Quashing myopia

OT  speaks to Aston University lecturer, Dr Janis Orr, about her working day and her leading myopia research

Janis Orr

What is a typical working day like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day when you work as a lecturer in a university optometry department. I enjoy the variety of my role, which includes the delivery of theoretical and clinical teaching, clinical supervision, undertaking research, and supervising undergraduate and postgraduate research students. I regularly engage with the wider profession through the delivery of continuous professional development, research articles and presentations.

Which aspect of your current role inspires you the most?

As a researcher in the field of myopia development and control, I am committed to understanding the mechanism behind myopia development and progression, and how this can be prevented behaviorally, optically and pharmaceutically. The prevalence of myopia is increasing rapidly and will continue to do so without suitable intervention. Myopia of any level increases lifetime risk of ocular pathology and places financial pressure on the individual, the NHS, and other healthcare providers. I am inspired by the impact that my field of research could have on the lives of myopic individuals, and I aspire to translate the research findings to clinical practice.

"I am inspired by the impact that my field of research could have on the lives of myopic individuals, and I aspire to translate the research findings to clinical practice"

Where do you see the direction of optometry heading in the next five years?

I believe that this is a very exciting time for optometry as there are more opportunities available to optometrists than ever before. Many optometrists hold additional qualifications and accreditations, and are involved in the provision of extended services. However, the majority are not given the opportunity to reach their potential; either because they are not supported and incentivised by their employer to undertake additional qualifications and accreditations, or given the opportunity to take part in the provision of extended services.

The College of Optometrists, the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU), and several NHS boards offer additional qualifications and accreditations, which enable optometrists to extend their clinical knowledge and skills. I believe that employers will begin to recognise the value of these qualifications and accreditations, and reward employees who hold them appropriately.  This will lead to the wider profession becoming skilled, and able to offer extended services.

What do you regard as being the most influential development to impact upon the clinical role of practitioners in recent years?

Technological advances, including high-resolution optical coherence tomography and scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, have allowed us to diagnose and monitor ocular disease much more effectively and decisively.

Furthermore, we have seen many practitioners gain additional qualifications such as independent prescribing, and accreditations like minor eye conditions services – enabling them to deliver enhanced patient care and become part of local shared-care schemes.

Who and what has been most influential in steering your career path?

I am extremely grateful to my colleagues and mentors at Glasgow Caledonian University and particularly Dr Lyle Gray, Dr Dirk Seidel and Dr Mhairi Day, who guided me through the PhD process, and provided me with the skills to secure an academic post.

Since embarking on my current role at Aston University, I have relished the opportunity to work within a team of experienced, dedicated educators and researchers who lead by example. I have been inspired and supported by many colleagues, particularly Professor James Wolffsohn, Dr Nicola Logan, and Dr Leon Davies. I am very fortunate to have such excellent role models. 

If you had the power to change any aspect of the current remit of optometrists what would it be?

Optometrists are generally under-valued by patients and other healthcare professionals, such as GPs and ophthalmologists. If I had the power to change any aspect of the remit of optometrists, it would be to ensure that their skills are formally acknowledged, and that they become universally recognised as the first point of contact for primary eye care services.