Dispensing Optician of the Year – The dispensing optician who has done the most to promote and expand the role of dispensing or who has brought the benefits of optics to a wider audience.
The winner is: Michael Gilsenan - Lee Opticians, Warrenpoint
The runners-up are: David Barnaby - Barnaby Opticians, Bournemouth - and Nick Atkins -Positive Impact and Proven Track Record
Michael Gilsenan - Lee Opticians, Warrenpoint
Based in Warrenpoint, County Down, dispensing optician Michael Gilsenan (pictured) has done an enormous amount across the province in promoting eye health, especially with regard to children’s screening.
In his practice, Lee Opticians, he has set up a centre to fill the gaps he believes are present in the way children are assessed. “I don’t think they are going through the right tests,” he told OT. “There are a lot of issues which just aren’t being picked up. I’m passionate about children’s vision, it’s something very rewarding and importantly, it’s a problem we can do something about.”
After gaining a diploma in school vision, Mr Gilsenan became even more determined to make a difference in an area he was already very interested in. The screening he performs in his practice also attracted the attention of local media and was featured on Irish news giant RTE and later on BBC Northern Ireland.
To spread his message about increasing the level of care to young people who may be struggling at school, Mr Gilsenan has spoken at several conferences on the subject to fellow DOs and optometrists.
The clinic has gone from strength to strength, with new innovations in treating children, with dyslexia a large part of what makes the practice stand out from the crowd.
Mr Gilsenan’s work has also increased the reputation of the profession among the wider-public. Within the industry he has also enhanced the standing of DOs, showing that a specialism can be a very rewarding pursuit away from the every-day job of dispensing.
The DO is extremely passionate about young people and few in the profession have done as much as he to increase awareness of the issues of child screening and visual stress related to dyslexia and dyspraxia. To his peers he is an inspiration and in his area a spokesperson on a very important issue.
David Barnaby - Barnaby Opticians, Bournemouth
Since 1974 David Barnaby’s optical boutique – or Barnabys Opticians as it’s better known – has been both serving the needs of the local community and providing frames unavailable anywhere else in the UK.
It is his unique selection of frames, from authentic vintage stock right through to limited editions by top designers, as well as the latest European fashion frames ordered from MIDO and Silmo, that attracts a nationwide clientele.
Despite being located in a fairly-quiet part of Bournemouth, Mr Barnaby runs a practice which would not have been out of place on King’s Road in its pomp. “When I started out I wanted to run an optical boutique, which is what we’ve pretty much done. You can get things here that simply aren’t available elsewhere and people know that.
“If there’s a limited edition coming out we’ll get it, it’s not just about brand names. A lot of our customers are very fashion-savvy, they know what’s one of last year’s frames so we keep updated but then have vintage styles too. Whatever people want they can find it here.”
Looking at the impressive range of frames you’d be forgiven for thinking Barnabys was just aimed at high end clientelle, but on the contrary, it has a range for any budget and have many returning patients who have been coming in for eye tests for over 30 years and just ‘pop in for a coffee’ when passing by.
The practice has won several local business awards and was placed in the top eight list of the ‘best shopping experiences of the year’ in 2010, an award voted for by the public in the Bournemouth Tourism Awards.
It’s a tough balancing act between being a community practice where people pop in for a chat and also having such credibility in the fashion stakes that people will travel hundreds of miles to source exclusive designs from your practice – yet David Barnaby has done just that.
He provides both an excellent service and is the perfect role model for DOs starting out, and the independent sector as a whole. He has shown how a dispensing-led business can be built from a local shop into a nationally recognised store by creating a niche and giving excellent service to every customer, no matter what their needs.
Nick Atkins - Positive Impact and Proven Track Record
Former BCLA president and director of the board of ABDO Nick Atkins has made a real name for himself in the industry, leading by example in increasing the role of a dispensing optician.
“As optometrists move increasingly into the realm of being clinicians, I feel that there is scope for dispensing opticians to take on greater responsibility,” he believes.
In his varied career Mr Atkins has shown what can be done from a background as a DO, he began diversifying by specialising in contact lenses before gaining experience in marketing and sales with Bausch & Lomb. This knowledge he now passes on to practitioners across the country through his most recent ventures.
As a director of in-practice training company Positive Impact and Independents Day organiser Proven Track Record, he has helped increase the skills of both DOs and optometrists across the country – especially in the cause of helping independents to compete with multiples.
Over the years Mr Atkins has become a well-known face in the profession, co-authoring posters, clinical papers and as an ABDO contact lens practical examiner, yet he has never forgotten his roots.
“I’ve always been a proud DO, although my career has taken me all sorts of ways” he told OT, “one of the things in my mind is that being a DO shouldn’t be a barrier to you doing anything in the optical world. I hope that I’ve shown that, and if anything I’ve done can open doors for others then that can only be a good thing.”
He has been an inspiration to fellow professionals throughout his career, and is pushing forward the reputation and standards of DOs, independents, and optics as a whole shows the industry would be a poorer place without him.
While many DOs are content to do their day job, he has gone above and beyond and shown what can be done with plenty of effort and determination.
This category was judged by AOP chief executive Bob Hughes, AOP President and Optical Confederation convenor Don Grocott, LOCSU director of education & development Gill Brabner and AOP professional adviser Geoff Roberson.