Science

Honour: Optometry staff elected to Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society

Professor Mark Willcox and Professor Fiona Stapleton
Wednesday, 11 June, 2014

Professor Fiona Stapleton and Professor Mark Willcox in the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science have been elected as members of the international Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society.

Professor Stapleton, who is head of the School, joins the Society’s nine-member Scientific Advisory Council while Professor Willcox joins the eight-member Board of Directors as Treasurer.

They are the only Australians on the boards of the non-profit organisation, which has more than 4000 members in more than 80 countries.

“Our membership will help cement UNSW’s already well recognised reputation for excellence in research on the surface of the eye and will ensure the latest findings inform our undergraduate teaching,” Professor Willcox said.

The Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society is a global collaboration of scientists, clinicians and industry professionals committed to improving vision worldwide through a focus on understanding the composition and regulation of the eye’s tear film.

Tear film plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the cornea – the transparent layer that forms the font of the eye - and the conjunctiva - the membrane that covers the inner surface of the eyelids and front of the eyeball.

Problems with the tear film, which are common, can lead to drying of the eyes’ surfaces, ulceration and perforation of the cornea, as well as infectious diseases that can result in blindness.

Initial symptoms of these conditions can include blurry vision, discomfort or pain, redness and itching and, in severe cases, loss of sight.

Professor Stapleton is a leading expert in eye infections linked to the wearing of contact lenses and was elected to the Scientific Advisory Council by the Society’s members.

Professor Willcox is an authority on the composition of tears and is carrying out research on how their make-up could provide an early diagnosis of diseases including cancer. He was appointed to the Board by its other members.

UNSW Science media contact: Deborah Smith: 9385 7307, 0478 492 060, deborah.smith@unsw.edu.au