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International Myopia Institute appoints new chief scientist

Myopia child glasses kid children International Myopia Institute

The International Myopia Institute (IMI) has appointed the UK’s Professor James Wolffsohn as its chief scientist, following the retirement of Professor Earl Smith.

Wolffsohn has been a member of the organisation’s advisory board since 2016 and helped to chair the taskforces that developed its whitepapers in 2019 and 2021. The IMI was established in 2015 by the Sydney-based Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI).

Prof James Wolffsohn.

Wolffsohn was previously the head of optometry at Aston University, Birmingham, UK, before becoming the deputy executive dean for life and health sciences. He is also currently the associate pro-vice chancellor. His research focus is on ophthalmic technology, mainly related to contact lenses, the tear film and myopia.

“I am honoured to have been nominated as chief scientist of the IMI,” Wolffsohn said.

“After training as an optometrist, some of my earliest research was on accommodative microfluctuations in myopic (compared to other refractive errors) children in Hong Kong. I have observed this field translate from the ‘lab’ to transforming the healthy visual outlook of many children, whilst the increase in myopia and its associated visual risks has reached epidemic proportions in large parts of the world.”

However, as a relatively young area of clinical practice, Wolffsohn said there was still work required to nurture and support high quality science and translate it into evidence-based best practice guidelines for clinicians.

“The IMI has brought together the world’s best minds in the field to guide practitioners and influence governments/regulators, and I look forward to continue to work with them,” he added.

IMI executive director Dr Monica Jong, from the University of Canberra, said the organisation was looking forward to working with Wolffsohn to help IMI advance research, education and awareness in myopia.

Dr Monica Jong.

“It is an honour to have worked with Professor Smith over the years, and we are thankful for his service, and continued service as an advisory board member,” she said.

Smith is renowned for his ground-breaking research in myopia, in particular emmetropisation and refractive development in primate models of myopia. His work in understanding the role of relative peripheral hyperopia, myopic defocus, the role of light levels and spectral distribution has led to many of the clinical applications we see today in myopia management.

He recently retired from his faculty position in the College of Optometry at the University of Houston, Texas, where he was on the faculty for more than 40 years.

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