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CFEH ‘redefining approach’ as director Prof Michael Kalloniatis departs  

CFEH Prof Michael Kallonatis

The Centre for Eye Health (CFEH)’s inaugural director Professor Michael Kalloniatis has left the organisation amid a strategic review that is set to reshape its operations.

CFEH is a joint initiative between primary investor Guide Dogs NSW/ACT (GDN) and UNSW established in 2009. GDN currently invests around $3 million annually in CFEH to help reduce eye disease prevalence and deliver the greatest social impact for people through early detection services at no cost to NSW patients. With an extensive database, CFEH also performs research and offers education opportunities for optometrists.

For the past 13 years, Kalloniatis has led the organisation that now sees more than 13,000 patients a year. A recent independent review by PriceWaterhouse Coopers demonstrated CFEH has prevented 10,300 disability adjusted life years, saving the NSW government and NSW residents over $263 million over a seven-year period.

Despite having a clinical service focus, under Kalloniatis’ tenure staff with research responsibilities obtained $3.6 million in research funding, primarily via the competitive National Health and Medical Research Council grants process and published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers.

His final day with CFEH was Friday 4 March.

In a statement, the CFEH stated the strategic review to redefine its approach was initiated by GDN as part of future strategy development. Consultation with partner UNSW has commenced.

Under the new direction, clinical services will continue but are expected to become more targeted “to better assist patients with the highest clinical need”.

Future research and education programs at CFEH will come under the UNSW’s Faculty of Medicine & Health including the School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS), with funding distribution still being agreed and not yet finalised.

“The evolution and success of CFEH has been led from its inception by Professor Michael Kalloniatis. The CFEH would like to acknowledge his contribution and impact over the past 14 years,” a CFEH statement said.

“Michael will continue to work with UNSW to continue his research and support his students.”

Kalloniatis’ departure and the strategic review comes amid several other senior staff resignations at CFEH, but the organisation has put this down to general staff movements.

A project group across GDN, UNSW and CFEH named Horizon has been established to map the CFEH’s future strategy.

“We are all looking forward to exploring new joint initiatives to positively impact outcomes for the blind and low vision community, including in capacity development, innovation and placement opportunities for our workforce in eye health,” Ms Sarah Holland, executive manager of CFEH and member of Horizon, said.

“Though change is often unsettling, we are excited for the future of CFEH and look forward to working with our stakeholders and our community to positively impact the early detection space.

“Both GDN and UNSW are committed to ensuring the expertise developed at CFEH over the past 13 years continues to develop and has a positive impact on both patients and industry.”

In addition to the aforementioned achievements, Kalloniatis said he was proud to have seen six PhD students graduate from their CFEH-based studies. Eight more are either under examination or well into their research and thus more leaders will emerge with a CFEH-based research background.

“It’s also fantastic to see how sought-after our speakers to national and international conferences are, and to hear clinicians highly rate undergraduate students in terms of their knowledge of ocular imaging applied to eye disease after their CFEH rotations. The impact of CFEH education is at a local, national and international level,” he said.

“I thank all CFEH staff who have made the centre known nationally and internationally, and the board of CFEH and UNSW who have given me the opportunity to lead over the years. I look forward to my continued work within SOVS at UNSW.”

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