Dr Lesley Frederikson, the tireless supporter of Kiwi optometrists’ rights and advancements, has stepped down as the national director of the New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO) as the role has become too large for one person to handle effectively on their own.
“It is a critical time for optometry and Council has decided to split the national director role into two new areas of responsibility,” says Dr Frederikson.
Dr Frederikson will assume responsibility for the as-yet-untitled role which she is most passionate about, encompassing clinical and professional development, including postgraduate training, workforce issues and new optometry employment opportunities in hospitals and clinics. The role will also cover advocacy, government liaison and the relationship with the wider eye health industry to ensure both public and private eye health patients have appropriate and timely access to high quality services, says Dr Frederikson.
The NZAO is currently canvassing for another person to fill the executive officer role, which will oversee member services, general NZAO management, the NZAO Education and Research Foundation (NERF) and the NZ Optometrical Trust, the annual conference and the AGM. Both roles are initially part-time, with Dr Frederikson managing both until an executive officer is appointed.
Dr Frederikson says she’s looking forward to being able to just focus on the clinical and professional development of the country’s optometrists. “I do see the boundaries between optometry and medicine blurring at the clinical end of the spectrum and I feel strongly that the advanced eye health care available to the public from optometrists - and in the future, specialist optometrists - is a valuable resource for health and disability services in New Zealand. Progress is inevitable and so long as optometry continues to develop for the good of the patient then the future looks increasingly bright for the profession.”
Dr Frederikson has been NZAO national director since 1998, working to ensure optometry has not only survived but prospered. “An incredible amount has been achieved in that time and it is hard for new optometrists graduating from university today to imagine that prior to 1998 the use of cycloplegics by optometrists had to be under the direction of, or on a prescription from, a medical professional,” she says.
Unlike the attainment of nurse prescribing, which was supported by a dedicated team from the Ministry of Health, optometry only had the NZAO, says Dr Frederikson. “During my time, the NZAO was able to move optometry from DPA (diagnostic pharmaceutical agent) use to TPA (therapeutic PA) and prescribing onward from ‘Designated Prescriber’ to ‘Authorised Prescriber’ to ‘Glaucoma Prescriber’, and we managed to achieve the legal right to issue standing orders and gain access to pharmaceutical subsidies on the way.”
Dr Frederikson says she believes these advancements will continue and she’s delighted to be able to now have the time to continue to be at the centre of these changes.