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Dr Akilesh (Aki) Gokul is a therapeutically qualified Optometrist, specialising in keratoconus.

Aki holds a Bachelor of Optometry (First Class Honours) from The University of Auckland. Throughout his undergraduate study, Aki was intrigued by the multitude of ways in which a person’s vision can be affected by the wide range of eye conditions and the fact that while the ability to treat many of these conditions had progressed immensely, there were still many shortcomings.

It was these shortcomings that inspired Aki to undertake novel research to further his knowledge on eye conditions that affect the front of the eye, and develop new, more effective treatments, in turn contributing to the wider community of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in New Zealand and around the world.

Aki began his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the Department of Ophthalmology at The University of Auckland in 2013, supervised by Professor Charles McGhee and Associate Professor Dipika Patel; a world-renowned team of researchers specialising in anterior eye conditions. Aki’s PhD was focused on keratoconus, particularly the epidemiology, characterising how the condition progresses and halting or slowing down progression of the condition through a procedure called corneal collagen cross-linking. Aki completed his doctoral thesis in 2016, passed the oral exam with no further corrections required in 2017 and was awarded his PhD in 2018.

Post PhD, Aki is committed to a career as a clinician-scientist. He is currently conducting post-doctoral research within the Department of Ophthalmology at The University of Auckland, looking into the clinical characteristics and contact lens management of keratoconus pre and post corneal transplantation, as well as furthering his research on corneal collagen cross-linking.

With Mortimer Hirst boasting some of the best keratoconus specialists in New Zealand and around the world, Aki was ecstatic to join the team in 2015. Mortimer Hirst is also invested in furthering ophthalmic research in New Zealand, currently the only practice in New Zealand chosen for a clinical research outreach programme for final year optometry students and for the recently established Clinical Master of Science in Optometry degree in contact lenses from the School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) at The University of Auckland. In addition, Mortimer Hirst is in collaboration with the Department of Ophthalmology at The University of Auckland on several research projects, some of which made up part of Aki’s PhD and make up part of his post-doctoral research.

Aki had the privilege to undertake his doctoral studies through several scholarships awarded on academic merit including The University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship and New Zealand Association of Optometrists Post Graduate Scholarship, and Post-Doctoral Clinical Fellowship to continue his research post PhD. He also received an undergraduate Summer Studentship from The University of Auckland.

Aki is passionate about training the future generation of Optometrists and Physicians in the many facets of eye care. He is currently involved in teaching the undergraduate laboratories in the Bachelor of Optometry (BOptom) programme and ran the Binocular Vision specialty clinic at The University of Auckland in 2013. Aki is involved in teaching the theoretical and practical aspects of eye disease under the Ophthalmology section of the special senses module of the part III and V Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBCHB) programme at The University of Auckland, School of Medicine.

In addition to conducting general optometric services such as eye examinations, visual screening, children’s vision, myopia control and specialty contact lens care for Keratoconus and OrthoK (Orthokeratology), Aki’s interest in anterior segment eye disease extends from primary care at Mortimer Hirst to tertiary care both in the public system at the Ophthalmology Department at Greenlane Clinical Centre and Professor Charles McGhee’s private clinics at Eye Institute. These clinics involve a vast array of anterior segment conditions and their management, including post-surgical care of corneal transplantations and other eye surgery, as well as a specialty corneal collagen cross-linking (a procedure now routinely carried out to slow down or halt the progression of keratoconus) clinic, which formed a large part of Aki’s PhD.

In the four-and-a-half years since starting his doctoral studies, Aki has been an author/co-author on 11 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles (nine of which are on keratoconus and its management), given 20 presentations at national and international scientific conferences (two invited lectures) and five poster presentations (one prize for best poster). He has also published in the ‘Eyes on Ophthalmology’ section of NZ Optics, educating Optometrists and Ophthalmologist alike on advances in anterior segment research and treatment.

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