Keynote Speakers

Alison Jones

Professor in Te Puna Wānanga, School of Māori and Indigenous Education, University of Auckland

Alison Jones is a professor in Te Puna Wānanga, School of Māori and Indigenous Education, at the University of Auckland. Alison is a Pākehā (descendent of white settlers in New Zealand). Her work and writing is in the field of Indigenous-settler educational relations, particularly Māori-Pākehā relations, both in the early 19th century and in modern work places. She leads a popular ‘cultural learning’ programme for non-Māori academics aimed at New Zealanders’ positive understandings of ourselves in a colonised land.


Unsettled: the possibilities for positive non-Indigenous education

Alison addresses the complicated matter of settler-indigenous relationships as they intersect with curriculum development in optometry education. This is not a how-to guide so much as a consideration of some of the political, research, and personal work that we, as non-Indigenous educators, might need to undertake in order to do this work.


Colin Green


Professor Colin Green is a cell and molecular biologist with 40 years research experience working in biomedical science. He has published over 190 full papers and book chapters including two papers in Nature and one in Science and won the International Robert Feulgen Prize in 1992 for his cardiac gap junction work. He has supervised 57 postgraduate students (27 PhD) to completion and is an investigator on funding received at the University of Auckland since 1993 totalling over $23M, including three HRC Programme Grants. In 2004 he co-founded CoDaTherapeutics (NZ) Ltd. and in 2006 CoDa Therapeutics Inc. USA. This was restructured to form OcuNexus Therapeutics, Inc. in 2017. One of his drug candidates is at pivotal Phase IIB stage for non-healing corneal lesions and one is about to enter two Phase II trials for retinal disease. Colin is a named inventor on 280 patents in 32 patent families and received a Vice-Chancellor’s Commercialisation Medal in 2014.


Finding the Gap for Ocular Therapeutics – The Journey to Treat the Inflammasome

In 1999 the first patent for Nexagon®, an oligonucleotide that stops production of Connexin43, was applied for. Two further candidate therapeutics targeting Connexin43 hemichannels, Peptagon™ and Xiflam, have been developed and the combination of human trial data and research has elucidated their mode of action in shutting down activation of the inflammasome, a fundamental pathway in chronic disease. Hemichannel block has proven to be effective in multiple models of diabetic retinopathy and dry AMD. Nexagon® is licensed to Eyevance Pharmaceuticals for corneal treatments including non-healing ocular burns and is undergoing final clinical trials, and oral Xiflam is about to enter Phase II trials for diabetic macular edema and geographic atrophy with potential to transform the treatment of retinal disease. This talk will track the saga of these candidate therapeutics from the formation of CoDa Therapeutics in 2004, restructuring into OcuNexus Therapeutics in 2016, agreement with GSK for preclinical Xiflam data, to where we are today. Over $US80M has been raised and over 270 patent applications submitted in 31 patent classes. Research from the University of Auckland Optometry and Ophthalmology departments has underpinned these developments, with 40 manuscripts published in the last five years alone.




Steven Dakin

Head of School of Optometry & Vision Science

I study human vision using psychophysics (the measurement of the limits of performance), computational modelling and brain imaging. My basic research examines how we recognise objects (such as faces or words) in central and peripheral vision. My applied research is concerned with vision in neurodevelopmental disorders (such as autism) and psychiatric illness (such as schizophrenia). In Auckland my work has focused on measuring vision in children – using technologies like eyetracking, virtual reality and tablet computers – and developing treatments for disorders such as amblyopia (“lazy eye”).


Eyetracking workshop

The last decade has seen eyetracking technology transform from an expensive, lab-based technology, into an affordable consumer technology with diverse “real world” applications. This workshop will introduce attendees to recent developments in eyetracking and how these technologies can be used in the clinic to assess visual function in children and adults. There will be five stations covering:

  • The use of consumer eyetrackers to quantify ocular misalignment
  • Optokinetic measures of refractive error and visual field loss
  • Use of fixation behaviour to assess neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder
  • The potential for smartphones and tablets to be used as eyetrackers
  • Automated assessment of colour vision deficits using optokinetics

The workshop will be run by SOVS staff who are active in this area of research and will afford attendees the opportunity for “hands-on” experience of various testing systems and to discuss opportunities for the development of new tests.


Marcy Tong

Professional Teaching Fellow and the Lead Optometrist at the School of Optometry and Vision Science Dry Eye Clinic, University of Auckland

Dr Marcy Tong graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in Canada in 1997 and has worked as a therapeutically qualified optometrist in various roles in Canada, USA, Australia, the UK, and New Zealand.  She is currently a Professional Teaching Fellow and the Lead Optometrist at the School of Optometry and Vision Science Dry Eye Clinic at the University of Auckland.  She has established our clinic as a centre of excellence using evidence-based recommendations of TFOS DEWS II and runs the clinic weekly in order to teach the final year students this emerging new specialty area.  Marcy has also delivered various CPD workshops and presentations to external practitioners and fellow staff at SOVS.


Dry Eye Workshop 

Dry Eye is a chronic disease that is increasing in prevalence and severity and is currently undertreated in Australasia.  This workshop will highlight the latest innovation used in our specialty clinic at the University of Auckland School of Optometry and Vision Science in order to successfully diagnose and manage dry eye patients. Evaluation techniques using the state-of-the-art technology of the Oculus Keratograph 5M and the TearScience Lipiview II will be demonstrated.  Treatment options that will be presented include E-Eye IPL and Lipiflow Vectored Thermal Pulsation.

Dr. Ehsan Vaghefi

Senior Lecturer in Physiological Optics

Dr Ehsan Vaghefi holds a joint appointment as a research fellow (Molecular Vision Lab and Auckland Bioengineering Institute) and lecturer in Physiological Optics (School of Optometry and Vision Sciences). His appointment is a strategic initiative to develop a joint research-led teaching program in Physiological Optics. It also provides him access to a talented pool of potential graduate students with a mix of optics and modelling backgrounds, to perform both the computational and experimental portions of his research.

Dr Vaghefi received his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Tehran in 2005 for his bachelor project based on x-ray based biomedical imaging systems. He continued his education at the University of New South Wales where he obtained his Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences in 2006. The focus of his masters project was computer modelling of the heart’s electrical activity. He then joined the Auckland Bioengineering Institute to model and image the microcirculation of the ocular lens for his doctoral thesis.

Dr Vaghefi has been developing magnetic resonance imaging techniques to non-invasively monitor the fluid fluxes inside the ocular lens. His achievements have been published in highly respected international biomedical journals. Dr Ehsan Vaghefi is the founder and CEO of Toku Eyes ( ) , a start up out of The University of Auckland focused on developing inexpensive and innovative ophthalmic technologies for more equitable and standardizes clinical outcomes.


Artificial Intelligence in clinical optometry

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has been progressing very rapidly in recent years, especially in ophthalmology and optometry. Most of these advances were geared towards image-based disease diagnosis and diabetic retinopathy (DR) has been one of the first eye diseases to be identified using AI. However, clinical implementation of AI has been struggling due to poor user (clinician) interface design and lack of clinicians and patients trust in AI. In this workshop we will present several series of fundus photos, from diabetic patients that have attended the National Diabetic Screening services. You would be grading these images with different level of AI assistance, in order to gauge the understand 1) benefits and shortcomings of AI, 2) level of trust in AI and 3) effectivity of different levels of AI assistance on clinician’s performance.


Cathie Walsh

Staff Equity Manager, University of Auckland

Cathie Walsh is the Staff Equity Manager at the University of Auckland.  She has a background in psychology and training and has worked for many years in education, health and law primarily in the areas of equity and social justice.


Unconscious bias and implicit association

International research has detailed pervasive evidence of unconscious bias in employment, education, health, justice and many other areas of life. They occur without our awareness and may often be incompatible with our conscious values and considered actions.

During this presentation, we will demonstrate how unconscious bias and implicit associations occur and discuss some of the evidence, impact and consequences of bias in the workplace. This workshop will explore strategies to assist reducing or overcoming bias particularly in decision-making areas such as recruitment, performance appraisal, work allocation and in meetings.