The Power List 2020 – Power List
Professor of International Eye Health, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University of London, UK
Your three wishes?
I would wish that research funding for eye diseases in low and middle income countries was easier to come by; that WHO’s goal for Universal Health Coverage increases resources for eye care in low resource settings, and that retirement (when it comes) will be as interesting and varied as my professional life has been.
Piece of advice for your younger self?
I was painfully shy until I was in my mid-20s, so I would tell myself not to worry, and that I would eventually find my voice.
The most serendipitous moment of your career?
It was bumping into a colleague, Allen Foster, outside Moorfields Eye Hospital many years ago. When first I met him, Allen was working in Tanzania, and so I was surprised to see him. He told me about where he was working – at the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH), Institute of Ophthalmology – which had been established a few years earlier. He showed me round, and after seeing images of trachoma, onchocerciasis and the ocular complications of leprosy, I realized straight away that this was where I wanted to work. I took time off from the MD I was working on to examine the eyes of people enrolled in a trial of ivermectin for onchocerciasis in Sierra Leone, which was the least developed country in the world at the time. Shortly after that, and fortunately for me, a post became available at ICEH, and I was appointed.
The most unexpected turn your career took?
It was the 180-degree change of career from being a vitreoretinal surgeon in the UK to working on public health approaches for the control of blinding eye diseases in children in low and middle income countries. It has been a very varied, fascinating and ultimately rewarding journey, and I have worked with many wonderful and inspiring people.