Upon returning to New Zealand 2 years ago after my fellowship training, I had the honour of being nominated and elected to be the Chairman of the New Zealand Save Sight Society.
The New Zealand Save Sight Society was started by a group of New Zealand ophthalmologists in 1966, initially called the NZ Society for the Prevention of Blindness.
The aim of the society is to:
Raise public awareness of the causes of blindness.
Glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy alone causes nearly 20% of all blindness in New Zealand. These are both treatable conditions if detected early. The Save Sight Society works with Government and non-Governmental Agencies to raise awareness about these and other common causes of blindness.
Encourage early detection of preventable blindness in children
Nearly 5% of children are at risk of developing a condition called amblyopia which is commonly referred to as ‘lazy eye’. The detection of this and other ocular problems in childhood is essential so that early treatment can be initiated and poor sight for life prevented.
Prevent eye injuries
Many serious ocular injuries occur in the home, on the sports field, and in the workplace. They affect all age groups and are mostly preventable. To stop injuries, ongoing education of the public in safety measures is essential. The Save Sight Society is developing strategies to improve knowledge of the hazards, and how to avoid injury.
Promote research into the causes of eye diseases and their treatment
The Save Sight Society has set up a research fund and grants to be made from this fund to New Zealanders working in the field of eye research with special emphasis on diseases that are of relevance to this country.
Improve the quality of and access to eye care in New Zealand
The Save Sight Society has concern for the elderly with failing sight, many of whom have cataract or degenerative disease. The Society aims to ensure that advances in eye treatments become available to all who are likely to benefit, and that people with incurable eye diseases have access to support services throughout New Zealand.
More recently the society has emerged as one of the major funders of New Zealand Ophthalmic Research. Over $700,000 in grants have been awarded since 2003 to ophthalmologists, trainee ophthalmologists, and University Departments of Ophthalmology. These grants have been awarded as part of the Save Sight Society's long-term commitment to research.
Over my tenure, I oversaw the 2019 funding round, and the Society was able to award two research grants and the Heather MacKintosh Scholarship to fund New Zealand ophthalmic research. The total sum awarded was $61577.
A breakdown of funded projects:
- Rachael Niederer (Auckland District Health Board). Establishment of the New Zealand Endophthalmitis Registry. Amount funded $27,160.
- Trevor Sherwin (University of Auckland). Why to women live longer than men? (The aging eye: only as old as your stem cells). Amount funded $29,417.
- Paul Kim (supervised by Jesse Gale, Capital and Coast District Health Board). A clinical trial of latanoprost in optic nerve drusen. Amount funded $5,000 via Heather Mackintosh Scholarship.
In my tenure in 2019, the Society had a successful annual scientific meeting in Wellington, titled “The next wave: What’s on the horizon for eyecare”. The Society meeting is a highlight of the New Zealand ophthalmic calendar and the conference in 2019 is no exception. It brought together ophthalmologists, researchers, optometrists and ophthalmic nurses, and generated opportunities for networking and collaboration across the discipline.
2020 is a challenging year for the Society due to COVID-19. The preparation for the annual meeting is on hold currently. However, I look forward to guiding the society to a brighter future as we recover from the pandemic.
Glossary of relevant additional reading: