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Dr Laura Downie

University of Melbourne lecturer Dr Laura Downie received two prestigious awards at the American Academy of Optometry conference in Denver in November.

She received the 2014 Irvin M and Beatrice Borish Award, which 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 Downie received this award for her innovative discoveries in cornea and contact lens research, as well as for her contribution to research into retinal disease, in particular age-related macular degeneration and retinopathy of prematurity.

She also received the Grand Prize, Anterior Segment, for the academy’s ocular photography contest for her slitlamp photograph submission entitled ‘Aeolian ripples: linear dimple veiling beneath a bitoric corneoscleral contact lens’.

Dr Downie is the principal lecturer for cornea and contact lenses in the university’s Doctor of Optometry Program; leads the speciality Cornea clinic at the University of Melbourne EyeCare Clinic; and heads the Downie Laboratory, which undertakes research in evidence-based practice, anterior ocular disease, tear film physiology and contact lenses.

Faculty change

The university’s Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences will move from the Faculty of Science into the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences on 1 January 2015.

Head of Department Associate Professor Allison McKendrick said she looked forward to new collaborative opportunities in research and teaching with the departments in the new faculty.

She wrote in the department newsletter that the Science Faculty had been a very supportive home for the department since its inception but that in recent years, with increased clinical training and research endeavours in the neurosciences, it had become clear that strong academic alignment existed between the department and ongoing activities and future strategy of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

The department’s first graduands from the Doctor of Optometry course will graduate on 17 December. Professor McKendrick said there were 22 fourth-year students in the 2014 class.

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