Renowned Australian doctor to head International eye organisation

April 14 / 133

Professor Hugh Taylor, Melbourne Laureate Professor and President of the International Council of Ophthalmology
Professor Hugh Taylor, Melbourne Laureate Professor and President of the International Council of Ophthalmology

Eye health expert Professor Hugh Taylor, Melbourne Laureate Professor and the Harold Mitchell Chair of Indigenous Eye Health has been named President of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO).

He is the first person from the southern hemisphere to be appointed to this role. Professor Taylor is recognised worldwide for his leadership in trachoma, advocacy for improved Indigenous eye health and other initiatives to eliminate avoidable vision loss.

He is a previous Vice President for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, has been the ICO Director for Advocacy and is the current ICO Treasurer. Within Australia he was Professor of Ophthalmology at the University for 20 years and established the Centre for Eye Research Australia. He is also Deputy Chair of the board of Vision 2020 Australia. 

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Professor Stephen Smith congratulated Professor Taylor on his appointment.

“Professor Taylor brings with him great experience in both clinical and research work. He has been a champion of improved health outcomes for Australian Indigenous communities,” he said.

“His early experience of reviewing Pakistan’s eye care services on behalf of the World Health Organisation led him to take up the challenge of convincing governments to take vision loss seriously and demonstrating why––with limited and competing health dollars––eye care must be made a global priority.”

Professor Taylor’s new role with the ICO comes at the same time as the most recent statistics on blindness were published in a study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Australia has recorded a 21 percent reduction in the prevalence of blindness in the last 20 years, according to the Global Burden of Disease study.

“These figures are encouraging, as even though the world’s population increased over this time, the rates of blindness have reduced dramatically so that the actual number of people who are blind has decreased,” Professor Taylor said.

In high-income countries like Australia, the most common cause of blindness changed from cataract in 1990 to macular degeneration in 2010.

While Australia is performing well globally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders still experience higher rates of blindness due to cataract, uncorrected refractive error, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma.  

“While these figures are encouraging for the general population, the concern is that we are still not making headway with Indigenous Australians, as they continue to miss out on the eye care they need.  More work needs to be done,” Professor Taylor said.

Professor Taylor has also been recognised by Johns Hopkins University in the United States where he was inducted into the Society of Scholars on 7 April. He was a Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Institute at Johns Hopkins University with joint appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology and International Health for many years.This acknowledgement honours distinguished former Johns Hopkins faculty who have gained marked distinction in their fields working elsewhere.  

Professor Taylor started his two year appointment with the ICO at the 2014 World Ophthalmology Congress® on 2-6 April in Tokyo, Japan.  

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