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Research focus important for optometry

Research focus important for optometry

It’s vital for optometry students to engage in research and keep up to date with new developments in clinical practice, says Professor Steven Dakin, the new head of Optometry at the University of Auckland.

Professor Dakin was appointed this month, and comes from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.

“I would like to try and strengthen the course to further engender in the students a sense of how important research is to the continued development of optometry,” says Professor Dakin. “My goal is that our department should produce optometrists that are still engaged in science - that they read journals and keep abreast of new developments to inform their practice as clinician scientists.”

“To make this happen I’d like to beef up our clinical research and see students doing more projects that are directly concerned with improving patient well-being and that ultimately lead to publications and grants, “ he says.

“We will be exploring opportunities for continuing professional development for optometrists, including new courses to help them deliver the latest therapies, to use new imaging devices, and to develop specialties around paediatrics and older adults.”

He also sees potential for more collaboration with the departments of both Ophthalmology, and Neurology (via the Centre for Brain Research).

“There are great opportunities here for building even closer ties between optometry and ophthalmology via more clinically oriented research,” says Professor Dakin. “It’s also increasingly clear that understanding disorders like autism and schizophrenia will require an understanding of the associated sensory problems, particularly vision; there are great synergies with neuroscience here.”

He is looking forward to the challenge of continuing to deliver high impact research, published in good journals and on a limited budget, and encouraging his staff and students to do the same.

His specialist area – visual psychophysics – is about measuring human behaviour in order to understand how vision works.

“The science that I do measures the limits of people’s ability to perform simple visual tasks, like reading a letter or recognising a face” he says. “That relates directly to optometry as we use similar disciplines.

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