Mission to educate

Chief executive of the British Contact Lens Association, Cheryl Donnelly, and newly-appointed president, Sunil Shah, tell OT  how the profession is diversifying from its traditional role

Sunil Shah

Why did the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) feel an ophthalmologist would be ideal for the role of president? 

Cheryl Donnelly (CD): The BCLA has had numerous ophthalmologists serving as both president and council members since it was formed in 1977. The BCLA is constantly evolving and we are far more than just a contact lens association. Our focus on anterior segment means ocular surface health and its related areas, including contact lenses, are of prime importance within our mission to educate.

As a result, the BCLA is truly unique within the sector – a multi-disciplinary organisation that welcomes members from ophthalmology, optometry, contact lens opticians and those representing industry. All of these disciplines work with contact lenses and the anterior eye if it is their area of interest.

How does new president, Sunil Shah, hope to create a closer working relationship between optometry and ophthalmology?

CD: Sunil already has extremely close links with optometry – perhaps more so than any other UK ophthalmologist. Sunil recognises the experience of optometrists and works with a number of optometrists within his clinic, recognising that shared care and expertise for the patient is of primary importance. Sunil is also a professor within the optometry department at Aston University, where part of role is to create a closer working relationship.

"Myopia management with contact lenses is a very topical and growing interest within the sector, but it;'s all about healthy, happy contact lens wear for existing patients and for new wearers"

Sunil, what will be your focus as president of the BCLA?

Sunil Shah (SS): I think we are in a unique position at a unique time. Optometry is diversifying from its traditional role. I am keen to enable ophthalmology and optometry to work together, which needs to be done from the inside.

What areas of contact lens research do you believe will benefit practitioners the most?

SS: It's important to remember the BCLA is an anterior eye organisation, not just contact lenses. One of my areas of research and expertise is the cornea and the use of ultraviolet light to treat corneal infections. In the long term this should be available to practitioners to partially sterilise corneal infections at the first sign of any problems. Any technological advances that can maintain the ocular surface health to receive a contact lens and subsequently lead to healthy happy contact lens wear are very welcome.

What innovations in contact lenses do you think are the most exciting developments for the future of the profession? 

SS: Myopia management with contact lenses is a very topical and growing interest within the sector, but it's all about healthy, happy contact lens wear for existing patients and for new wearers. We want to ensure that eye health professionals are offering contact lenses as a form of vision correction and, with constant innovation in this area, there is no reason why they shouldn't. I want to make sure that eye health professionals are providing the most technologically advanced contact lenses to achieve this. Ocular surface health is fundamental to the success of contact lens wear and education of eye health professionals to manage this is also very important. The BCLA can be a catalyst for this and a vital source of education.