As a trained optometrist working in an eye clinic, Demi Gertig regularly treated patients with vision loss and those at-risk of blindness.
Now thanks to a gift in a Will left by a generous Flinders Foundation supporter who was passionate about supporting eye health, Demi has been awarded a PhD scholarship at Flinders University to set her on her dream path of becoming a clinician-researcher.
In this role, she would treat patients in an eye clinic while also working behind the scenes in a research laboratory, aiming to make breakthroughs in eye and vision health. It will also enable her to contribute to the training and mentoring of other optometrists.
“I want to be able to do more for those patients, and to provide them with more information about their condition, and hopefully offer alternate treatments to the ones currently available, which unfortunately don’t always work all of the time,” Demi says.
Working as part of Professor Justine Smith’s world-leading Flinders Eye and Vision Health team, Demi will be focusing on Uveitis – a major cause of blindness world-wide.
The inflammatory eye condition has many causes. Here in Australia, Uveitis can be caused by autoimmune problems or an infection such as toxoplasmosis – an infection from contaminated meat – and herpes virus infection.
“Whilst we have treatments available, they don’t always prove effective and can have significant side effects with prolonged use which is often the case with Uveitis,” Demi explains.
“Using human eye tissue generously gifted to us, our lab is looking to come up with a better understanding of what causes Uveitis in the hope of then translating this into new treatments - that might involve using conventional drugs already available.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of this scholarship, thank you most sincerely.”
The Flinders Eye and Vision Health research team has a long relationship with Flinders Foundation, with Professor Smith herself receiving a PhD scholarship over 25 years ago, and the team receiving several subsequent seed grants to help kickstart new directions for their research program.
Flinders Foundation acknowledges the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the land on which the Flinders precinct was established. We acknowledge the Kaurna people’s deep and ongoing connection to land, waters and community, and pay our respect to their Elders, past and present.