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American Academy of Ophthalmology Recognizes Alfred Sommer, MD with 2011 Laureate Award for his Worldwide Contributions toward Saving Sight

10/23/2011   04:12:16 PM

One of Ophthalmology's Highest Honors Bestowed Upon Physician Considered a Pioneer in Global Health

ORLANDO, Fla.The American Academy of Ophthalmology will present its highest honor – the 2011 Laureate Recognition Award – to Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, for his distinguished career and worldwide contributions to ophthalmology. Dr. Sommer is to be honored with the award on Oct. 23 at the Academy's 115th Annual Meeting in Orlando.

The Laureate Recognition Award, established in 2003, is the Academy's single highest honor. It is presented to ophthalmologists who distinguish themselves and the profession by making exceptional scientific contributions toward preventing blindness and restoring sight worldwide.

Dr. Sommer is a widely acclaimed pioneer in global health, specifically for his labor in Africa, where he worked alongside colleagues and found that most cases of measles-associated pediatric blindness were related to low vitamin A levels.

Through his research, Dr. Sommer discovered that the debilitating consequences of vitamin A deficiency could be effectively, quickly, and cheaply treated with oral high-dose vitamin A supplementation. This resulted in one of the most cost-effective of all health interventions, according to World Bank's World Development Report. More than 400 million vitamin A supplements are now distributed annually to children around the world, preventing blindness and saving literally thousands of lives each year.

"Dr. Sommer is truly a pioneer who's efforts have made a lasting impression on eye care in Africa and his contributions to ophthalmology, epidemiology and public health worldwide will forever be acknowledged," said Richard L. Abbott, MD, president of the Academy. "As a result of his extraordinary work globally and his achievements as a leader in ophthalmic research, clinical care, and education, it's a privilege to present this honor to him."

Dr. Sommeris an inaugural Gilman Scholar and distinguished service professor at Johns Hopkins University, where he is also dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health and a professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Institute.Dr. Sommer received his medical degree in 1967 from Harvard Medical School. A trip to Bangladesh in the late 1960s started a companion interest in epidemiology. After returning to the United States, he delayed his ophthalmology fellowship to pursue a master of health science in epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He then completed his ophthalmology residency and fellowship at Johns Hopkins. 

Dr. Sommer has authored 300 scientific publications and five books and has given more than 30 named lectures, including the prestigious Jackson Memorial Lecture at the Academy's Annual Meeting in 1999. In 1997, he became only the second ophthalmologist to receive the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research, widely considered the American equivalent of the Nobel prize. Dr. Sommer has received numerous awards for his research work, including the Helen Keller Foundation Prize for Vision Research, Lucien Howe Medal of the American Ophthalmological Society, and the Duke Elder International Gold Medal for Contributions to Ophthalmology. 

The 115th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology is in session October 23 through 25 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. It is the world's largest, most comprehensive ophthalmic education conference. More than 25,000 attendees and 500 companies gather each year to showcase the latest in ophthalmic technology, products and services. To learn more about the place Where All of Ophthalmology Meets, visit www.aao.org/annual_meeting.                                           

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons — Eye M.D.s — with more than 30,000 members worldwide.  Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" – ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit www.aao.org. The Academy's EyeSmart® public education program works to educate the public about the importance of eye health and to empower them to preserve their healthy vision, by providing the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. Visit www.geteyesmart.org to learn more.

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