Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to the first issue of our newsletter for 2020.
A warm welcome to Marvin Wu, our new Senior Research Programme Coordinator who joins us from the Faculty of Arts. From what I can tell, Marvin has certainly hit the ground running and I know is already actively involved with many of you on grant proposals. We are delighted to have him join SOVS. Welcome also to two new students: Sam Schwarzkopf and I will be supervising Ecem Altan in a PhD working on size perception, and new MSc student Aryaman Taore will be working in my group on eye tracking. Last but not least for staffing, congratulations to Zaria Bradley on the recent birth of her son Maxwell – we look forward to pictures.
Regular readers of this newsletter will know there has been considerable work in SOVS over previous months organising SEMO (Scientific and Educators Meeting in Optometry) to be held in Auckland 16-18 April 2020. We have now received over 60 abstracts for the meeting and John Phillips, Naomi Twigden and the rest of the SEMO team have put together an excellent programme of events for the meeting. Thanks to all concerned for the huge effort they’ve put in; we’re now all looking forward to a great conference which I hope you’ll be able to attend!
This year within SOVS we are focusing on eye health inequity. Little is known about differences in eye health across the demographics of New Zealand. However if anecdotal reports and recent work conducted in Australia are anything to go by, it is likely that Māori will have substantially poorer eye health outcomes. Without crucial information about prevalence of eye conditions and identification of the barriers to health services that patients face, vision health research in New Zealand cannot move forward. As part of an effort to get politicians to recognise the importance of eye health equity – and specifically to support New Zealand’s first National Eye Health Survey – I have recently become deputy chair of Eye Health Aotearoa, a group comprising representatives of the major New Zealand sight charities, as well as the professional bodies representing optometry and ophthalmology. On 19 February we travelled to the Beehive in Wellington to meet the Parliamentary Friends of Eye Health, a cross-party group of MPs with an interest in this area. Attendees included the journalist Paddy Gower, CEO of Kāpō Māori Aotearoa NZ Chrissie Cowan, and MPs from across the house. We came away from the meeting feeling that there is a genuine appetite amongst politicians to see progress in this area and I am hoping that by the end of this year we will have made concrete progress towards achieving several of Eye Health Aotearoa’s goals.
Finally, COVID-19/Coronavirus remains very much in our minds. This month we welcomed Tasi Urale back to SOVS from an extended period of quarantine following his travel in China. Our best estimates indicate that it is unlikely many of our current students will be unable to commence study as planned as a result of travel disruption. However, we are aware that many will be being affected by this outbreak in one way or another – whether it be through friends or family. We know how hard everyone is working – both here, in China, in Italy and indeed all around the world – to contain this outbreak.
Our continued collaborations are the basis of our success so let’s keep it going in 2020.
Professor Steven Dakin
Head of School, Optometry and Vision Science
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences