A career in contacts

Dr Gary Orsborn shares his career journey from optometry student to vice president for global professional and clinical affairs at CooperVision

Close up of an eye

What was your first experience of the optical profession?

I was starting my studies in pharmacy when I opted to take a year out. A friend recommended that I try some work experience at a local optical laboratory and I was instantly interested.

During my time there I gained an insight into how spectacles were designed and manufactured, and got to meet optometrists.

I’ve been in optics for the last 40 years now – it’s taken me around the world – and I can honestly say that I’ve never looked back.

Was the contact lens industry for you from the start?

After my optometry studies, I was thinking about going into private practice when I was offered the opportunity to continue my studies by enrolling in a residency programme at Ohio State University. It was a very unique two-year programme that combined a residency experience with graduate studies, teaching and intense patient care in relation to contact lenses.

It was the programme’s very strong contact lens focus that I liked – there had always been something that sparked within me when I could offer a patient something different that catered to their specific vision needs and allowed me to use my creativity in fitting approaches.

Delving more deeply into contact lenses during my studies also introduced me to the research side of the sector that I really enjoy. On completing the course, I once again had a choice to make – was I going into private practice or was I going to follow a path into industry? Industry allowed me to indulge my passion for teaching and research, so I chose this route.

How did your career progress from here?

My first job in the industry was with Bausch & Lomb; it really afforded me some experience that I draw on today at CooperVision, where I’ve worked for almost three years now.

One of the many wonderful things that working in industry has given me is the opportunity to be involved from the very early stages of new product development, starting from the seed of an idea, working it through design iterations and material development to launch. It has also allowed me to work with partners at research centres from around the world, such as Eurolens at the University of Manchester and the Centre for Contact Lens Research at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Being able to work with such strong people through the years – excellent researchers who are committed to bringing to the market the very best products that can improve patients’ vision and quality of life – has been amazing.

"It's not enough to merely show up, one needs to establish a strong connection with ECPs in local markets. There is so much strength and experience to tap into"

And your career with CooperVision?

Right now I am responsible for CooperVision’s global professional and clinical affairs. This involves how we present our products and technology to eye care professionals (ECPs), and how we conduct our clinical trials to give us evidence-based support for how we share our advancements with ECPs.  The insights we gain from these studies help ECPs to be more successful in practice and improve their patients’ contact lens wearing experiences.

What is the most exciting thing to emerge in the contact lens industry during your career?

There has been so much. In some of the early days I was involved with gas permeable lenses and specialty designs. I was also involved in the very early stages of clinical trials for silicone hydrogels. Today, 90% of all reusable lens fits are silicone hydrogels, but this material is still under-utilised in one-day contact lenses. Going back 20 years ago, silicone hydrogels were in the very early stages and it was a huge breakthrough. Those were exciting times. Today, CooperVision has the largest and broadest range of one-day silicone hydrogel lenses and being able to be associated with that is very rewarding.

What’s next for the contact lens industry?

It is key for contact lens manufacturers to continue to work towards greater success for contact lenses in practice – there is a high proportion of patients who discontinue wearing contact lenses. We are endeavouring to bring solutions to minimise dropout rates – through both new materials and advanced product design – as the next steps.

Working with practitioners on how they can mitigate dropouts early with patients, making sure that we are better meeting patient needs, is also key.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Exposure to so many of the brightest and best ECPs around the world. It’s not enough just to merely show up, one needs to establish a strong connection with ECPs in local markets. There is so much strength and experience to tap into in these countries. It’s very important to bring that back into the industry so that brands become stronger and products become better. The strength of those relationships and a commitment to work together is leading to breakthroughs for the benefit of ECPs and their patients worldwide.

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