Professor Frank Billson Research Scholarship supports vital eye care for children and young people

Each year thousands of children and young people are diagnosed with eye and vision conditions. Some of these are chronic, and almost all of them require regular appointments and check-ups. 

For many, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) has become a second home, with regular visits to the hospital’s Ophthalmology team. However, for those in regional areas, these appointments, while life-changing, mean hours and even days away from their family, friends and school.  

Thanks to support from the Professor Frank Billson Research Scholarship, more children and young people will be able to access appropriate paediatric eye care closer to home.   

Established by philanthropist Shelley Kline, the Professor Frank Billson Research Scholarship honours the legacy of ophthalmologist Professor Frank Billson AO.  

The scholarship is awarded every two years and supports clinicians from the RCH’s Ophthalmology Department to undertake vital work to improve outcomes for children with eye conditions.  

This year, the scholarship will support the vital work of Anu Mathew, Director of Ophthalmology at the RCH, and Cathy Lewis, Chief Orthoptist at the RCH.  

“At present, there is a large number of children waiting for ophthalmology appointments at the RCH. Many of these children have non-urgent yet important eye conditions but with current waiting lists, they are unlikely to get an appointment in the required time frame. We need to work with other health professionals to provide a service to the children in our community,” explained Anu.  

“With support from the Professor Frank Billson Research Scholarship, we plan to create online education modules complete with assessments that any optometrist in Victoria can enroll into.  

“Finishing these modules will provide the optometrists with a certificate of completion. This will allow us to build a network of eye care professionals in the community to ensure that more children have access to appropriate eye care,” she added.  

The program will be the first online education and collaborative care resource for community optometrists provided by a public children’s hospital in Victoria. It will also be designed to facilitate and support collaborative care for a wide range of paediatric eye conditions 

As Cathy explained, the benefits will be far reaching.  

“We believe this project will have a huge impact on paediatric eye care provision in the local and wider community.  

“By educating optometrists in the community and providing them with resources to support their patient care, we can improve access to appropriate eye care locally for children and young adults where it’s suitable.” 

“We will also improve access to the public hospital eye clinic for those children with conditions unsuitable for community-based care. All of this will have a direct impact on the child’s visual outcome, while promoting access to eye care for all children – something Professor Billson was passionate about,” said Cathy. 

Being able to access a dedicated scholarship to support ophthalmology projects is something both Anu and Cathy are extremely grateful for, and they know it wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of donors like Shelley.  

“It makes all the difference that there are funds dedicated solely to paediatric eye care. There are so many worthwhile research causes, but a dedicated fund means that we don’t always have to compete with these other causes, and we can have reliable, ongoing funding to plan projects, continually improve our services to our community and continue to be among the leading children’s hospitals,” said Anu.  

“A project of this scale and impact requires dedicated time and funding, and dedicated scholarships of this magnitude are few and far between. Simply put, this work would not be possible without the scholarship,” Cathy added. 

Donate to the Professor Frank Billson Research Scholarship