The Power List 2021 – Power List
Professor of Molecular Ophthalmology at University College London Institute of Ophthalmology; Group Leader of Ocular Genomics and Therapeutics at the Francis Crick Institute; and Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, UK
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I was appointed Professor of Molecular Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL) last year. This was not something I ever considered a possibility as a trainee ophthalmologist. I love research – always have done – it excites and energizes me, and I pursued this as an escape from routine clinical service provision. It was only when I was awarded my Clinician-Scientist fellowship from the Wellcome Trust in late 2016, together with the prestigious Wellcome Beit Prize, that I realized I could tread the path to becoming a professor one day. I could not have been happier when I received the news last summer in the middle of the pandemic – my silver lining. The process is independent and rigorous, with very eminent scientists across the world endorsing the promotion. It has brought me a sense of personal fulfilment and a drive to support the careers of others so they can achieve their goals and potential, building a long-lasting positive legacy. I love the fact that so many people have said that I break the stereotype, I am proud of all I have achieved and hope that I can be a role model for others who dare to dream of all possibilities.
Why is it important to celebrate women in the field this way?
I think it’s fantastic that we are recognizing and celebrating women in this Power List. It’s a triumph to see their contributions that have helped to shape the field of ophthalmology. Highlighting the successes and achievements of women will motivate and inspire many more, as we need female role models. However, I personally would like to see more women being acknowledged in the joint Power List as for years, men have dominated. We have a relatively equal representation of women and men in junior training grades in ophthalmology, but less than one-third of women are consultant ophthalmologists and even less becoming senior academic clinician-scientists. Hopefully, we can aim for an equal representation next year and set a precedent for the future.
What can be done to make the field more diverse?
I strongly believe in equality for everyone. Ophthalmology, known to be one of the most competitive specialities to enter as a trainee doctor, is at first glance very diverse, as it attracts the best. However, as those young bright stars climb their career ladder, gender imbalance becomes more evident as well as racial inequalities at senior positions, with the combination of both female and non-white being one of the most under-represented. All those in senior leadership roles that are making decisions about who should be invited to sit on committees, keynote speakers at scientific meetings, members of policy-making panels, and those deserving promotions must be mindful of who they are selecting to showcase and lead our field. What message does it send out when there are very few women or individuals from minority ethnic groups representing a specialty with such diversity at the junior levels? It is all too easy to call upon the same select group of people, so take a moment to think about someone completely different. If, given the chance, that individual may provide a completely different perspective, enrich the activity or environment, contribute to innovation, and increase productivity. So my advice for everyone is to actively think about diversity to ensure we address the imbalance and demonstrate to our future leaders that if they work hard and strive to be the best, they will have equal opportunities as they approach the top.