Orthoptist takes office as Master of The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers

In what she called “a giant leap for orthoptists”, Liz Shilling (known professionally as Liz Tomlin), was installed this week as Master of The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, the first orthoptist ever to serve as Master in the Company’s almost 400 year-old history. 

Liz studied Orthoptics at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. In 1992 she started work at St Thomas’ Hospital, London and has worked there ever since, for the last 25 years in the role of Head Orthoptist and Eye Team Lead for the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

In her installation speech Liz talked about the strength which comes from professionals from various disciplines working together as a single ophthalmic multidisciplinary team. Throughout her working life, Liz has championed the extended roles of orthoptists, ophthalmic technicians and ophthalmic nurses in specialist eye clinics, fostering greater collaboration and sharing of knowledge. 

This approach is reflected in the professions of the Master and Wardens this year: the Upper Warden, Mike Harris, is an optometrist, the Renter Warden, Fiona Anderson, is a dispensing optician and the new Master can call on the experience of ophthalmologists, business professionals, charity CEOs and scientists within the governing Court of the Company.

In her installation speech Liz said, “ We have a challenging period ahead in the NHS where we have to re-think care. Teamwork will be critical. Eye health care has to embrace all parts of the optical family, including AI as the newest team member. The power of the multi-disciplinary team and its knowledge is much more powerful and effective in patient care than the sum of its parts. This is a key theme for my year.”

“I am also already working towards raising the profile of orthoptists and enabling them to have an international presence. My aim is to improve eye health care for orthoptic patients internationally, whilst also linking with our aims as a Company, to help ensure that no child is left behind academically or socially because of poor vision or a squint, or lack of binocular vision”.

“The role of Master gives me an opportunity to meet people from every aspect of vision care and sight loss; and to talk to influencers in the City of London about the importance of access to eye health care and I am committed to using every chance I have in the coming year in pursuit of our aim of “better vision for all”.

At the same event, the new Master presented the 2023 WCSM Master’s Medal to Dr Giovanni Montesano, of the Crabb Lab at City, University of London for his work on a simplified computational model for the interpretation and design of visual field examinations.  The Master’s Medal is awarded by competition each year and is open to early-career researchers who are within 1 year of achieving a doctorate in optometry, vision science or related fields. Other research medals will be awarded later this year.