Jack Phu and Preeji Mandathara Photo: UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science
By Helen Carter
Scholarships and funding initiatives are available to help early career optometrists with their learning and research, and to attend conferences. This article covers a selection of current sources of financial assistance for optometry but is not exhaustive.
Sydney PhD students Jack Phu and Preeji Mandathara are exemplars of optometrists who have scored funding to help them in their careers. Each will receive a William C Ezell Fellowship worth $10,900 (US$8,000) from the American Optometric Foundation at the American Academy of Optometry’s annual meeting in California on 12 November.
These will enable Mr Phu to continue his research on the early detection of functional loss in glaucoma, and Ms Mandathara to continue her research investigating the role of corneal nerves and tear neuro mediators in keratoconus and its management, and to attend and present her research at international conferences.
In the 2016-2017 Federal Budget, the government committed to deliver health workforce scholarships through a single agency: Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) for the 2017 academic year.
SARRAH is a peak body representing rural and remote allied health professionals. SARRAH will update its website on future allied health scholarships from the 2017 academic year onward when it receives information from the government.
Funding is available to gain CPD and attend conferences via SARRAH’s Continuing Professional Development Scholarship which provides $1,500 to support allied health professionals to attend short courses, conferences, non-award postgraduate modules and clinical placements. Visit the SARRAH website to receive updates on health workforce scholarships including undergraduate, postgraduate, clinical placement and CPD scholarships.
Rural Health Continuing Education streams two grants to support rural health practitioners to provide more effective care and better respond to the needs of rural and remote communities by providing federal Health Department funding for CPD. The grants, managed by the National Rural Health Alliance, help rural health professionals overcome challenges accessing CPD.
Previous recipients have included Norfolk Island optometrist John Kelly who received $2,699 to attend an ODMA conference in Brisbane in 2015, and Gunnedah optometrist Tim Duffy who received $5,900 to complete a Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics from QUT in 2014.
NSW Rural Allied Health Postgraduate Scholarships valued at up to $10,000, are available to permanent allied health clinicians employed in a rural public health service to assist with educational expenses associated with post-graduate study.
The Victorian Healthcare Association CPD Subsidy Fund assists allied health practitioners working in a publicly-funded health service in rural Victoria to take part in conferences and skills development opportunities relevant to development and provision of rural health services.
The ACT Government’s Allied Health Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme pays for some tuition fees by reimbursement at the end of an approved semester of study. Funding varies and depends on the budget and applicants. Applications for the 2017 round open 1 November 2016 and close 14 February 2017.
Funding is available to conduct research including The Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Research Scholarship in the Allied Health Sciences which is valued at $40,000 for up to two years and is open to graduates in allied health sciences who are PhD candidates and have completed the first stage of their doctoral program at an Australian university.
The Tasmanian Optometry Foundation provides annual awards of up to $5,000 for optometrists working in Tasmania, Tasmanian students undertaking optometric studies or Tasmanians undertaking research in optometry. The awards are usually given to an optometrist, student or researcher wishing to upgrade their qualification or enhance their professional development or contribute to the advancement of optometry in Tasmania.
The Victorian Optometrists Training and Education Trust provides grants to optometrists to fund projects which ‘advance and foster the practice of optometry and related techniques, procedures and policies, principally in Victoria, through research and education, to improve patient outcomes, and to improve Victorian optometrists’ ability to practise and Victorian students’ ability to undertake training mainly in Victoria.’
Indigenous Allied Health Australia offers scholarships and grants to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in allied health including The Deeble Institute of Health Policy Research 6 Week Scholarship worth $1,800 for postgraduate tertiary students to conduct research for six weeks in Canberra and the $30,000 Roberta Sykes Scholarship for postgraduate students to undertake studies at recognised overseas universities for a year.
Look on the Optometry Victoria website and Facebook page for details of two postgraduate travel grants that Optometry Victoria offers annually to its members. One is for $500 to present at a national domestic conference and the other is for $1,000 to either present at an international conference or conduct research overseas. Applications are due to open around December and close early in 2017. Members will also be emailed an alert.
Jeremiah Lim with his research poster at ARVO Photo: Jeremiah Lim
In 2016, Victorian optometrist Jeremiah Lim received a $1000 Optometry Victoria travel grant to attend the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology conference in Seattle. He presented a poster on his research investigating the potential to use inner retinal layers for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mr Lim said the poster generated considerable interest which gave him confidence that the research was heading in the right direction. ‘Attending this conference had a significant benefit for me in terms of my personal scientific development and networking,’ he said in Optometry Victoria’s magazine Scope.
ARVO awards, grants and fellowships are available from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology including travel grants to attend the ARVO conference in the USA.
The American Optometric Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Optometry, offers awards, scholarships, grants and research opportunities, including funds to attend the academy’s annual meeting.
The Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science grants and assistance tool provides free access to a list of federal and state government grants and assistance information.