University of Otago Dunedin School of Medicine Ophthalmology

New ophthalmology degree hailed as significant advance

Eye surgeon Dr Anmar Abdul-Rahman today becomes the first person to graduate from the University of Otago with a recently established Master of Ophthalmology degree, in a significant advance for eye research.

"I would say it's a red letter day," Gordon Sanderson, a senior lecturer in ophthalmology at Otago University, said about the Dunedin Town Hall graduation and the new degree.

"It's going to strengthen Otago, it's going to advance the profession, it's going to benefit patients."

Mr Sanderson said the degree would help develop scholars who could become future academic teachers and researchers at Otago University.

Ophthalmologist Prof Anthony Molteno said the new degree now made it possible for people "who want to do serious, in-depth research" in the field.

University officials said that increased research fostered by the degree would also benefit patients by potentially improving the diagnosis, scientific understanding, and ultimately treatment of eye disorders.

The specialised ophthalmology degree is the first of its kind in New Zealand and is also believed to be a rarity internationally.

Dr Abdul-Rahman's thesis is devoted to the use of "Fourier analysis" - a technique used by physicists in aspects of image analysis - to grade the severity of cataracts.

Dr Abdul-Rahman (38) an Iraqi-born New Zealand citizen, was yesterday "very delighted and honoured" about receiving the degree, and that it was being awarded with distinction.

The cataract analysis approach he had developed, assisted by his supervisors, Otago physicist Dr Tim Molteno, his father Prof Molteno, and Mr Sanderson, offered a quicker and cheaper way of assessing cataract severity, he said.

His research utilized data collected when he was working as a Glaucoma Fellow and part-time consultant ophthalmologist at Dunedin Hospital.

He is now working as a consultant ophthalmic surgeon for the Counties Manukau District Health Board, Auckland.

This weekend, Dr Abdul-Rahman is also celebrating the first anniversary of his wedding to Jane Seymour-Rahman, a former manager of the Dunedin Hospital eye clinic.

By John Gibb
Otago Daily Times
Saturday May 17 2008