BUCCLE celebrates 40 years

The British and Irish Universities Committee of Contact Lens Educators reflects on its history as it faces COVID-19, “perhaps its biggest challenge yet”

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This December, the British and Irish Universities Committee of Contact Lens Educators (BUCCLE) celebrates 40 years since it was formed in London in 1980. The group held its first meeting that year at Aston University.

While COVID-19 has meant the group will not be celebrating the anniversary as planned, BUCCLE has reflected on its history and highlighted key achievements.

The idea for BUCCLE was developed during a meeting of the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE) in 1979. British contact lens educators decided to form a group equivalent to the Association of Optometry Contact Lens Educators, which represented North American universities.

Forming a group would provide a more formal platform for the conversations held between educators around professional examinations, standards and clinic operations, BUCCLE said. The group was originally chaired by Richard Pearson.

Now BUCCLE has grown to include one or two contact lens educators from each of the universities and colleges teaching contact lenses in the UK and Ireland.

“40 years is a long time in any field, but especially the world of contact lenses,” said BUCCLE chair, Dr Manbir Nagra, highlighting changes to lens materials and treatments and increased popularity of daily disposables and multifocal lenses as ways in which the field has changed.

Contact lens education has similarly evolved in this time. Technology has transformed how teaching is delivered, particularly with the pressures of COVID-19 this year, while the requirements of contact lens education have also changed.

As an example, the minimum number of contact lens patients an optometry student must examine has almost quadrupled since the 1980s, the group noted, while newer approaches to learning have also placed greater emphasis on evidence-based practice.

BUCCLE highlighted that key achievements over the 40 years have included questioning accepted clinical norms, as well as challenging professional advice, such as the cessation of lissamine green use.

The group shared: “We are particularly proud of our recent research findings, where we showed that gradual adaptation to lens wear for modern daily disposable lens wearers was unnecessary.”

The group also highlighted its research which has demonstrated that anterior eye grading should be undertaken to the nearest 0.5 increment rather than the commonly accepted value of 0.1. This research feeds back into teaching and aims to benefit the wider optometry community, the group noted.

Forming a group also enabled a strengthened sense of collaboration with industry, promoting support for students.

“Now we are faced with perhaps the biggest challenge in our 40-year history of contact lens education; delivery of education in the COVID-19 era is not an easy feat,” shared Dr Nagra. “We are, however, the recipients of strong support from our sponsors and the wider contact lens sector. The plethora of online seminars and lectures, collegiality amongst the group and shared resources will hold us in good stead.

“While this is not the celebratory event we had pictured, we are glad to have reached this milestone. Here’s to another 40 years of BUCCLE.”

Member reflections

Academic and optometrist Robert Conway: “My introduction to BUCCLE was through one of the founders, Richard Pearson, who had been my contact lens educator at City University in the 1970s.

“One of the most striking developments in contact lens education has been the search for an evidence base to underpin what we do in practice. BUCCLE, the International Association of Contact Lens Educators, the British Contact Lens Association, and the university sector have been pivotal in this drive.

“Despite the astonishing developments in teaching and research technology, I believe that the education of contact lens professionals still remains rooted in the hands-on approach. It is inspiring to see how the teaching has adapted during the pandemic to safely maintain a measure of necessary face-to-face practical work.”

Professor James Wolffsohn, former BCLA president, current academic chair and former head of Aston Optometry: “BUCCLE was instrumental to getting me up and running in teaching contact lenses 20 years ago. Networking with colleagues and visiting their departments has allowed the sharing and adoption of best practice ever since.

“BUCCLE has been instrumental in professional debates over fluorescein and lissamine green use, as well as the curriculum taught at university and final clinical examinations. More recently, collaborative BUCCLE research projects are providing further evidence-basis for what we are teaching to allow students to provide the best possible quality of service to their patients.”

Dr Sudi Patel, optometric advisor to NHS National Services in Scotland and former university lecturer: “After the creation of BUCCLE, there was an avalanche of activity in the contact lens sector – on patient management, investigative techniques, lens materials, designs, fitting strategies, solutions physiological effects and more.

“BUCCLE is the perfect platform for educators to share their experiences with the aim of streamlining teaching and preparing the next generation of clinicians to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”