“My ambition was always to teach”
University of Manchester lecturer, Amit Jinabhai, on giving back to the city that trained him and winning awards for his inclusive teaching methods
21 December 2021
I undertook a Year 10 work experience placement, where I was paired with Boots Opticians.I really enjoyed that opportunity, as it allowed me to learn about how healthcare and retail can work together to serve the local community.
From that placement I was offered a Saturday job, which felt like a significant step forward for a 15-year-old. I accepted, and I have never looked back since.
While studying, I always enjoyed helping my peers with the optics problems that we were issued as part of our first-year homework.
I found that I grew in confidence by being able to explain things to my classmates. So, even at this early stage in my career, I realised that I took great pleasure in helping others to learn. I graduated from UMIST in 2004, and then with my postgraduate degree in 2012, from The University of Manchester.
I undertook my pre-registration year with Vision Express.
I was privileged enough to work in their flagship Trafford Centre practice, where I was supported by some exemplary clinicians, including Julie Theobalds, Lai-Ping Chiu, and Tariq Muneer.
My first full-time job was as a resident optometrist for Vision Express in Birkenhead.
This was a really big step up for me, as I initially worked two days of the week without another optometrist in the practice. The exposure of being the primary clinician helped develop my patient management skills and my overall confidence.
When I worked in the field of refractive surgery, I would collect clinical data on post-operative LASIK patients.
I realised that I was already working in the capacity of a research optometrist, and that if I collected and analysed data from my own research studies, I would be able to gain a PhD. I then applied for and secured a postgraduate position at The University of Manchester.
One of my university’s goals is to promote inclusive teaching as part of our social responsibility agenda
The aim of my previous research was to explore the optical quality of eyes with keratoconus, with a focus on the correction of higher-order aberrations. As part of my PhD, I programmed predictions of how optical quality changes if eyes with different grades of keratoconus were fitted with customised, aberration-controlling soft contact lenses. The results showed that such bespoke soft lenses were rather limited in their ability to correct higher-order aberrations, due to their inevitable movement during regular blinking.
I then moved into postdoctoral research.
Although Aston University was my employer, I was mainly based in Farnham. While there, I worked with Professors James Wolffsohn and Graeme Young on several research projects, ranging from toric contact lens studies to toric intraocular lens studies.
I knew that I wanted to go into academia, and my ambition was always to teach at the University of Manchester.
I wanted to give something back to the city that gave me so much joy as an undergraduate and as a postgraduate.
My favourite thing about working at a university is that ‘lightbulb moment,’ when a student suddenly understands something that they were previously struggling to comprehend and it all suddenly clicks into place for them. To me, that moment and the happiness on the student’s face is priceless.
Having been a runner-up as AOP Lecturer of the Year twice previously, it was a fabulous surprise to finally win the award in 2017.
To date, I am still the only winner from The University of Manchester, so I will always be extremely proud of this inaugural achievement. It will always have a special place in my heart as it helped to validate my credentials as an optometry lecturer on a national scale.
I consider it my privilege to be able to pass on everything I know to the next generation of optometrists
Last year I redeveloped a module entitled ‘Mathematics for first year optometry,’ to help support first-year students who come to us without an A-level in maths.
I volunteered to take this on as I didn’t study maths at A-level, so I can relate to how intimidating many maths-based first-year subjects can appear to our students. This includes subjects such as geometrical optics and physical optics – both of which I lead on too.
I wanted to develop this module so that all my students fully appreciate that the practice of optometry is underpinned by numbers. This ranges from prescriptions to the documentation of clinical data.
The student feedback that I received for this module was phenomenal. Students were extremely positive about how it helped support them in other areas of the first-year course. This was extremely satisfying, as I was keen to ensure that there was more of a level playing-field between optometry students who do and do not have A-level maths. Trying to minimise this attainment gap was very close to my heart, as one of my university’s goals is to promote inclusive teaching as part of our social responsibility agenda.
Partly as a result of this work, in September 2021 I was honoured to receive an ‘individual’ Teaching Excellence Award from my university’s Institute of Teaching and Learning, for demonstrating excellence in educational leadership and inclusive teaching.
These are university-wide awards, which are highly-regarded across all three of our faculties.
I was recognised for my unique approach of taking video clips and photographs of the effects of optics using ‘household objects’, which supports our students in building their knowledge and confidence in understanding complex optical concepts. This approach means that students can replicate the production of certain optical phenomena at home and can practise demonstrating and explaining them to their housemates and family members. This helps to develop their scientific communication skills – undoubtedly, a key attribute for any budding optometrist.
In addition to receiving the Teaching Excellence Award, another significant highlight was winning the 2012 George Giles postgraduate research prize.
I was told after winning that the quality of my submission was of an extremely high standard, and I knew from my colleagues that I was up against some stiff competition that year from other talented doctoral researchers.
I consider it my privilege to be able to pass on everything I know to the next generation of optometrists, in the hope that my students will go on to do something extraordinary with this knowledge, which will have a positive impact on patient care.