Dr James Armitage - Researcher
I studied optometry between 1992 to 1995, which were some of the most enjoyable years of my life (apart from exam time perhaps). I love clinical practice and a highlight of my undergraduate years was a six- week placement working at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe.
In my final year, I developed an interest in research and decided to undertake post graduate studies that investigated factors involved in the aetiology of keratoconus (a disorder affecting the shape of the eye). This experience was fantastic and led me to pursue a career in medical research.
After a four-month break travelling around Europe in a campervan, I began my PhD, examining the role of omega-3 fatty acids in retinal function. Over the course of my PhD studies, the scope of my project broadened to include the effects of maternal fatty acid intake upon offspring cardiovascular function. After my PhD studies, I took up a postdoctoral position at King’s College London and spent three years in London before returning to Melbourne. I now run a research group in Anatomy and Developmental Biology and collaborate with scientists from around Australia and the world.
In the last two years I have visited Brazil, Japan, Chile and the USA to conduct or speak about my research. My studies primarily focus on the manner by which maternal diet can “programme” the development of obesity related hypertension in her offspring but I have not lost a passion for optometry or vision science by a long shot.
I enjoy clinical optometry and over the last fifteen years or so have been fortunate enough to practise in a range of settings: government clinics, private and large chain practices in metropolitan Melbourne, country Victoria and even far north Queensland. I also collaborate with long-time friends to undertake research that considers the interaction between peripheral blood pressure and intraocular pressure in the development and progression of glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in Australia.
This mix of clinical practice, optometric and non-optometric research is, for me, the perfect balance. However, my ‘advantage’ over many other scientists is the security and earnings potential that comes with being a clinician.
I would recommend optometry to anyone that aspires to a mix of clinical and research work, as the opportunities are enormous.