7 September 2022

Introducing our new clinical adviser

The College of Optometrists welcomes its new clinical adviser - Denise Voon MCOptom.

What is your background?

I began my career working for a high street multiple before moving to a combination of hospital optometry and locum work within an independent practice. 

My hospital role started with core optometry clinics, including paediatric refraction, complex contact lenses and low vision. I was then given the opportunity to specialise in some areas of interest and moved into diabetic retinopathy screening, post-op cataract assessments, and now work alongside consultant ophthalmologists in a one-stop AMD clinic. 

To help my work in diabetic and macular degeneration hospital clinics, I completed my Professional Certificate in Medical Retina. This enabled me to enhance my knowledge in retinal disease and treatments available. I found it particularly helpful to spend time looking at the research around the treatments and seeing how this work has shaped our treatment plans in clinic.

As part of the hospital’s five year anniversary for the AMD Suite at Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, I developed a series of patient videos about macular degeneration. Having experienced a family member with the condition, I wanted to produce a resource that gave patients and their family member’s access to information about the condition, treatments and support, healthy eating, smoking cessation, and activities for those with visual impairment. The success of the videos demonstrated to me how important it is to provide patients with information they can digest and refer back to in their own time. 

I have also worked as a clinical adviser at the GOC, where I provided clinical opinions for the Fitness to Practise team, giving me insight into the issues which can lead to investigations and provided important learnings for professionals in practice.

Alongside my clinical work, I have organised internal and external education for optometrists, including a wellbeing course to support colleagues through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I have also been lucky enough to practice overseas. In 2006, I travelled to Tibet with the Tibet Eyecare Project to help set up an eye clinic in Yushu. I have also worked as part of a professional volunteer team to write education material for Vision Aid Overseas.

What future opportunities and challenges do you see for the profession?

I am excited about the future of the profession. There are so many opportunities for optometrists, particularly as the population ages and the prevalence of conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration increases, putting a strain on the hospital eye service (HES). Optometrists will be vital to reducing preventable sight loss and ensuring people can see as well as possible. Optometrists are playing an ever increasing role supporting secondary care by working within the HES or in primary care with shared care models. 

The Colleges’ higher qualifications and new Workforce Vision will be instrumental in helping to increase the knowledge and practice of optometrists to better support eye care in the community, whilst providing ways for optometrists to expand their scope of practice. 

New technologies are both an opportunity and a challenge for optometrists. Keeping knowledge and skills up to date to ensure that optometrists can read and interpret the new technologies can be challenging, especially at the rate new technologies are introduced. Still, optometrists have always been adaptable and quick to adopt new roles, so I am confident that technology will only enhance the profession.

What is the College’s role?

The College champions the role of optometrists by providing guidance and information, to enable optometrists to practise effectively and safely, whilst ensuring our patients are at the heart of everything we do. 

It is the home of optometric education – both in terms of starting your journey as an optometrist in the Scheme for Registration and the future ETR route to qualification and then by accrediting a wide portfolio of post-qualification certificates. 

The College represents the profession – to decision-makers, influencing the development of new pathways and services, and to the general public – promoting the vital work of optometrists and the importance of good vision and eye health.-And is helping to shape to the rapidly changing landscape of optometry, to advance the profession of the future.

What are your objectives and vision for your new role as Clinical Adviser, and the profession?

I passionately believe optometrists have a greater role to play in eye care, both in secondary and primary care. Along with our other clinical advisers, Daniel and Paramdeep, I hope to help improve the support, guidance and CPD for optometrists so that we can meet the changing demands that will come in the future. With my background in the hospital eye service, I have seen where optometrists can really make a difference, and I hope to transfer this knowledge to help build the profession to support the growing needs and demands of eye care in the future.

Get to know me

Favourite equipment: OCT

Favourite research: DEPVIT – Depression in Visual Impairment Trial

Favourite book: Clinical Ophthalmology, A Systematic Approach - Kanski

Favourite topic area: AMD

Favourite College member benefit: Acuity Magazine

What inspired you to become an optometrist? My Dad had several eye problems when I was in sixth form, and learning about eyes through his care really inspired me into the profession.