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New head of UNSW optometry program revealed

17/10/2018By Matthew Woodley
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UNSW has announced The George Institute for Global Health’s Associate Professor Lisa Keay as its new head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS).

The appointment marks a full circle for Keay, who graduated as an optometrist from UNSW in 1994 and has since completed a PhD in epidemiology and a Masters in Public Health. She will take over from outgoing three-term head of school Professor Fiona Stapleton during a one-month handover period in February, and Keay said she was fortunate to inherit such a strong program.

“I don’t think I’m going in with a very big reform agenda, but I will be talking with people and finding out where some good opportunities might be. I come to the role with a very strong background in public health and there are opportunities to build on,” Keay said.


“Even though we have a great healthcare system here, there are always things that we can do to optimise it, particularly when some people have long waits to access services.”
Lisa Keay, SOVS

“I have an active program of research and I’ll continue to work on that, and a lot of that focus is on service delivery for eye health in Australia, as well as globally. Even though we have a great healthcare system here, there are always things that we can do to optimise it, particularly when some people have long waits to access services.”

However, while comfortable with the position the school is currently in, Keay will also have to negotiate a changing class structure next year, with study periods set to change from two semesters per year to three terms. Aside from research, Keay told Insight she would focus on training the best optometry students for the profession and ensuring there are good opportunities for clinical placements.

“I’ll continue to support that – in particular placements in rural parts of the state, which are really important because they help to maintain the workforce across the state,” she said.

In addition to her work at the George Institute, Keay has also conducted research at Johns Hopkins University and a variety of private enterprises, including the Cornea and Contact Lens Research Unit [now Brien Holden Vision Institute].

“My post graduate research was a nice tie-in, as I’d worked on the development of silicone hydrogel lenses and then I got to answer the big question with my PhD of whether they were safer or not,” she said.

“That gave me a very good training platform in research methods in public health and epidemiology that has really been the foundation of my work since then.”

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Keay’s initial appointment will run until February 2024.

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