Professor Joanne Wood
By Helen Carter
Three more Australian optometrists will be honoured with prestigious American Academy of Optometry awards next month for their contributions to advancing the profession of optometry.
Professor Joanne Wood will receive an award for her research in vision and driving. Professor Eric Papas’s work in helping create silicone hydrogel contact lenses and Dr Ravi Bakaraju’s invention of contact lenses for presbyopia have helped earn them their awards.
All three will receive the accolades at the academy’s annual meeting in New Orleans on 7-10 October and join a distinguished list of previous Australian winners.
Professor Wood from the School of Optometry and Vision Science at QUT will receive the Glenn A Fry Award and deliver the Glenn A Fry Lecture, sponsored by the American Optometric Foundation.
The award is given to a distinguished scientist or clinician in recognition of the quality, significance, impact and relevance to optometry of their current research contributions.
‘The award is specifically for my research in vision and driving and the influence of various forms of visual impairment on driving performance, which has been the focus of my research for more than 20 years,’ Professor Wood said.
‘I am absolutely delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious award. While a great personal honour, it also reflects on the opportunities I have been provided in the School at QUT and the wonderful people I have collaborated with over the years.’
The Academy stated: ‘What makes her research stand out is its emphasis on performance in the real world through the testing of subjects with real and simulated visual impairments on closed road circuits as well as open roads.’
The laboratory she established at QUT incorporates measurements of actual driving performance on a closed circuit driving course and the open road, instead of using crash rate data or driving simulators.
Professor Eric Papas
Professor Papas, a Professorial Visiting Fellow at the University of NSW School of Optometry and Vision Science, will receive the Max Schapero Memorial Lecture Award, the highest award in the academy’s cornea and contact lens section.
It honours a clinician, researcher or scholar who has made a significant contribution to the cornea and contact lens field through publications, lectures or research efforts.
The academy said Professor Papas’s research skills were instrumental in the development of the first silicone hydrogel lenses when he was director of clinical research at the Brien Holden Vision Institute’s Cornea and Contact Lens Research Unit (CCLRU).
‘He is an expert in many areas of optometry and vision science including the physiological effects of hypoxia on the cornea/conjunctiva, the ocular response to silicone hydrogel lens wear, comfort during contact lens wear and the design of lenses,’ the academy stated.
‘I’m pleased to be honoured in this way. This award is voted by a jury of your peers so it’s like being judged the “best and fairest” for the cornea and contact lens world, and I am very grateful to the academy for its generosity,’ Professor Papas said.
‘It’s also a feather in the cap of the School of Optometry at UNSW as it’s the third time in five years, and the fifth time overall, that the recipient has been associated with the school.
‘The work I did on silicone hydrogels with the Co-operative Research Centre for Eye Research and Technology, the Vision CRC and their key participants the CCLRU, Institute for Eye Research and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, would be a major part of my contribution so big thanks must go to those organisations.’
Dr Ravi Bakaraju
Dr Bakaraju, an optics and vision scientist, and project leader of Vision Innovations Science Technology and Applications (VISTA) at Brien Holden Vision Institute, will receive the Irvin M and Beatrice Borish Award.
The award recognises an outstanding young scientist or clinician scientist who has shown exceptional promise to conduct independent research directly related to aetiology, prevention, detection, diagnosis or management of clinical ocular disorders.
Dr Bakaraju invented the technology behind Brien Holden Vision Pty Ltd’s Extended Depth of Focus contact lenses for presbyopia. His VISTA team and the Institute’s Technology Group developed the product.
The academy said: ‘Dr Bakaraju is a gifted young researcher who is motivated by a sense of purpose and initiative that comes from the heart in his efforts to make a difference in the world of vision science.
‘He has spent the past 10 years devoting himself to the development of novel multifocal lenses (for spectacles and contact lenses) to halt the progression of myopia and to improve correction for presbyopia, the development of model eyes, and the assessment of wavefront aberrations.’
Dr Bakaraju said the award was not particularly for the lenses for presbyopia as he had also developed several patents and patent applications, and completed investigations on refraction, wavefront aberrations, myopia and model eyes which had significant positive impacts on this area of clinical research.
‘I express my heartfelt gratitude to my nominators, the awards committee and the academy for considering me worthy of the award,’ he said.