Joint leaders appoint inaugural optometry research chair in WA

The University of Western Australia (UWA) and Lions Eye Institute (LEI) have appointed Professor Allison McKendrick as the inaugural Chair in Optometry Research.

The new endowed position brings Western Australia a step closer to cementing its position as a global leader in the research and treatment of vision challenges.

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 WA’s first and only Doctor of Optometry degree and was introduced in 2020 to tackle an increase in eye complications from chronic diseases.

Professor Garry Fitzpatrick, head of 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,” 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 eyecare, in order to reduce preventable blindness and increase the accessibility of eye health services.”

Professor Bill Morgan, LEI managing director, described McKendrick’s 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,” 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.”

McKendrick is 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,” McKendrick said.

The LEI UWA Chair in Optometry Research complements a dedicated strategy 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.

Fitzpatrick said he was grateful to the LEI 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 LEI throughout the state,” he said.

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