Early experiences

As a child I required squint surgery, wearing a patch and latterly spectacles. As well as greatly improving my eyesight, all of these experiences ignited a real passion and interest in eyes and optometry. I believe this also has developed a certain level of empathy for those with issues relating to their eyesight; I have experienced these first hand and can modify my testing routine accordingly as I am fully aware of the difficulties some people can face.

 

Age 12 months, with a squint which would require surgery and patching to correct.

Undergraduate training

I enrolled at Aston University (one of the original institutions to offer a degree in Optometry) in 2009. I could have graduated in 2012 with my basic undergraduate degree, but opted to continue study for an additional year to gain my Masters in Optometry (MOptom). I gained a First Class in this, along with successfully completing my Scheme for Registration (‘pre-reg’) in 2013; becoming a fully qualified Member of the College of Optometrists (MCOptom) and registered with the General Optical Council.

 

Graduating with a First Class Masters from Aston University.

(Jun 18th 2013)

Becoming a Member of the College of Optometrists at their Diploma Ceremony in Westminster.

(Nov 5th 2013)

Work experience

Prior to qualifying, I worked at a large corporate opticians on the high street. Whilst this gave me invaluable communication skills training, the mode of practice with regards to eye examinations was not to my liking. I am not a salesperson, so am not motivated by incentives or sales figures regarding how many of my patients bought spectacles. I also want to spend as much time as is necessary with each patient, build a rapport with them and look after their eyes long-term. After qualifying, I started working for a locally established independent optometrists in Market Harborough, and really honed my skills in ensuring that the best clinical service was offered to each and every patient. I continued working there full-time until 2018, and thereafter as a temporary locum.

 

I spent several years working for a High Street multiple.

 

With the son of Sir Harold Ridley, at the unveiling of a plaque outside the former home of the pioneer of cataract surgery.  As this was in the same village as I grew up in, I was involved in the in the campaign for this commemoration.

Feb 18th 2012

Teaching

During my time working in practice I supervised a pre-registration optometrist; a thoroughly rewarding experience. I really enjoy teaching and felt very privileged to be involved in the qualification of a very competent optometrist. This passion for teaching culminated in me taking a role as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire in 2018. Here I am the module lead for Anatomy & Physiology (teaching students about both the human body and the detailed anatomy of the eye) and Optometry for the Workplace (a final year Masters module covering the various work environments in optometry; trying to (re-)ignite the passion in each student for their chosen profession). I also help with clinical teaching, supervising students as they perform eye examinations on patients and each other.

 

Hospital work

In March 2020 I started a role as a Specialist Optometrist in the Ophthalmology Department at Kettering General Hospital. This role predominantly involves working alongside consultant ophthalmologists and examining the eyes of children and paediatric cases. I also work in glaucoma and diabetic clinics, performing the specialist examinations required for monitoring the conditions.

 

Since  March 2020 I have been working part-time in the Ophthalmology Department of Kettering General Hospital

Professional Engagement

Having been greatly disillusioned by the profession during my qualifying year, getting a job in a clinically-focussed independent practice was the reawakening that I needed upon qualifying. This drove me to become involved in the Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO); the dedicated representative body for independent opticians in the UK. In 2018 I was elected as Chair of the Association, a position which I greatly enjoy. I am required to represent AIO at a number of high-level meetings with other professional bodies such as the General Optical Council and College of Optometrists in order to ensure that the voice of independent practices is heard and considered.

 

Since 2018, I have served as Chair for the Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO). 

 

Research

Perhaps my greatest passion in optometry is research. My Masters dissertation was a title chosen by myself and based on a clinical case that I had seen in practice. Formulating a question and then embarking on the process of finding the answer remains satisfying to this day, and the dissertation went on to be published as a Continuing Education and Training (CET) article in one of the professional publications. I have since written several other such papers, gradually steering towards my field of expertise; retinal vascular health.

In January 2015 I embarked on a part-time PhD, based at the practice where I was working. My thesis aimed to modernise the technique that optometrists use to record the appearance of the retinal blood vessels; currently the recommended method is a very basic measurement described in 1876. Since most optometrists now routinely perform retinal photography, my research utilised a method of measuring the blood vessels in these photographs. These detailed measurements linked strongly with blood pressure measurements and also with the standard tool for measuring cardiovascular risk used by the NHS (the QRISK calculator). In my opinion, the greatest success of this research project was to demonstrate that such a technique could be easily performed in routine high street practice and suggests improvements can be made to the way in which optometrists work. I have been extremely fortunate in being able to present this research at a number of national and international conferences.

Submitting my PhD thesis.

Oct 18th 2019

 

After successfully defending my thesis, with my two PhD viva examiners, Dr Roxanne Crosby-Nwaobi and Professor Nicola Logan 

 

Feb 6th 2020

 

With my PhD complete (March 2020), I am now embarking upon further research projects. My area of research interest is predominantly around the measurement of blood pressure in the retinal blood vessels. It has recently been shown that raised blood pressure in the veins of the retina is linked with some forms of glaucoma, and this could offer an alternative treatment route for cases of progressive glaucoma. The research that I hope to conduct in this area will be possible at the practice, so watch this space.

 

Publications

 

Comparison of Static Retinal Vessel Caliber Measurements by Different Commercially Available Platforms. Heitmar, R., French C. Optometry and Vision Science (2020) [in review]

Pulsation or no pulsation? That is the question. French, C., Stodtmeister, R. Optometry Today (2020) 60:2 65-70

Associations of retinal vessel calibre with cardiovascular disease: a systematic literature review. French, C., Heitmar R. Optometry in Practice (2017) 18:3 155-170

Ophthalmodynamometry. French, C. Optometry Today (2017) 57:08 64-69

Retinal vessel analysis – a modern approach to the arterio-venous ratio. French, C. Ophthalmology in Practice (2017) 1:3 44-49

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine – optometric considerations. French, C. Optometry Today (2014) 54:21 42-45

Ocular implications of haemophilia. French C., Eperjesi, F. Optometry Today (2013) 53:21 55- 58

 

Presentations

 

British Congress of Optometry & Vision Science (BCOVS) (London, UK)

Evidence-based practice: How do we assess retinal vessels in practice? (2015)

European Vision & Eye Research (EVER) Conference (Nice, France)

Static Retinal Vessel Analysis in Routine Optometric Practice (2016)

Cross-sectional Static Retinal Vessel Analysis in Routine Optometric Practice (2017)

Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology (ARVO) (Honolulu, Hawaii / Vancouver, Canada)

Do Static Retinal Vessel Diameters Compliment Cardiovascular Risk Calculations? (2018)

Reproducibility of Static Retinal Vessel Analysis in a Clinical Practice Setting (2019)

100% Optical (London, UK)

How important is it to record the A:V ratio? (2018)

AIO Annual Conference (Cambridge, UK / Manchester, UK)

Retinal Vessel Analysis: More than the A:V ratio? (2017)

Spontaneous Venous Pulsation – What am I looking at? (2018)

Ophthalmodynamometry – Measuring blood pressure in the eye (2018)

Midland Ophthalmological Society (MOS) (Birmingham, UK)

The Retinal Vasculature: Assessment and use as a clinical biomarker (2018)

Market Harborough Diabetic Society (MHDS) (Market Harborough, UK)

Diabetes and the Eye (2017)

Vision & Visual Illusions (2018)

 

Presenting my research at the 2018 ARVO Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii

May 2nd 2018

Presenting my research at the 2019 ARVO Congress in Vancouver, Canada

Apr 29th 2019


I have given several lectures and workshops on behalf of Imedos Systems (Jena, Germany) on various subjects relating to retinal blood vessels.

 

Life outside work

Surprisingly with all of the above going on, I do make time to switch off from eyes occasionally (although the phone is always at hand!). As I was born and raised in the Market Harborough area, you will quite likely find me out walking with my partner and extended family in all weathers. I have also been a keen scuba diver for several years, and whilst exotic diving always makes a good excuse for a holiday, I love nothing more than jumping into the cold waters around Britain and going for an explore. My fascination with anatomy and physiology doesn’t let up entirely though, and I am keen to try and marry my research with my interest in diving physiology; a true labour of love.




 
 


 

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