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Dear Colleagues

Welcome to the first issue of the SOVS newsletter for 2019. It’s great to be back in Auckland, seeing familiar and new faces at the school. A big thanks to John Phillips who did a sterling job as acting Head of School and to everyone else who stepped up to take on extra duties (particularly those committees!) in my absence. It is greatly appreciated.

I return enthusiastic about some exciting opportunities in teaching and research coming up in 2019. However before we leave 2018 I want to recognise the achievements made in the clinic last year. The “hands-on” training we provide in our clinics is a cornerstone of the BOptom degree and our withdrawal from Tāmaki Campus last year meant that we needed to provide all such training at Grafton. However, historically the location of the Grafton clinic has made recruitment of patients difficult. Consequently 2018 saw a heroic effort from clinic staff to recruit patients. Thanks to University of Auckland Clinics Manager Jenny Ritson, Clinic Director Geraint Phillips, all the clinic customer service team who phoned individual patients from the Tāmaki clinic, faculty marketing and all the clinically qualified staff who supervise students; last year saw the highest ever occupancy of Grafton. Specifically, we saw a 27% increase in the number of appointments attended at Grafton in the space of only 12 months. This is a huge achievement and my congratulations go out to all those involved. Thanks to you, the quality of our degree was maintained through a very challenging period.

Getting 2019 off to a flying start, at the end of January we held our second SOVS academic writers’ retreat in West Auckland and our first clinicians’ retreat at Five Knots at Tāmaki Yacht Club. The writers’ retreat provided academics with time to write and an opportunity to discuss ways to better communicate science in grants and papers. The clinicians’ meeting focussed on new clinical techniques and moving towards a true one hour appointment. The feedback I have from attendees has been uniformly positive and I would encourage all to come along to these events when the opportunity arises.

I’d like to make some improvements in 2019 regarding sustainability and to this end, I am working on a list of initiatives that we will be rolling out through the year. These include ideas like switching to vegetarian food for catered events, incentivising the use of teleconferencing for external examinations, promotion of carbon offset travel, considering environmental responsibility when selecting suppliers for the clinic and automatic powering down of computers overnight. I encourage you to send me your ideas and feedback on this scheme.

Welcomes and Farewells
  • Welcome to Alice and Jasmine, new PhD students working with Phil Turnbull
  • Farewell to Mitchell (Research Fellow, going to Perth to work)
  • Farewell to Lynda who has provided first rate support as a temporary GSC and welcome to Nadine Schneemann who will step into this role for the next few weeks
  • Welcome to Carrie and Eric, who have joined us as research assistants working with Ehsan


Professor Steven Dakin
Head of School, Optometry and Vision Science
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences