Keeler: Helping Young Ophthalmologists Financially for 50 Years

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Richard Scawn (centre) with his mentors Dr. Kikkawa (left) and Dr. Korn (right).

Since Keeler established its Scholarship Trust in 1967 to mark the company’s 50th anniversary, and its Fellowship Award in 1989 to enable a young ophthalmologist to study a specialised area of ophthalmology for up to a year, 100 people have benefited, with 16 Fellowships awarded. Administered by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the Fellowship is awarded every second year.

Professor Philip Bloom, a Trustee of the Keeler Scholarship, was one of its first recipients. It enabled him to fund his Glaucoma Fellowship at Moorfields and the Western Eye Hospital, setting up his career as Consultant in a Sub-Speciality.

“The Keeler Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards in the field of ophthalmology,” commented Professor Bloom. “The fact that it is a substantial amount and has been consistent for so many years demonstrates the breadth and depth of Keeler’s
commitment to medical education and to the industry.”

Richard Scawn’s 2012 Fellowship award supported an oculoplastic and reconstructive fellowship at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) where he gained technical surgical skills and clinical experience under international experts, Dr Kikkawa and Dr Korn. Richard is now passing those skills onto to the next generation of ophthalmologists.

“I’ve always felt a profound responsibility to make the best of the training opportunity the award has afforded me. I’m training as an oculoplastic fellow in Buckinghamshire; I am an instructor at ‘wet lab’ surgical training at the American Academy of Ophthalmology;
and an editor of Eyewiki. There is no doubt the award and my fellowship at UCSD were instrumental in helping me achieve these things,” said Richard.

Commenting on the awards, Keeler’s Managing Director Abbas Sotoudeh said: “From Keeler’s perspective, we are absolutely committed to these awards as they play an instrumental role in helping young ophthalmologists get a head start in their careers, enabling them to go on and perform an important service to society as a whole.”

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100th anniversary celebrations continue with staff banquet

Judy Meakes receiving a standing ovation from Keeler employees for over 50 years of service to the company.

Judy Meakes receiving a standing ovation from Keeler employees for over 50 years of service to the company.

Keeler’s 100th anniversary celebrations continued in style on 15 June with a wonderful banquet for current and former staff and associates at the De Vere Beaumont Estate in Windsor. Set in 40 acres of parkland and gardens, the Estate includes an 18th-century mansion, a chapel, 75 event spaces and a Georgian house, which is where the luncheon was held.

Guests arrived to be treated to drinks on the lawn before entering the stunning dining hall, which was decked out in flowers and blue and white balloons to reflect Keeler’s colours. They then listened enraptured as former Managing Director Richard Keeler, whose grandfather founded the company in 1917, spoke eloquently and movingly about the early days of the company, with an emphasis on how its people make the company so special.

Lunch was followed by an awards ceremony for long-standing Keeler employees – of which there are many! The biggest cheer of the day – and a heart-warming standing ovation – went to Judy Meakes, who has been with Keeler for over 50 years.

It’s not an overstatement to say that everyone present went away with a smile and a genuine feeling of pride to be associated with – and contributing to – Keeler.

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Looking forward to the future

Abbas Sotoudeh, Keeler’s Managing Director

At 100 years old, Keeler is looking forward to the future with optimism. With access to the resources of its parent company, Halma plc, Keeler can make bigger strides than it could on its own. It also has access to a valuable resource – people to collaborate with within its sister Halma companies, such as Volk Optical.

Keeler is growing its influence in the Far East (with a strong team in place in China), India and the Middle East. It has local hubs or key distributors, or both, in developing countries.
These hubs are being encouraged to go into local production.

It is also establishing new markets in places like Africa through its links with UK Charities which support African communities; these are the customers of the future.

Keeler’s Managing Director Abbas Sotoudeh says, “We’ve been actively going out, finding out about markets around the world. What do they need and what are their immediate issues? This has really deepened innovation and growth.”

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Keeler helping eyecare project in Malawi

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Keeler has donated an ophthalmoscope/retinoscope set to a group of Cardiff University students for an eyecare trip to Malawi this August. The team of 12 second year undergraduate optometry students will spend a month in the country, providing free vision screenings, donating second-hand spectacles to local communities and teaching refraction to doctors in local hospitals.

“We’ll be will split into two teams of six, with one team based in Blantyre and the other in Lilongwe,” says Sorcha O’Hara, one of the students. “Both teams will be refracting the local community and will have the opportunity to observe ocular surgery and teach refraction within the local hospitals. The Lilongwe team will also give lectures to the hospital staff as well as carrying out sight tests at a local orphanage.

“We’re delighted with Keeler’s donation, which will go a long way to ensuring our mission to Malawi is a success.

“Last year, a similar refraction project in Malawi by Cardiff University students helped over 2,000 Malawians experience the expert level of eye care we take for granted. 1,500 people also received free spectacles, along with free hats and sunglasses for those who suffer with albinism, which is common in Malawi,” concluded Sorcha.

“We’re always very happy to support this kind of charitable work,” says Laura Haverley, Keeler’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “We believe passionately that eye care and preventing vision loss are critical to overall health and quality of life.”

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Keeler celebrates its 100th anniversary in style

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Keeler celebrated its 100th anniversary in style on 2 May with a visit from the Mayor of Windsor, a staff celebration and a huge cake.

“It’s such a landmark for any company to reach 100 years,” said Keeler’s Managing Director Abbas Sotoudeh. “To reach that milestone when the company is in such good shape and with great plans for the future is even more exciting.

“We were delighted to host the Mayor of Windsor, Councillor Sayonara Luxton, to the celebrations, and to show her around our factory. While here she met Judy Meakes, our longest-service member of staff, who has been with Keeler for 53 years and is still going strong. All Keeler’s staff gathered together to celebrate the cutting of the cake, with Judy taking centre-stage.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our employees, partners, customers and suppliers for being part of our success – and we look forward to another 100 years!”

Keeler is the only ophthalmic instrument manufacturer in the UK, specialising in diagnostic and magnification products for professionals in the optical and healthcare industries worldwide. The company, located in the Royal Borough of Windsor, is a world leader in its field and is proud to be flying the flag for UK industry.

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100 Years of Innovation from Keeler

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When Charles Davis Keeler left Philadelphia in 1906 with his wife and children to start up the Standard Optical Company in London, he could not have imagined the company he would go on to pioneer. From its foundation as a dispensing optician in London’s West End in 1917, Keeler Limited has evolved out of all recognition.

Looking back over the last 100 years, it’s interesting to see how many innovations the company introduced – from its first patented ophthalmoscopes in the 1930s, the first indirect ophthalmoscope in the 1950s, to today’s world-leading slit lamps.

This brief timeline gives some idea of the company’s evolution over the last 100 years:

1917 – Dispensing optician opened at 47 Wigmore Street, London
1926 – The first patent is registered
1929 – Opening of the Plymouth branch
1930s – First ophthalmic products launched
1935 – Sefton Lawn, Windsor purchased
1946 – Keeler starts selling worldwide
1952 – US operation incorporated
1959 – Fison indirect ophthalmoscope launched
1965 – Micro Ophthalmic surgical unit and Vernon Ingram ruby laser launched
1970s – Keeler won British Design Award for Pocket Diagnostic Set
1986 – Keeler acquired by Dollond and Aitchison Group
1987 – Pulsair non-contact tonometer launched
1989 – Pulsair received Queen’s Award for Technical Achievement
1990s – The first Vantage indirect ophthalmoscope launched
1996 – Keeler acquired by Halma plc
2000s – Keeler launched an array of products, including the first wireless indirect ophthalmoscope and the PSL Classic portable slit lamp
2010s – Symphony range of slit lamps launched
2017 – Keeler turns 100!

At 100, Keeler is certainly not resting on its laurels. The company is in good health and is on a constant innovation drive, ensuring it meets the demands of optical and healthcare professionals for many years to come.

“We’re actively going out, finding out about markets around the world – what do they need and what are their immediate issues? This has really deepened innovation and growth,” says Abbas Sotoudeh, Keeler’s Managing Director.

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Eyecare mission to Uganda provides free eye tests to over 500 rural residents

With only 11 practicing ophthalmologists* and 70 ophthalmic clinical officers** for a country of 36 million people, Uganda is chronically underserved by eyecare specialists. It is estimated that 1.5 million people suffer from avoidable blindness, a problem that is directly attributable to the desperate shortage of eye-care professionals.

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In poorer rural communities, visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error is accepted as part of normal life. The majority of Ugandans live outside the main cities, where access to services is difficult because the cost of transport is prohibitive and most treatment is unaffordable.
In January, three UK-based optometrists and an administrator set up eye clinics in four rural villages in impoverished areas of the country, in partnership with the local health-care providers. The optometrists were Debbie Young, Kirsty Hutchinson and Fiona Broome. The administrator was Rosemary Gorman, who ensured the smooth running of the clinics.

The clinics were only possible because of help from several UK suppliers, including Keeler, who donated a student ophthalmoscope/retinoscope set, as well as two sets which were purchased by the team. In addition, Ian Livingstone generously funded the team’s equipment purchases, Sussex Vision helped with a reduction on a Perkins Tonometer, and Foster Grant donated several hundred pairs of spectacles.

The short-term aim of the visit was to improve the sight of local people, while the longer-term aim was to share their knowledge with community health care workers to enable them to provide education and improved eye-care services at primary care level; to provide equipment to the Eye Unit at Jinja Hospital, one of Uganda’s 13 Regional Referral Hospitals; to work in partnership with the government’s glazing facility at Jinja; and finally to trial a new design of adjustable prescription spectacles on behalf of a UK charity.

The team tested over 500 patients and screened the vision of a further 168 patients. They also dispensed 322 pairs of spectacles. At the end of the clinics all equipment (from Keeler and other providers) was donated to the Eye Unit at Jinja Hospital. All four village leaders have asked the team to return to do further work in the future.

“It’s been an enormous privilege for the four of us to be involved in a project that has improved and even transformed the lives of hundreds of people, from the 95-year-old man who wanted to peel his vegetables and read his Bible, to the four-year-old girl who can now see to read and write,” said Kirsty Hutchinson. “Collectively, we made some difficult lives a little easier.”
“Many thanks to everyone who supported us. The equipment was donated to the hard working, very poorly-equipped Ophthalmology Department at Jinja Hospital when we left Uganda. You would be amazed by the lack of decent working equipment which with which they work. They were so unbelievably grateful!” added Kirsty.
“We’re always very happy to support this kind of charitable work,” says Laura Haverley, Keeler’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “Eye care and preventing vision loss are critical to overall health and quality of life.”

* Source: Dr Susan Kikira, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Jinja Hospital.
**Ophthalmic Clinical Officers have a Diploma in eye-care services which is a one year course offered from Jinja Hospital.

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Help Keeler Celebrate its 100th Anniversary at Optrafair

Keeler is turning 100 just a few weeks after this year’s Optrafair exhibition (1-3 April). There’s sure to be a lot of Centennial celebrations going on at the company’s Optrafair booth (number G50) so please drop by and say hello!

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As well as celebrating its Century, Keeler will of course be exhibiting its extensive product range, including:

  • The Symphony range of slit lamps (Zeiss-type and Haag Streit-type, both with digital capability)
  • The Pulsair Intellipuff non-contact tonometer
  • The Specialist ophthalmoscope and Professional retinoscope, now both with LED lighting
  • The PSL portable slit lamp
  • The Desktop Tonometer
  • Vantage LED and Spectra Iris indirect ophthalmoscopes
  • Volk lenses

Keeler works closely with a number of key optical partners, including Birmingham Optical, BIB, Hanson Instruments, Mainline Optical, Topcon and Bondeye. All will be showing Keeler’s products and offering some special deals at the show.

The company looks forward to welcoming you to its booth and hopes you will join in celebrating 100 years of British ophthalmic success!

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Merthyr Tydfil optician helping the less fortunate in Uganda with Keeler equipment

Ophthalmoscope and retinoscope set used at clinic to screen over 700 people

Eye testing equipment donated by Keeler was recently used by Ruth Easton, an optician from Specsavers in Merthyr Tydfil, on a charitable mission to Uganda. Ruth spent two weeks at the House of Joy charity’s school in the Kasala region running an eye clinic, where she and two friends set up a temporary eye clinic.

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While there they treated more than 700 people using the Keeler ophthalmoscope and retinoscope set. Almost three hundred pairs of frames – all donated from her local south Wales community – were also given away.

“I was inspired to arrange the trip to Uganda after I met the people who run House of Joy; I knew that I really wanted to do something to support them and their fantastic work,” explained Ruth. “As an optician I’m very aware of the importance of having a regular sight tests from a young age and understand that, sadly, not every child has access to eye care services.

“I can’t put into words how much joy there was in giving a 55 year old man his first pair of high prescription glasses, which not only changed the way he had viewed the world for 55 years, but also immediately improved his quality of life – or the gratitude seen in people’s faces when you gave out some simple dry eye drops which alleviated the pain and irritation they have been experiencing for years.

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“And all this would not have been possible were it not for the kind contributions made by Keeler. So, from myself and from the people of Kalagi, “weebale” (thank you) for your contribution – they have literally transformed the lives of hundreds of people less fortunate than ourselves!”

Overwhelmed by the scale of need for eye care services and the positive impact her visit had on the families she met, Ruth is now planning her next trip abroad to help those less fortunate.

“We’re always very happy to support this kind of charitable work,” says Laura Haverley, Keeler’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “Eye care and preventing vision loss are critical to overall health and quality of life.”

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Keeler Turns 100 This Year!

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To celebrate, the company is planning a number of events over the coming months, including a lecture at the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, a lavish banquet for all its employees, and a celebration at its Windsor HQ, where local dignitaries will be invited.

Keeler will also be producing a special limited edition 100th Anniversary brochure listing key milestones in the company’s history and demonstrating how the company has been at the forefront of optometric and ophthalmic technology for a century – and is still innovating to this day.

More news will follow over the coming weeks and months and we hope you will join us in celebrating a remarkable British manufacturing success story!

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