Celebrating excellence despite Covid

The much-anticipated Excellence in Ophthalmology and Vision Research Prize Evening may have been knocked back by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the 2020 awardees are still being recognised and will be invited to receive their awards at a special, celebratory event later this year.


Professor Charles McGhee, chair and head of ophthalmology at the University of Auckland, said it’s been two years of upset for the awards unfortunately, with last year’s 20-year anniversary celebrations cancelled following the Christchurch terror attack. The awards still went ahead, but were a sombre event given the effect of the attacks on many at the university.


But now a new event is being planned, “hopefully” in September, said Prof McGhee, to truly celebrate the excellence awards 23rd anniversary and the growth and success of the expanded department as it notches up its 21st. It will also celebrate all past award winners, including this year’s, he said. “We never envisaged the Department of Ophthalmology would grow so rapidly, nor the number of truly outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate research students that would pass through our hands, but this now numbers more than 100, many of whom are now in national and international leadership roles.”


Prof McGhee congratulated this year’s award winners who have all been notified. They were all very worthy recipients whose work and commitment to ophthalmology continues the strong legacy of the awards and the department, he said. “Year-on-year, the standard of our students increases exponentially and this year, many exhibit outstanding academic credentials alongside impressive sporting, music and other achievements. Indeed, it makes me glad I am not competing for a career as a young doctor in 2020 as I might struggle in such an exemplary epoch!”


The Calvin Ring Prize – Shin Jee Tang


The Calvin Ring Prize is awarded to the best all-round undergraduate medical student in clinical ophthalmology.


This year’s award winner, Shin Jee Tang, is a final-year trainee intern at Waikato Hospital. She hopes to pursue a career in ophthalmology as it offers a good mix of both medicine and surgery, she said. “Winning the Calvin Ring Prize meant a lot to me as my effort, enthusiasm and passion in ophthalmology were recognised and acknowledged. It further fortifies my love for this specialty and hopefully serves as a good steppingstone when I apply to join the training programme.”


The William MacKenzie Medal – Dr Sunny Sixiao Li


Recognising the significant contribution made by a medical student or trainee intern towards a published research project, the William MacKenzie Medal was awarded to second-year, Auckland-based house officer Dr Sunny Sixiao Li.


Li’s research focused on corneal wound healing following cataract surgery, which resulted in a number of published studies. These included the validation of questionnaires for prioritisation of elective cataract surgery in New Zealand (The New Zealand Medical Journal); corneal biomechanical changes following cataract surgery (Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology); and prediction of pseudophakic refractive error (Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery)


Li said she was both honoured and humbled to join the illustrious list of past recipients of the Medal. “This would not have been possible without my supervisors, Dr James McKelvie and Dr Stuti Misra, who have encouraged and supported me endlessly with their wealth of experience and wisdom.” Also thanking Prof McGhee and the ophthalmology department, Li said she hopes to continue her work in eye research for some time to come.


The Arthur Thomas Paterson Scholarship – Dr Kaliopy Matheos


The 2020 Arthur Thomas Paterson Scholarship, designed to assist with overseas postgraduate training, was awarded to Dr Kaliopy Matheos.


Dr Matheos began her fellowship training with the glaucoma team at the Greenlane Clinical Centre in Auckland before using the award to help her gain further experience as the glaucoma and anterior segment fellow at the University of Toronto in Canada. Her focus there was primarily on the management of complex glaucoma cases but included an interesting foray into the surgical management of ectopia lentis, she said.


Winning the award was a huge honour, said Dr Matheos. “The scholarship meant I have been able to achieve many of the goals I set out to achieve when embarking on my fellowship training.” 


For a full list of the 2019-2020 Summer Scholars, who would also have been honoured at the March event, see: https://eyeonoptics.co.nz/articles/archive/summer-scholar-symposium-2020/


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