David Austen, honourary life member of the AOP and lifelong advocate of independent optometry and professional advancement, died suddenly on 26 February, aged 69.
Graduating from City University London in 1968, David then gained his MSc at Indiana University where his thesis was on The gross anatomy of the human ciliary muscle. He was impressed by the advanced nature of optometry in the USA compared with the UK and thus began his interest in professional clinical advancement.
After a short spell in practice in Cambridge, in 1972, he joined Ralph Ingram and Tony Phillips in Loughborough, eventually becoming sole proprietor of the practice.
Very tech-savvy, he was always an early adopter of the latest clinical equipment, and his practice was one of the first to have video biomicroscopy, Optos, auto-mapping keratometry and optical coherence topography (OCT).
For many years he was a College of Optometrists examiner and AOP Councillor, being a member of the Association’s Clinical Committee and later the Professional Services Committee.
As a strong proponent of independent optometry, David was a member of the Leicestershire Professional Advancement Fund and OPSC, with both groups becoming part of the Federation of Independent British Optometrists (FIBO). OPSC eventually became the Association of Independent Optometrists (AIO), in which he was an active member until his retirement.
Through his early interest in American optometry, David became a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. After each visit to America, he would bring back the latest clinical techniques to the UK. He lectured extensively in contact lenses, investigative techniques and practice management, co-authoring a book on Law and practice management for optometrists. He also published many clinical papers, notably on techniques for viewing the retina.
He was a chairman of the local AOP branch and treasurer of the local optical committee (LOC). He was for some time also chair of the LOC shared care sub committee. Never afraid to speak his mind in negotiations, he was very much involved in the setting up of the much emulated Leicestershire Pre- and Post-Operative Cataract Schemes. He became a board member of the Charnwood and North West Leicestershire Professional Executive and in that area also set up one of the first properly funded and accredited PEARS (now MECS) schemes in the UK.
He retired from seeing patients in 2012 when the practice was taken over by his son Matthew.
Outside of optometry, he enjoyed long distance walking, narrowboating and music. Very good company, he would often be found after meetings playing his guitar late into the night. He co-founded a local acoustic group and after his retirement achieved an ambition to play bass guitar in a local band.
David will long be remembered for his strong advocacy of independent optometry and for the work he did in moving forward professional clinical optometric practice.
He leaves his loving wife Jennie, zoologist daughter Charlotte and her husband Mark, optometrist son Matthew, who took over the practice in 2012, and his wife Terri and three grandchildren.