Emeritus Coordinating Editor: Richard Wormald

Richard Wormald, a white man with white hair and a white goatee, looks at the camera while standing in front of a presentation screen and wearing glasses

Cochrane has named seven Emeritus Coordinating Editors in 2020, celebrating their achievements and recognizing their efforts over many years of service. In this profile, we hear from Richard Wormald, who is Coordinating Editor of Cochrane Eyes and Vision.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I trained as an ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital but my interests were different from most of my colleagues. Blindness and its prevention around the world was the great challenge and I was much influenced by the then Clinical Professor Barry Jones. He had the same passion for the inequalities in eye health but at the time, most of his colleagues (in Harley Street) thought he had gone crazy. He set up a new department at the Institute of Ophthalmology called the Department of Preventive Ophthalmology, which became a WHO collaborating centre for the prevention of blindness, the International Centre for Eye Health, which is still going strong to this day {though it made a sensible move to the London School of Hygiene a Tropical Medicine in 2002). In 1986 Barry told me if I wanted to do this kind of work, I would need a masters in Epidemiology. I said I was barely numerate! But he persuaded me and with funding from the Hospital, I enrolled for a masters at the London School for ’87/’88 just after finishing my surgical training. It was the best year of my life! And of course it changed my life completely. Afterwards I took up a Lecturer’s post at ICEH but the new professor Gordon Johnson wanted me to focus on the epidemiology of eye health in the UK; research on this was very scant - an unploughed field in fact, and there was much to do. But funding was a huge challenge especially because my Ophthalmological colleagues did not see the value of such work. But in 1993, I met Ian Chalmers and his friends in Oxford and he convinced me of the importance of the work of the Cochrane Collaboration. In 1997 we registered the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group after an amazing exploratory meeting in Montpelier where we were strongly supported by the great Allesandro Liberati and Kay Dickersin. And the rest is history. Barry knew Archie Cochrane and Fred Hollows who went on to establish one of the most successful international NGOs for the prevention of blindness was one of his greatest friends.

Two images of Richard Wormald
Richard provided what he titled "Before" and "After" photos for his time with Cochrane Eyes and Vision

What are you most proud of from your time with Cochrane?

Establishing an extensive and almost comprehensive library of the best evidence of eye health interventions. A unique and superb resource for use by colleagues around the world. It has proved to be a powerful driver for key new trials dealing with revealed uncertainties.

What is your fondest memory over your tenure at Cochrane?

So many of the Colloquia and indeed some of the smaller meetings hold great memories of when the community met and enjoyed the amazing enthusiasm and collaborative energy that was going on. Hard to select any particular one but Barcelona, Stavanger, Cape Town, Lyon all spring to mind.

Four images of Richard Wormald and others throughout his tenure at Cochrane

As you leave, what are your hopes for Cochrane’s future?

In my zone, it remains a huge challenge to get colleagues to actually understand the benefits and relevance of systematic reviews, let alone the application of the best evidence to practice. As a speciality strongly dominated by surgical practice and of course the enormously powerful market where equity is irrelevant and “Caveat Emptor” the epithet, change for the better is happening very slowly. I believe it’s the next generation or maybe even the one after that will really be able to make these changes. Evidence in practice remains a threat to those who hold the most power and authority in the speciality.

What are your future plans? Where are you headed after leaving Cochrane?

As a medical student, I spent more time painting and life drawing than in the dissecting room and library. I am longing to get back to it!

Jennifer Evans (Joint Coordinating Editor) and Anupa Shah (Managing Editor) said of Richard's leaving, "At the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson said "Thank God, I have done my duty." Richard has done more than his duty for Cochrane Eyes and Vision. He has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of evidence-informed eye care in the ophthalmic community, engaging and encouraging his colleagues to conduct and report better studies, and use the results of systematic reviews in their clinical practice. But more than that, he has been great to work with; his warmth and good humour have truly fostered the team spirit at Cochrane Eyes and Vision."

Congratulations, Richard, and best wishes!

December 16, 2020