New Zealand’s Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer, an Auckland-based consultant ophthalmologist specialising in glaucoma and neuro-ophthalmology has been named as one of the world’s top 100 women in ophthalmology in The Ophthalmologist’s first-ever female power list.

Quoting one of her “many nominators”, The Ophthalmologist wrote Prof Danesh-Meyer “was the first female professor of ophthalmology and the youngest professor in a surgical speciality in New Zealand. Several aspects of her clinical research have influenced and altered clinical management strategies in the international arena, in particular her work on imaging of the retinal nerve fibre layer in Alzheimer’s disease and chiasmal compression. She pioneered quantitative evaluation of the optic nerve and its morphological changes.”

Commenting on the accolade, Auckland University’s head of ophthalmology and a former power list awardee himself, Professor Charles McGhee told Prof Danesh-Meyer, “This is amazing and extremely well-earned recognition for you, New Zealand ophthalmology and the University of Auckland. Being recognised as one of the top-100 leading, most-influential women in ophthalmology internationally is an unrivalled feat in Aotearoa and correctly recognises your sustained international influence. This award is especially significant when we consider there are more than 215,000 ophthalmologists globally.”

The Ophthalmologist declared it would have a female-only power list in 2021 when it called for nominations in August last year. With just 17 women in the 2020 top 100 list and calls for better female representation, the 2021 list should help redress the balance, it said. “The Ophthalmologist hopes that by shining a light on female leaders in ophthalmology, it is helping to address gender equality in the industry and highlight the challenges that many women face to advance.”

Prof Danesh-Meyer said she was both surprised and humbled to be included in this list of “amazing” international women and was delighted to have helped put New Zealand on the world stage. “When I started my work on ocular imaging in neuro-ophthalmology, no one else had used the Heidelberg retinal tomograph for neuro-ophthalmology and OCT was only used for retinal disease, so it was quite a radical move to do this. In fact my first grant application was rejected because the hypothesis had no ‘scientific underpinnings’. But after a glaucoma and neuro-ophthalmology fellowship, it was clear to me that the optic nerve was not only the back of the eye but also the front of the brain!”

Prof Danesh-Meyer paid tribute to The Ophthalmologist for recognising women in ophthalmology in this year’s list, but said the real goal was to not need lists segregated by gender. However female ophthalmologists should not feel they need to be on this list, she said. “Not every woman wants an academic career and it is certainly not the only metric of success. For generations, women have been told what their definition of success should be. It’s time that we make those calls ourselves.”


Author: NZ Optics 3 may 2021

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