‘She is an inspiration’: leader in AMD research inducted into Victorian Honour Roll

Professor Robyn Guymer, deputy director and head of macular research at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), has been inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

The honour recognises Guymer as a trailblazer in her profession. The Victorian Government program celebrates the outstanding contributions made by women from all walks of life, acknowledging the many ways in which they have made a lasting contribution to the state.

CERA managing director Professor Keith Martin said Guymer’s work has been instrumental in raising the profile of macular research around the world.

“Robyn is recognised as a global leader in vision research and helped save the sight of millions of people worldwide,’’ he said.

“She is an inspiration to all of us here at CERA and we are very proud of her achievements.’’ 

Guymer was one of a handful of Australian women admitted to ophthalmology training in 1995 and later became Victoria’s first female medical retinal specialist at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

She was also the first Australian-born woman to become a full academic Professor of Ophthalmology and has gone on to achieve many more ‘firsts’ throughout her career.

Early in her career, Guymer cared for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). At the time, little could be done to help them and frustrated by the lack of options, she embarked on a research career.

“I kept seeing patients in the clinic who I couldn’t help,’’ Guymer said.

“I decided I could continue on the same path and see a finite people each week and deliver the same news to them over and over again – or I could do research and help find a treatment that could change the lives of an infinite number of people.’’

Today she is ranked in the top two in the world for macular research and her team at CERA – made up of more than 20 predominantly female staff and students – has built an impressive international research program.

Guymer is currently investigating new strategies for treating early stages of AMD and is working to identify novel imaging and functional biomarkers and surrogate endpoints to improve the feasibility of conducting early intervention trials.

She has been a principal investigator in many industry sponsored trials, serves on several pharmaceutical advisory boards and is a member of several international working groups on macular diseases.

Guymer said it’s a privilege to work in research and make a difference for patients.

“I’m incredibly grateful for all of the support I’ve had over the years – from my colleagues in research and ophthalmology, funding bodies and generous donors,’’ she said.

“But clinical research could not happen without the patients and I am truly grateful that they put their trust in my team and take part in our research.”

Guymer was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in 2018 for significant service to medicine in the field of ophthalmology, particularly AMD, as a clinician, academic and researcher.

In 2020, she spent a year in Switzerland as the first visiting professor in ophthalmology to pharmaceutical company La Hoffmann Roche, to better understand and facilitate academic and industry collaborations.