Excellence in eye care

“The entire area of optometry as an evidence-based profession has got a lot to owe to him”

A trio of peers discuss the achievements of this year’s AOP Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Professor David Whitaker

Professor David Whitaker has been named the recipient of this year’s AOP Lifetime Achievement Award.

Accepting the award yesterday evening during the AOP’s Excellence in Eye Care event in London (25 February), Professor Whitaker said: “It feels absolutely fantastic [to receive the award]. It was a bit of a surprise. There’s always that sense of imposter syndrome, and thinking, ‘am I really worthy of this?’ I am incredibly proud.” 

Ahead of the event, OT spoke to three of Whitaker’s peers to find out more about his achievements, and his impact on both the profession and them as professionals. They share their thoughts in this video.

Friends since meeting as undergraduate optometry students at the University of Bradford 44 years ago, Professor David Elliott said his colleague and close friend “has been fantastic to collaborate with.”

“All of my best work has been done in collaboration with Dave.”

Elliott shared that Whitaker has also been “a brilliant mentor” during his career, highlighting several past PhD students who have excelled in their fields and are now professors too.

Past PhD student of Whitaker’s, Anglia Ruskin’s Professor Keziah Latham, said: “He has integrity, fairness, he is extremely collegiate, he has a brain the size of a planet, and he also has a really wicked sense of humour.”

“He has had a huge impact on me as an academic,” shared the University of Bradford’s Dr James Heron, also a past PhD student of Whitaker’s. “My research capability has come directly from learning from him.”

“This person is arguably the cleverest person I have ever met, in possession of a huge amount of knowledge,” Heron shared, explaining how he was able to break down and convey difficult technical knowledge exceptionally well to others.

“He is probably the brightest man I have met,” said Elliott, reiterating, “he could make complicated stuff simple, and that is why he is a great teacher.”

Whitaker’s impact spans a whole range of areas of academic life – in his personal research, he has made real contributions to areas including the psychophysics of peripheral vision, to the assessment of glare, and to interactions of the different sensory systems, Latham shared.

Over the years he has also stepped outside of academia to contribute to service roles with the AOP and as a panellist for the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

On REF, Latham said: “He has helped to highlight the strength and depth of optometry and vision science research. The entire area of optometry as an evidence-based profession has got a lot to owe to him.”

“He’s made contributions across the full range of academic life, in his teaching, in his research, in his service roles, and in his leadership roles as well – and he has also done it while being a really nice person, which I think is something for all of us to aspire to,” Latham added.

Read more about Professor David Whitaker’s career and achievements on the OT’s website.