The Coles Colloquium: a yearly appointment to honour long-time supporter Mr Ken Coles AM

15 July 2023
Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Coles Colloquium

Since 2013, the Coles Colloquium has been on the Save Sight Institute’s agenda as one of the most interesting and meaningful events hosted throughout the year. 

This short, yet purposeful event is a great opportunity for our researchers and clinicians to share the latest updates and developments in ophthalmology, including presentations of select, patient case studies. 

Most importantly, the Coles Colloquium is an effective reminder of the impact that generous donations to the Institute can have on our community of patients, parents, and carers, by supporting research and clinical studies as well as the many day-to-day activities of our ophthalmic practice.

Over the years, the benevolent contributions of Mr Ken Coles AM and his wife Ms Rowena Danziger have indeed been instrumental in financing a wide range of projects carried out at the Save Sight Institute. In recognition of such philanthropic benefaction, the Coles Colloquium was established to celebrate our donors’ commitment, by showcasing some of the remarkable achievements that were made possible by their ongoing support. The 2023 Colloquium deserves a special mention, as it marked the 10-year anniversary of the event, but missed the attendance of Ken himself, with his passing on 18th January 2022.

From his outstanding leadership as a Senate Fellow, to being the Director of the Warren Centre, board member of International House and Chair of the Save Sight Institute (SSI) for 15 years, Ken’s longstanding dedication to the University of Sydney and SSI cannot be understated. His unwavering generosity played a pivotal role in making the Institute the 6th world ranking Speciality of Ophthalmology that it is today, an extraordinary legacy that will certainly be remembered for many years to come.

The Coles Colloquium 2023 was held on Wednesday 28th June at the State Library of New South Wales and saw Ms Allegra Spender MP deliver the keynote address. 

Allegra is the independent member for the federal seat of Wentworth. She is a mum, business leader, and renewable energy advocate, and was elected in 2022 on a platform of climate action, integrity, inclusivity, and a future-focused economy. In keeping with these themes, Allegra spoke about sustainability and renewable energy in healthcare, a particularly relevant issue in research and clinical settings whereby common practices mostly call for single-use protective and testing equipment. In recognition of her involvement in this year's event Allegra was presented with a medal specifically made for the occasion and displaying Ken's image as a special tribute.

Following the keynote address, Professor Robyn Jamieson, Professor of Genomic Medicine at the University of Sydney and leader of the Ocular Gene and Cell Therapies Australia team, provided an overview of gene therapy in diagnosing and treating inherited retinal diseases. Professor Jamieson multidisciplinary approach targets novel ocular disease gene and mechanism identifications in model systems, with translation to clinical applications.

The event came to a close with a gift presentation to Ms Rowena Danziger in appreciation of the couple’s transformational support toward macular degeneration research. The gift comprised a framed image of the macular region of the human retina, with its cone photoreceptors in red. These are the cells that convert light into electrical pulses sent to the brain, enabling us to see the world in all its colour and beauty. 

While the presence of Ken Coles was deeply missed at the 2023 Coles Colloquium, his generosity continues to drive significant impact to the lives of many within and beyond the University’s community. We are extremely grateful to be the recipient of Ken and Rowena’s enduring contributions, thanks to which our researchers can continue to share developments in ophthalmology for years to come.