Australia's Leading Ophthalmic Magazine Since 1975

     Free Sign Up     

Australia's Leading Ophthalmic Magazine Since 1975

     Free Sign Up     

Stars shine at UNSW’S student award night

07/09/2018By Lewis Williams PhD
UNSW optometry students who reached noteworthy levels of academic, clinical or research excellence were recognised at a special event earlier this year. LEWIS WILLIAMS was in attendance.

The School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS), UNSW held its annual prize-giving dinner (for the 2017 academic year) at L`Aqua, Cockle Bay Wharf in Sydney’s Darling Harbour on June 21. This year’s dinner was atypical insofar as, unlike previous years, it was held on the evening before the official graduation ceremony as opposed to the day of the students’ graduation.

The MC for the evening was acting head of school, Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert and the guest speaker was Professor Deborah Sweeney, deputy vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University (WSU).

Sweeney, an acknowledged world leader in anterior eye and contact lens research, is better known to most as the former CEO of the Vision Cooperative Research Centre at UNSW. The school was also privileged to have noted marine biologist, Professor Emma Johnston, Dean of the Faculty of Science, UNSW in attendance to present the prizewinners with their awards.

The guest speaker

Sweeney opened her address with a brief overview of her professional career, which began at the then-new Optometric Research Foundation (OVRF). Her initial role while an early-stage optometry student was as something of a bookkeeper and humble research subject in the CCLRU (Cornea & Contact Lens Research Unit), created by the late Professor Brien Holden and colleagues in the mid-1970s (the writer was a foundation graduate student within the CCLRU).

Following her graduation, she joined the established CCLRU as a research assistant and rose to head the day-to-day activities of firstly, the CRCERT (Cooperative Research Centre for Eye Research and Technology, 1990s) and later, the Vision CRC (2000s onwards). Sweeney was also the president of IACLE (International Association of Contact Lens Educators) for many years.

She reiterated that being qualified as an optometrist opened up other career paths, including research, practice/business management, and careers in corporates related to the ophthalmic industries – especially contact lenses, ophthalmic pharmaceuticals, and instrumentation.

Despite her current position, Sweeney still maintains connections with her original calling and late last year she received the IACLE Lifetime Achievement Award at a meeting in Hyderabad (India), a city very familiar to her through her involvement in many research projects carried out in collaboration with the local LV Prasad Eye Institute and its founder Dr G Nag Rao.

In less than a decade at WSU, Sweeney has risen to become one of the university’s highest ranked academics. Discounting the position of chancellor, which is considered a largely figurehead role, Sweeney and her other deputy vice-chancellors are second only to the Vice-Chancellor and President (Professor Barney Glover).

Sweeney’s parting advice was threefold:

  1. Enjoy and be passionate about what you do, no matter what stage of your life you are at

  2. Treat every challenge, no matter how numerous they might be, as an opportunity to do better, improve oneself, and make a difference

  3. Develop your relationships, leadership skills, and associations with team members/colleagues to build better ‘networks’.

Sweeney also advised the new graduates that, despite appearances and possibly their perceptions, their education did not finish with graduation, but in fact it had only just started. Finally, she recommended that to make a difference in their world, the new graduates should strive to excel in everything they do.

The stars

Yet again, a student of optometry has been awarded the prestigious University Medal, suggesting that the entry standard into the optometry course has maintained its historically high level. Ms Anne Li not only received the University Medal, but also the BOptom/BSc Program Prize sponsored by Specsavers.

Other results saw Dr Preeji Sudharman awarded with the Brian Kirby Prize, which recognises research excellence by a doctoral student submitting the best thesis, while two prizes; the Dr Andrew Whatham/ Centre for Eye Health and the Leonard Fine/Luxottica prizes for clinical and therapeutic excellence, were awarded to Mr Tyson Xu.

Ms Laura Hou and Ms Rachel Kim shared the OVRF prize for the best final year research project in the BOptom/BSc program, and the Designs for Vision Prize for the best Primary Care Optometry results in the BOptom/ BSc course went to Ms Kathy Qiu.

The Neville Fulthorpe Prize went to Ms Lisa-Marie Voon for her performance in Clinical Optometry Stage 5. Fulthorpe is remembered as one of the most highly regarded and knowledgeable clinical supervisors who visited SOVS regularly for many years.

Although unable to attend the event, Master of Clinical Optometry graduate Ms Patricia Tsong was awarded both the CooperVision Contact Lens Prize and the OA NSW/ACT Ocular Therapeutics Prize for her achievements.

Additionally, some awards were given to current undergraduates in acknowledgement of their achievements at various stages of the course.

Finally, Ms Celine Zhang delivered the valediction speech on behalf of the graduating class.


The Stage 1 Optics Prize [Sponsored by Transitions Optical (Essilor)] for the best performance in VISN1111 and VISN1221 The Stage 2 Clinical Optometry Prize (Sponsored by BOC Ophthalmic Instruments) for the best performance in OPTM2190 and OPTM2291 The Stage 3 Ocular Diseases Prize (Sponsored by Essilor Australia) for the best performance in OPTM3131 and OPTM3231
Mr Arron (Yan-Lam) Kan Ms Paula Gu Mr Brian (Ka Lok) Wong


The Stage 3 Environmental Optometry and Dispensing Prize (Sponsored by UVEX Safety Australia) for the best performance in Stage 3 Environmental Optometry and Dispensing The Designs for Vision Prize for the best overall performance throughout the BOptom/BSc program in Primary Care Optometry The Neville Fulthorpe Prize for Stage 5 Clinical Optometry (Sponsored by Ms Judy Rainsford) for the best performance in Stage 5 Clinical Optometry (OPTM5111 and OPTM5211)
Ms Yee Sum (Phoebe) Wong Ms Kathy (Kailin) Qiu Ms Lisa-Marie (Wei Xian) Voon


The Stage 5 Research Project Prize (Sponsored by Optometric Vision Research Foundation) for the best overall mark in the research project in the final year of the BOptom/BSc program 3952 The OVRF-MAKI SHIOBARA Scholarship Dr Andrew Whatham Prize (Sponsored by the Centre for Eye Health [CFEH]) for the best performance in the CFEH Stage 5 Clinical Rotation
Ms Rachel Kim and Ms Laura (Luxin) Hou Ms Thalia Lim Mr Tyson Xu


AFT Pharmaceuticals
The Specsavers Prize for Excellence in Patient Management, awarded to a final year Bachelor of Optometry/Bachelor of Science student for excellence in patient management The Postgraduate Ocular Therapeutics Prize (Sponsored by Luxottica) for the best performance in Postgraduate Ocular Therapeutics The ACBO Prize (Sponsored by Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists) for the best overall performance throughout the BOptom/BSc programme in Binocular and Children’s Vision
Mr Nicholas Stanley Shared by Ms Melinda Toomey (pictured) and Ms Eva Yuen conferred in absentia Ms Rachel Kim


The Bachelor of Optometry Bachelor of Science Program Prize (Sponsored by Specsavers) The Leonard Fine/Luxottica Prize (Sponsored by Luxottica) for the best performance in Stage 5 Ocular Therapeutics The Susan Larter Vision Trust Prize (Sponsored by Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists) for a final year or postgraduate student who has achieved clinical excellence and/or has contributed to the practice and knowledge of behavioural/neuro-developmental optometry
Ms Anne Li Mr Tyson Xu Ms Celine Zhang


The Brian Kirby Prize for Research Excellence in Optometry (Sponsored by The Brian Kirby Foundation) for the doctoral optometry student with the best thesis The University Medal for the best overall weighted average mark (WAM) in the BOptom/BSc program 3952 The David Bard Award in Optometry and Vision Science
Dr Preeji Sudharman Ms Anne Li Ms Anne Zhang


The CooperVision Prize in Contact Lenses (Sponsored by CooperVision Australia) for the best performance in OPTM6411 and OPTM6421 (Contact Lens strand) in Stage 1 of the Master of Clinical Optometry The Optometry NSW/ACT Prize in Ocular Therapeutics for the best performance in OPTM6413 and OPTM6423 in Stage 1 of the Master of Clinical Optometry 
Ms Patricia (Wing Lam) Tsong – conferred in absentia Ms Patricia (Wing Lam) Tsong – conferred in absentia 


Eyecare Plus

Editor's Suggestion
Hot Stories



Subscribe for Insight in your Inbox

Get Insight with the latest in industry news, trends, new products, services and equipment!