Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

NZ-NEC history

Senior historical appointments in the Department of Ophthalmology

The University Section of Ophthalmology was initially created as a subdivision of the Department of Surgery in 1968. Dr Hylton LeGrice FRANZCO, OBE was appointed as the foundation Clinical Lecturer in Ophthalmology in 1970 and shortly afterwards as the Clinical Reader in Ophthalmology, a post he held until 1983. The foundations of the research and academic activities of the department were significantly enhanced when Dr Gillian Clover PhD, FRANZCO was appointed as the first Sir William and Lady Stevenson Senior Lecturer in Ophthalmology and Head of Department in 1984 and subsequently the Sir William and Lady Stevenson Associate Professor in 1999. The initial accommodation and staffing were modest with 5-6 staff occupying 3 offices and one research laboratory on the 4th floor of the pathology building on the Medical School campus.

A significant donation by the industrialist and philanthropist Dr Maurice Paykel, augmented by generous support from the local ophthalmic community, the University of Auckland, Auckland Healthcare Ltd and other donors allowed the establishment of the first Foundation Chair of Ophthalmology in New Zealand in 1998. In recognition of his generous support, the Foundation Chair was named The Maurice Paykel Chair of Ophthalmology. Professor Charles McGhee PhD, FRCS, FRCOphth was appointed as the first Maurice Paykel Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology in late 1998 and Dr Trevor Sherwin PhD and Dr Jennifer Craig PhD MCOptom joined the team shortly thereafter. Dr Helen Danesh-Meyer MB, FRANZCO was recruited from a post in the USA, as a Senior Lecturer in mid-2000 and was appointed as the Sir William and Lady Stevenson Associate Professor a year later.

An endowment from the Wendy and Bruce Hadden Trust in 2005 helped establish the W & B Hadden Chair of Ophthalmology and Translational Vision Research. Professor Colin Green PhD, DSc an eminent cell biologist with an international reputation in research into wound healing, particularly in the cornea, is the first recipient of this second chair. The addition of translational vision research to the department brings scientific and clinical aspects of ophthalmology closer by taking laboratory science directly to the clinical setting and bringing clinical questions directly to the laboratory – essentially from “laboratory to bedside”.

Subsequent Senior Lecturer appointments to faculty staff include Dr Andrea Vincent FRANZCO (ocular genetics), Dr Sue Ormonde MD FRCOphth (cornea) and Dr Dipka Patel PhD MRCOphth (anterior segment). Honorary clinical senior lecturer appointments have included Dr Tahira Malik (medical retina), Dr Mark Donaldson (medical retina and glaucoma), Dr David Pendergrast (cornea), Associate Professor Philip Polkinghorne (vitreo-retinal surgery) and Associate Professor Gerard Sutton (cornea). In addition the team now includes two post-doctoral fellows, four technical research staff, five clinical research fellows and a large number of PhD and MD candidates. The department also provides the base for the New Zealand National Eye Bank, Glaucoma New Zealand, and the RANZCO journal – Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology.

Overall the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences has grown from a handful of staff in 1998 to around 40 staff and research students in 2008. This growth has been associated with the completion of several PhD and MD theses, the generation of approximately $12,000,000 in research funding and the publication of more than 300 research papers and chapters. The Department now occupies an entire floor of the Pathology building on the faculty of Medical and Health Sciences campus in Grafton and contains a number of state of the art laboratories, a large microsurgical facility and extensive teaching and clinical research facilities.

Senior historical appointments in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences

Department of Optometry and Vision Science

The undergraduate program in Optometry at the University of Auckland was initiated with the appointment of Professor TP Grosvenor in 1964 and the current BOptom degree was subsequently introduced in 1982. The Department of Optometry and Vision Science was established in 1987 and a Chair in Optometry in 1988, with the foundation Professor being Leon Garner (now retired). To further build the research output of the Department, an additional chair in Optometry was created with Professor Michael Kalloniatis taking up the Robert G Leitl Chair in Optometry in 2002.

The undergraduate program now has on average 50 students per academic year with clinical training undertaken within the University clinics (Grafton and Tamaki campus), private optometric and ophthalmology clinics, and the Greenlane Hospital ophthalmology outpatients and accident and emergency clinics. Interdisciplinary teaching and research collaboration also includes the Department of Ophthalmology, the Molecular Vision group and the Bioengineering Institute.

A team of highly talented and dedicated teaching clinicians supports teaching provision, some of whom hold visiting lecturer/senior lecturer appointments or are senior clinical tutors. Furthermore, in response to recent legislation changes allowing optometrists to have, use and prescribe therapeutic drugs in Australia and New Zealand, the profession has embarked on an exciting era with an expanded scope of practice that encompasses a fuller role as a primary ophthalmic care provider.

The increase in number of undergraduate and graduate students and the increased research activity over the past six years, has allowed the department to more than double in size. This change has resulted in a number of new academic appointments spanning the laboratory and clinical sciences. There are two laboratories working on retinal neurochemistry and retinal development (Professor Michael Kalloniatis and Dr Monica Acosta); a large myopia group lead by Dr John Phillips, including one of our senior tutors (Andrew Collins); a number of researchers in the clinical sciences including Associate Professor Rob Jacobs, Dr Jennifer Craig and Dr Geraint Phillips. Exciting expansions in the field of visual evolution have recently occurred through the appointment of Dr Misha Vorobyev and brain imaging with the appointment of Dr Ben Thompson.

Most recently, a second professorial chair has been created, which after an extensive international search was filled by Professor Paul Donaldson, who heads the Molecular Vision Laboratory (MVL). The MVL is a laboratory science based group with extensive molecular and cellular expertise in the general field of membrane transport. Members of the laboratory utilize electrophysiology, imaging, biochemistry, proteomics, molecular biology, and computer modeling to determine how the properties of ion channels and transporters contribute to the integrative function of ocular tissues that comprise the front of the eye. The MVL team will combine with the Department of Optometry and Vision Science in mid-2008. Thus the Department has undergone a significant period of growth and now contains a number of internationally distinguished vision researchers (see citations graph).

The expanding research programme over the past few years has resulted in the attraction of postgraduate students and research collaborations throughout the world and within the University of Auckland. It also included successes in national competitive grants (Health Research Council of New Zealand and Marsden Fund) and a number of grants through the Auckland Medical Research Foundation and other philanthropic organisations. The department now has a strong graduate program with six PhD students currently enrolled with two graduating in 2007/08.