More than 430 delegates attended the inaugural Specsavers Dispensing Conference (SDC), which was held as a series of one-day events across Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Melbourne and Perth from 23 July to 2 August 2017.

In opening the event, Specsavers Director of Product and Dispensing Advancement Steve O’Leary said he believed the SDC would be seen as a milestone in the development of the dispensing experience for Australians and New Zealanders in future.

“We’ve never seen more challenge in the environment in which we operate in terms of the pace and the scale of technological change, but I believe that if we develop ourselves, we will seek out the human factor in the dispensing of spectacles, ensuring that we can stay relevant and build a vibrant and thriving profession for optical dispensing,” he said.

“We should strive for excellence not because a regulator says we have to be good, but because we want to be good – and we should be seeking to be great.”

Delegates heard from a series of local and international experts, with the conference program including a mix of presentations, practical workshops and a Q&A panel session. Those in New Zealand accrued a total of 3.5 CPD points from the event.

Alicia Thompson with her ‘kids’

Myopia control and paediatric dispensing
Dr Amanda French and Prof Kathryn Rose, who both hail from UTS, delivered, in separate weeks, a session on myopia control. Dr French and Prof Rose described the three main risk factors that had been identified as contributing to the development and progression of myopia, as well as the current treatment and management options available.

Delegates also learned about the art of paediatric dispensing, with those attending the Melbourne and Perth events hearing from the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing’s (ACOD) Chedy Kalach, and those at the Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland events hearing from international guest speaker Alicia Thompson, Director of Professional Examinations for the Association of British Dispensing Opticians.

The speakers highlighted how the physical development of a child’s face required a different dispensing approach to that used in adults, and delegates who attended Alicia’s presentation additionally benefited from fitting demonstrations on her ‘kids’ – four life-size model heads of children. It was noted that children’s active lifestyles, as well as increasing levels of fashion-consciousness, were important considerations in frame selection, and delegates were given advice on how to effectively communicate with both parent and child to ensure a successful paediatric dispense.

Delegates took measurements as part of Timothy Haigh’s workshop

A practical approach to PPLs
The conference’s three workshops were linked to provide a combined practical focus on maximising progressive power lens (PPL) adaptations. Delegates were split into smaller groups to enhance the interactive learning experience, rotating through each workshop.

Timothy Haigh from RMIT University discussed the different kinds of measurement methods available to dispensers. He explained which ones would lead to the most accurate results for a variety of situations and customer types, as well as the benefits and limitations of each. During the workshop, delegates put Timothy’s teachings into practice, bringing into focus the differences each process produced.

Greg Lee, representing Zeiss, presented a detailed history of progressive lenses, noting the major technological advances in lens manufacturing technology. He also outlined the advantages of modern freeform technology and provided examples of how best to troubleshoot non-adapts.

ACOD’s James Gibbins explained the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of frame adjustment through role play, and offered a review and refresh of the basic adjustment tools and techniques for manipulating the frame for the final fit to ensure ultimate wearer acceptance.

James Gibbins (right) role played frame adjustment with Chedy Kalach

New graduates celebrated
The conference concluded with a presentation ceremony for the latest Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing graduates, with a total of 95 dispensers celebrating the completion of the qualification.

To date, more than 1,000 of Specsavers’ optical dispensers have completed the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing, and over 300 are currently engaged in the program.

A series of special guests were among the SDC attendees, including President Leigh Robinson and Steven Maskell representing the Victorian chapter of the Australian Dispensing Opticians Association (ADOA); President Martin Kosbeck and Carol Chivers representing the NSW chapter of ADOA; and President Penny Savage and Vice President Donald Crichton from the Association of Dispensing Opticians of New Zealand.

Details on SDC2 will be announced in due course. To ensure you receive the latest updates, visit ProFile, Specsavers’ in-house journal, and subscribe to the newsletter.

Comments from delegates

“SDC is a groundbreaking network for optical dispensers across Australia. It is fantastic to see a market-leading company taking a step forward and providing professional development for not only their optometrists but their dispensary staff too.” – Lachlan Cusack, Specsavers Dubbo

“Brushed up on a few old skills but was also exposed to some new skills that we can incorporate in everyday store workings. [The paediatric dispensing presentation] made us all think about dispensing for children from a child’s perspective, which shone a whole new light on how you approach the process. Overall, was great experience and was wonderful to see so many people passionate about optical dispensing.” – Zehnab Vayani, Specsavers Australia Fair

“The lecture on myopia control was interesting as it was relatable to what we see every day but encouraged our thinking on a deeper level. Research areas like this are not normally discussed at store level, so this was great in opening our minds to new thinking and expanding our knowledge.” – April Petrusma, Specsavers Hornsby

“All topics were crucially relevant. All the speakers were well researched and expert in their field. The [conference] app gave us access to ask questions and express our views, giving us direct access and input into the conference. Attending a conference like this resonates with what Certificate IV [in Optical Dispensing] was all about.” – James Cornelius, Takapuna, NZ