Myopia Profile


Charting a path through myopia: from clinician to researcher to advocate - Q&A with Dr Monica Jong

Posted on March 26th 2024 by Dr Monica Jong

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Today, myopia is recognized as a significant public health concern;1 however, this significance was not always fully appreciated.1,2 Through systematic inquiry and collaborative efforts, researchers, clinicians, educators, policymakers, and public health experts have illuminated the profound impact myopia has on an individual’s ocular health and quality of life, as well as societal well-being.1,2 Dr. Monica Jong is the Global Director of Professional Education, Myopia at Johnson & Johnson Medtech, and has played a pivotal role in the paradigm shift from myopia as a mere refractive error to a complex condition of substantial epidemiological significance, having seen the impact of poor vision from her humanitarian efforts in remote Australia and Vietnam, along with her research. We speak to her about the importance of global education and leadership in creating this shift and making eyecare more accessible globally.

How has your diverse experiences led to your current role in myopia leadership?

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As a newly graduated Doctor of Optometry (OD) interested in research, I pursued a PhD while running my own optometry practice, learning everything from the ground up—things like how to talk to patients and how to market my practice. Next, I moved all by myself as a young female to big city Toronto for my post-doctoral fellowship. After I completed the postdoctoral fellowship, my life took a completely new path when I met the legendary Professor Brien Holden. He said, “Come and work with me—we will change the world.”  On the spot, I agreed to move to Sydney to work at the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI). There, I was fortunate to be exposed to a lot of greats in global optometry—people like Drs Paul Erickson, Eric Papas, Kah Ooi Tan and Serge Resnikoff. This led to hugely successful collaborations like the International Myopia Institute, the first WHO meeting on myopia and some of the first myopia control products that are in the market today. Being in a university setting, I also taught four courses weekly, which was critical to hone those key educational skills needed to drive myopia education today. 

Working in international development and refractive error were also particularly formative experiences that led me to myopia leadership. I did work in indigenous communities in remote Australia, as well as helped establish optometry schools in Vietnam – seeing the impact of poor vision firsthand crystallised the importance of making eyecare more accessible in underserved populations. This early engagement across diverse communities not only drove my passion and commitment, but also solidified my belief in the truly transformative power of eyecare education.

These experiences laid a foundation for my current role with Johnson & Johnson Medtech, leading the global professional education strategy and execution.  It all boils down to the ability to relate to others and the know how to educate in a way that is simple yet makes people excited and leads to improved patient outcomes. 

What unique challenges have you faced in your leadership journey, and how did you overcome them?

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During a Ph.D. and post-doc, you own and drive your own project. In a larger organization, I had to adapt to collaborating cross-functionally—not just scientists doing science or optometrists and patients. I’ve learned to be flexible in my approach and focus on the end goal to drive a team forward. 

Being a mother balancing a role at Johnson & Johnson Medtech that involves working globally has also brought its own sets of challenges that I manage to balance. I juggled raising two children under three years of age while creating new optometry courses from scratch and delivering four courses a week as an academic - all during the pandemic! So making my time count and being laser focused has been the secret. And finding childcare—that’s a big struggle as a working mother with no family located in any of the cities I worked in.    

Through all this, you have to love what you do. I feel very honoured to be at Johnson & Johnson Medtech. Companies like Johnson & Johnson Medtech have a huge role to play in myopia and pediatric eye care. We can really drive awareness and education like no other. I feel that I have a great responsibility to help shape myopia globally and locally and change the standard of care. 

What do you see as the landmark myopia highlights that you’ve experienced?

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The World Health Organization and Brien Holden Vision Institute (WHO and BHVI) meeting on myopia in 2015 was an incredible achievement, because it was the first time the WHO and the medical profession recognized myopia and high myopia as a public health issue. We also presented the paper reporting that myopia prevalence will reach 50% by 2050.  Today, professional associations and even mainstream media continue to refer to these published reports. 

After the WHO meeting, I helped build an expert group on myopia which became the International Myopia Institute (IMI). At the time this was a remarkable feat—bringing together a diverse group with different scientific opinions and from different professional backgrounds. The first two volumes of IMI whitepapers was groundbreaking because we had consensus on classifications, clinical management guidelines and research guidelines, just to name a few. Seeing our infographics at doctor’s offices around the world, I know this work is reaching the critical masses who would never have otherwise seen it. 

The Myopia Education Program I helped create at BHVI has also reached over 30,000 ECPs worldwide. This was the first online education program to give doctors a crash course in myopia and help get them started in myopia management.  Being a part of the BHVI myopia calculator was also a highlight. 

Finally, when Johnson & Johnson Medtech launched Abiliti™ in select regions, that was truly a game changer. Abiliti™ stands for more than a product portfolio to treat myopia. It is Johnson & Johnson Medtech saying to the world that pediatric myopia matters and every child with myopia should be managed immediately.  I’m so proud of our team every day and encourage practitioners to partner with us and take advantage of all the one-to-one support we can offer.

Do you have myopia yourself, and how do you manage myopia prevention for your own young children?

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Yes, I do have high myopia myself.  I cope with it by wearing contact lenses full time and specs after hours.  I was the classic myopia risk profile: Asian ethnicity, one parent with myopia and as a child, I got really addicted to reading books under poor lighting.3 Being diagnosed with myopia was devastating to my parents and me. My mother was highly myopic, and she always felt like it affected her peripheral vision, driving and daily life. 

I have two children now, both under five, and myopia prevention is my primary goal.  I am acutely aware of how hard it is to prevent myopia with the time pressures of modern parenting. I only allow 2.5 hours use of their iPad a day and they get their outdoors time daily, but it is a constant battle. I’ll be delaying homework to later elementary school years given the risks of intense near work and the recent genome wide association studies have demonstrated intense education to be causative of myopia.3 If my children develop myopia, I’ll cross that bridge then and there. But I am really thankful today there are approved treatments for myopia management.

What are your aspirations for future advancements in the field of myopia?

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It really amazes me how far we’ve come in myopia management. There’s still an incredible amount of education and advocacy to be done and I’m really excited for the future. There’s so much innovation happening—not just in the healthcare space but with tech companies like Apple developing the ability to monitor screen time and distance from the screen.  I think in the future, apart from greater treatment accessibility, we will see devices like computer screens, TVs, and tablets being designed that help control myopia.  Practitioners will have integrated digital eye health tools that will monitor their patient’s myopia, lifestyle and offer personalized myopia management. They may also help practitioners keep in touch, support treatment compliance, and take care of the ordering of treatments. With such a huge number of experts including in Johnson & Johnson Medtech focused on this area, I believe it’s just a matter of time!

Meet the Authors:

About Dr Monica Jong

Dr. Monica Jong serves as the Global Director of Professional Education, Myopia at Johnson & Johnson Medtech, spearheading practitioner education worldwide to bolster evidence-based myopia management. Formerly, she held the position of Executive Director at the International Myopia Institute, where she played a pivotal role in co-founding the organization and leading the development of white papers and key initiatives aimed at fostering consensus in myopia management through collaboration with leading experts. Monica has contributed significantly to the field with numerous peer-reviewed articles in esteemed journals, placing her among the top 0.056% of authors in myopia. Additionally, she co-created the first global online education program in myopia at the Brien Holden Vision Institute and played integral roles in WHO meetings on myopia and the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Refractive Error Working group. With diverse experience in optometry across various settings, Monica is deeply committed to research, education, and mentorship. She has presented at over 400 global scientific and practitioner meetings and maintains a passion for physical fitness through practicing Muay Thai while spending time with her two children.

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