Kiwi eye surgeon recognised in King’s honours list
Prof Helen Danesh-Meyer was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2023 New Year Honours

Kiwi eye surgeon recognised in King’s honours list

January 30, 2023 Staff reporters

University of Auckland Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for her services to ophthalmology in the King’s 2023 New Year honours list.


It’s a tremendous honour, said Prof Danesh-Meyer. “It’s a recognition of the wider team involved in our patient empowerment and professional education efforts, shining a light on the need for joined-up approaches involving patients, healthcare professionals, higher education and government sectors to tackle important chronic conditions of ageing, such as glaucoma.”


The award highlights Prof Danesh-Meyer’s groundbreaking career as the first female professor of ophthalmology and the second female professor in any surgical specialty in New Zealand. She is the Sir William and Lady Stevenson Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Auckland, where she heads the Academic Neuro-Ophthalmology and the Glaucoma Research Unit of the New Zealand National Eye Centre. She is also chair of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists’ (RANZCO’s) Women in Ophthalmology group, where she has helped lead the introduction of policies to reduce inequity and promote diversity and inclusion in clinical and scientific training.


Professor Charles McGhee ONZM, head of the ophthalmology department at the University of Auckland, said the award caps-off a brilliant year for Prof Danesh-Meyer. “Undoubtedly, Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer is the outstanding Kiwi ophthalmologist of her generation, already recognised by multiple awards. It is absolutely fantastic and so well-deserved that she has now been formally recognised in the New Zealand 2023 Honours list as CNZM. Her award not only recognises her landmark international research but also her strong support for women in surgery and her lifetime advocacy for patients – particularly through Glaucoma New Zealand (GNZ).”


Also cited in the Honours list for her service to the community, Prof Danesh-Meyer founded organisations to advocate for the rights of patients, promote public health and science and inform government policy, including co-founding GNZ, of which she’s chair. Neil Richardson, chairman of the board of Vision Research Foundation, a new charitable trust founded by Prof Danesh-Meyer, said, “Helen is a person of incredible vision, excellence and energy, who will take the momentum of this most deserved recognition to drive forward initiatives to advance science and public health.”


With more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications to her name, Prof Danesh-Meyer’s research has yielded key insights into the causes and improved management of glaucoma and other leading causes of blindness in New Zealand. She has received multiple awards for her contributions, including RANZCO’s 2022 College Medal, the top recognition for outstanding professional contributions; the New Zealand RANZCO Branch’s 2022 Dorothy Potter Medal; and the 2022 Paul Harris Rotary Medal for community service. She also delivered RANZCO’s 2022 Dame Ida Mann Lecture and was named as one of the top 100 most influential people in ophthalmology in 2022.