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AOP Awards

"I am so grateful to the patients, friends, family and colleagues that have guided me"

Dr. Saleel Jivraj tells OT  what it means to be named AOP Optometrist of the Year 2020


How does it feel to win the AOP award?

I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be awarded the Optometrist of the Year 2020. I am so grateful to all my patients, friends, family and optometry colleagues, who have guided me and shaped my career. I love being an optometrist, helping our patients get relief for their dry eyes and making improvements to their quality of life. With this recognition, I hope to further develop dry eye “best practices” within optometry and help make a change to the profession.

Why did you choose optometry as a career?

I became an optometrist because I was always fascinated by my own optometrist, who had such passion for what he did. It was infectious. I’m a very high myope and I started wearing glasses at a young age. I went for my first exam as I was complaining that I was unable to see the board at school. He had all these cool tools and toys that he got to play with every day. I wanted to be able to help people see clearly.

My most rewarding moment in practice has been having my patient send me a thank you letter after six months of treatment for her severe dry eyes


What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?

The most rewarding part of my career so far has been running my specialist dry eye clinic and seeing improvements in the quality of life for dry eye sufferers. Severe dry eye has been rated as equivalent as angina and dialysis in terms of a patient’s qualify of life and it can be associated with depression. Dry eye can have a huge impact on a patient’s productivity at work. My most rewarding moment in practice has been having my patient send me a thank you letter after six months of treatment for her severe dry eyes. She was so grateful, and she was able to have a massive improvement in her quality of life. She was full of energy and filled with joy. It was such a rewarding and satisfying moment in my career.

What’s your biggest achievement of the past year?

My biggest achievement in the last year was making a free iPhoneAndroid and web app (DryiRelief) to help dry eye suffers as part of my MBA thesis project. The app was designed to help patients with their dry eye management and increase compliance with their dry eye treatment. The DryiRelief app gives patients reminders, feedback for compliance and questionnaires to assess improvement.

The app also incorporates free educational training videos, demonstrating how to do the dry eye treatments. The educational videos in the app have had over 100,000 views and the app has been used globally.

I have invested my time and my personal resources to build this app, as I had such positive feedback from my patients that I saw in my specialist dry eye clinic. We have had specialist dry eye ophthalmology clinics incorporate this app for all their patients. This was my motivation to keep improving and developing the app, to enable those with poor access to eye care services and costs associated with this, to get some relief from their dry eyes.

The optometry profession is rapidly changing with the increased scope of practice, and it’s an exciting time


What is your next career goal?

I’m excited to be starting my PhD at Aston University looking at the development of specialist dry eye services in clinical optometric practice. It will be fascinating to see how optometrists will be using advanced dry eye treatments, such as intense pulsed light, radio frequency, autologous serum eye drops, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and biologic eye drops to improve patients’ dry eyes.

I’m very interested in seeing the impact of how tele-optometry, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), will be used in the management and treatment of dry eye disease. I would also love to get involved in consultancy/dry eye training and continuing to make further developments to the DryiRelief app.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learnt since becoming an optometrist?

Probably the most important thing that I’ve learnt since becoming an optometrist is the importance of lifelong learning and continuing to upgrade my clinical skills, to give improved patient care. The optometry profession is rapidly changing with the increased scope of practice, and it’s an exciting time. I love the advancement in dry eye treatments that enable us to improve the quality of life for our patients and deliver the highest standard of care to our patients. Optometry is a quickly advancing and exciting profession to be in.