent Optometry Australia LOOK scholarship at Moorfields Hospital in the UK, and has a reputation within the industry as being a leader, mentor, and passionate optometrist.
“The disparity in access to timely eye care services for different populations across Australia is my driver to continue to push for an improvement in the role optometry plays to help address this need. My goal in the future is to ensure that optometrists will be appropriately utilised, recognised and financially compensated for their expertise and contribution to patient care in this ocular health space,” Ms Warren said.
Ben Hamlyn is the Optometry Development Manager at Optometry Australia, and has a history of passion and contribution to the field of optometry. He took part in the Visiting Optometrist Scheme and is involved with work in the APY lands focusing on providing eye care services to First Nations South Australian communities. He previously worked with the Fred Hollows Foundation from 2012 to 2014 and with the Brian Holden Vision Institute as an outreach. He served as an educator at Flinders University, was an Optometry South Australia Board member from 2014 to 2019, and has been a council member of the Australian College of Optometry (ACO) since 2016. He is involved in volunteering efforts in Papua New Guinea and Nepal and authored the Entry-level Competency Standards for optometry and has undertaken significant work in telehealth and rural health advancement.
“In my clinical work I am driven to work hard by my patients. I see it as an honour to work with the communities I do, which are filled with kind, warm and generous people. In my advocacy work I am driven by improving the lives of our patients and optometrists. Optometrists have valuable skills that are needed by the community, and by providing the best care to each patient and making systems that serve the patient best, optometrists and optometry will flourish,” said Mr Hamlyn.
Jason Booth has been a prominent optometrist in the community for 27 years, providing healthcare services through international outreach trips and teaching at the university level. He is a team leader for the annual Rotary Australia World Community Service Eye Camp and initiated long-term relationships with Nepal, bringing needed eye care services to individuals who lack access to adequate medical care and training local healthcare professionals. He was recognised by the Nepalese Government in 2018 with a Constitution Day Award and in2016 was made a Member of The Order of Australia (AM) for his “significant service to optometry as a clinical educator, to professional organisations and to international humanitarian eye care programs”. Mr Booth was a member of the Optometry South Australia Board for a number of years, Vice President from 2007 to 2012, and is currently involved as a member of the OV/SA Advisory board.
“For me, it’s about recognition of the impact the optometry profession has on the community. This is more evident working in developing countries, you truly understand the impact on quality of life we have by the simple act of providing access to refractive correction. My practical goals are to continue to improve services in Nepal by facilitating and supporting local services, with a focus on regional and remote locations through better training and funding of infrastructure,” said Mr Booth.
Associate Professor Lauren Ayton first gained an international reputation for her work as a Clinical Team Leader designing and running the first in-human clinical trial of a suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis from 2012-2014, and now leads the Vision Optimisation Unit in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences and co-leads the Retinal Gene Therapy Unit at the Centre for Eye Research Australia at The University of Melbourne. She has over 80 publications and thousands of citations, has done dozens of international keynote and plenary presentations, is a regular broadcaster on Melbourne’s 3RRR radio’s Einstein A Go Go science program. She is currently the Vice President of the Australian College of Optometry (ACO), a board member for UsherKids Australia, a scientific committee member for the Choroideremia Research, and a principal investigator in the global Foundation Fighting Blindness in the United States.
“I remain passionate about patient care, and I am driven by the opportunity to translate our research into sight-saving treatments for people with blinding eye conditions. I am so lucky to work in clinical research, and I strongly believe that healthcare should be collaborative and inclusive,” Assoc Prof Ayton said.