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Lifetime Achievement Award 2022

Trevor Warburton has been named the recipient of the AOP Lifetime Achievement Award 2022

Warburton

Trevor Warburton vividly remembers the moment he decided to study optometry.

After taking up scuba diving at the age of 15, he decided to try wearing contact lenses in order to see more of the marvels of the underwater world.

Sitting in the optometry practice waiting to be fitted, he watched his contact lens fitter pull into the parking lot in a Lotus Cortina.

“All of my opticians until that point had been in my eyes quite elderly – they were probably in their mid-30s,” he recalled.

“Here was someone who didn’t look a lot older than me, doing something interesting and travelling around. I thought ‘I could do that’,” Trevor shared.

More than four decades later, Trevor’s career in optometry has taken him to optical conferences in Spain, Norway, Atlanta, Seattle and New Zealand.

He served as the chair of the AOP when the Local Optical Committee Support Unit was first formed and was the first chair of Primary Eyecare Services.

Over the years, giving back to fellow optometrists has been a key motivating force for Trevor. He has not shied away from challenging roles, such as chairing the Optical Fees Negotiating Committee.

Trevor never did buy a Lotus Cortina.

“I think that 15-year-old me made the right choice,” he shared with OT.

“I have had what they term today a portfolio career. I was full-time in the consulting room for the first 15 years of my career, but I was thinking that I needed more. For some people, that is another practice, but for me it became something else – I wanted the opportunity to give back.”

Trevor has the rare accolade of receiving three fellowships from the College of Optometrists – a Foundation Fellowship, Fellowship by Portfolio and Honorary Life Fellowship of the College.

He studied at the University of Manchester at a time when only five universities in England were offering optometry.

His university had a fundus camera – equipment that was absent from practices at the time – with optometry students receiving a colour slide of the intricate patterns within their retina.

“With hindsight, you look back and you think, ‘There wasn’t an awful lot of equipment.’ But that was just the time we were studying in,” he noted.

While Trevor has witnessed the growth of extended services and advances in technology during his career, he believes that there are some core elements that have remained constant.

“Optometry has changed massively – and yet it hasn’t. If you look at the sight test, it might be done with more technology but in essence it is the same beast it was when I qualified. The legislation that defines what the sight test is hasn’t changed,” he said.

After his pre-registration year and 18 months working in a central Manchester practice, Trevor purchased the practice that he would run single-handedly from 1979 to 2015.

One of the aspects of optometry that originally attracted Trevor to the profession was the ability to own and run a business.

“I liked the idea of being your own boss and being in a position to practise optometry as you felt it should be practised. I could focus my attention on quality service and the clinical aspects of the practice. I couldn’t ignore the dispensing side, but I could run things the way I felt they should be run,” he shared.

Trevor found his experience working in practice gave him valuable insight within roles teaching distance learning modules for Cardiff University and as a clinical adviser to the AOP legal department.

“I always thought that you needed to be working in practice to stay grounded in what you were talking about,” he said.

Turning to the future of the profession, Trevor would like to see optometrists become “the GPs of the eyes” within the UK.

He noted that the home nations are at different stages when it comes to moving towards this benchmark.

“Scotland could rightly claim that they are pretty much there and Wales is not too far behind. England is the one that has lagged behind a bit but it has picked up pace during COVID-19 and now we have Optometry First,” Trevor shared.

His two years as chair of the AOP gave him the feeling that he was giving something back to the profession.

“I always felt that chairing the AOP was the pinnacle of the profession. In a personal achievement sense, it is a highlight,” he said.

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