We spoke to Dr Keziah Latham, the 2017 winner of the Neil Charman Medal for Research, about her work on low vision, its assessment and its effects. Nominations for the 2020 Research Excellence Awards are now open.
You won The Neil Charman Medal for research on low vision. Can you tell us about your research and how it relates to clinical practice?
I’m interested in assessing the function and needs of people with visual impairment. This covers a range of areas, including the most effective ways to assess clinical visual function, objective assessment of activities, such as through movement analysis, and the development and use of ‘patient-reported outcome measures’ (questionnaires) for appreciating people’s subjective difficulties and quality of life.
I hope my research can improve the efficiency of assessment for both patients and practitioners, so that we can obtain the most useful information in a straightforward way and get better outcomes and services for people with visual impairment.
What has been the biggest challenge you faced during your research career?
Being a single parent hasn’t helped, as it’s more difficult to do things like spend time in other labs and go to conferences. Having said that, academic work can be very flexible which has been invaluable.
How has your work and research progressed since you won the award in 2017?
My primary focus recently has been on projects relating to the rehabilitation needs of visually impaired people over time. I’m also determining appropriate visual function criteria for entry into shooting for the visually impaired - it’s hoped this will become a Paralympic sport.
I spent most of 2019 as acting Head of Department, which did have an impact on research progress, and responding to the current situation with COVID-19 will mean a lot of work to maintain the student experience in terms of teaching. However, I do have some grant applications in progress and if they are successful I will be looking for new PhD students.
I’ve also been awarded a three month sabbatical by Anglia Ruskin University this academic year, which will mean I can catch up on analysing the data which has already been collected.
What advice would you give to an optometrist in practice, interested in pursuing research?
I think the most important thing is to frame the question that you want to answer really carefully. The more clearly you can specify what it is you want to know, and what your hypothesis is, the easier it is to design an experiment to test that question. From there, seek advice. There are lots of aspects to a successful research project that might be new, including ethics, design, and statistics.
What did winning The Neil Charman Medal mean to you?
I was hugely honoured to receive the award. I managed to work out who had nominated me, and it was colleagues whose opinions I regard very highly. It was very special that they took the time and trouble to put me forward for the award, and to receive the accolade from my professional body.
If you would like to nominate yourself or someone else for the 2020 Research Excellence Awards, now is your opportunity. Applications and nominations are open until Monday 13 July 2020. Refer to the guidelines for more information.