Professor Mark Willcox, director of research at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW (Sydney) is one of five ocular scientists to be globally recognised for contributing “significantly to the advancement of eye/vision care in the public health field”.
The American Public Health Association (APHA) recognised the work of Prof Willcox and four other prominent ocular scientists with its 2020 Vision Care Section (VSC) Outstanding Scientific Paper Award. Two papers published by the group as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold provided timely, evidence-based guidance to address and correct misinformation regarding safe contact lens wear.
The findings spurred the most cohesive alignment on a single public health issue by contact lens manufacturers, educators and fitters in the last decade
The COVID-19 Pandemic: Important Considerations for Contact Lens Practitioners and The Ocular Surface, Coronaviruses and COVID-19 and authors were honoured with the award in late October, during APHA’s 2020 Annual Meeting, which is the largest public health conference in the world.
Both papers hold the highest ever Altmetric scores for the journals in which they were published, regardless of topic. Moreover, The COVID-19 Pandemic: Important Considerations for Contact Lens Practitioners is among the top 0.2% of all research scored by the analytics service across all disciplines. They have received widespread attention in more than 40 countries, generating over 6,000 medical, scientific, and mainstream media stories with a potential reach eclipsing six billion. The findings spurred the most cohesive alignment on a single public health issue by contact lens manufacturers, educators and fitters in the last decade.
Lyndon Jones, DSc, director of the Centre for Ocular Research and Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo, initiated the project and was lead author of the first paper. Professor Willcox headed up the second paper, with Karen Walsh, MCOptom, professional education team leader and clinical scientist at the CORE, Jason Nichols, PhD, associate vice president for research and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, and Philip Morgan, PhD, director of Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester, contributing to both.
Since 1979, the APHA Vision Care Section (VCS) has been an advocate for equality in and access to vision and eye health care. By working alongside other health disciplines, the VCS helps keep vision and eye health at the forefront of healthy advancement for the good of everyone.
Other APHA award winners in 2020 included Robert Cramer, PhD, associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, for his contributions to suicide prevention training for health care providers and Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for his lifetime of service in shaping response to public health challenges over four decades.