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  • Leaders and Innovators in Medical and Surgical Eye Care Honored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    NEW ORLEANS – The American Academy of Ophthalmology is honoring ophthalmologists who have improved eye care for millions worldwide through their commitment to their patients and their profession. The honorees will be recognized during AAO 2017, the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

    The most prestigious of these honors is the Laureate Recognition Award. It recognizes an individual who has made exceptional scientific contributions to the betterment of eye care, leading to the prevention of blindness and restoration of sight worldwide.

    This year’s honoree is Irene H. Maumenee, M.D., a world-renowned leader in inherited eye disease whose seminal work led to the creation of ophthalmic genetics as a subspecialty in the United States. Dr. Maumenee’s insights have contributed significantly to the development of the first effective gene therapy for inherited retinal disease.

    In 1977, Dr. Maumenee began the Ophthalmic Genetics Study Club, which later became known as the International Society for Genetic Eye Diseases and Retinoblastoma. While at The Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Dr. Maumenee founded and directed the Johns Hopkins Center for Hereditary Eye Diseases, an international referral program that has evaluated, diagnosed, and treated more than 30,000 patients with rare eye diseases. More recently, she helped establish an ophthalmic genetics center at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary in Chicago.

    “I am thrilled to recognize Dr. Maumenee for her years of outstanding leadership and innovation in eye care,” said David W. Parke II, M.D., CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “She has played an important and vital role in our efforts to protect sight and empower lives; all while preparing future generations of eye physicians and surgeons to become thought leaders within the field of ophthalmology.”

     Other awards presented during AAO 2017 include: 

    • The Distinguished Service Award honors an individual or organization for ongoing notable service to ophthalmology and the Academy. This year’s award goes to:

    David A. Karcher, M.D. Dr. Karcher has served as the executive director/CEO of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. Under his leadership, ASCRS has expanded from primarily an organization of cataract surgeons to a resource for anterior segment surgeons and their practices from around the globe. Karcher has worked effectively over the years with the Academy’s leadership to better serve the profession. Joint initiatives have included federal advocacy, health policy, support of Academy state-based advocacy, quality-of-care initiatives and communication to members and the public.

    Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology. Founded in 1939, PAAO is comprised of local and international political figures, industrialists, professionals, academics, students, and many other people of varied backgrounds. This organization has worked with the Academy for many years to foster ophthalmic education, leadership training and cultural exchange in the Western Hemisphere. Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D. and J. Fernando Arevalo, M.D., FACS, accepted the award on behalf of PAAO. 

    • The Outstanding Humanitarian Service Awardrecognizes ophthalmologists whose contributions to charitable activities demonstrate their concern and care for needy populations. This year the award goes to: 

    Howard C. Cohn, M.D. In 1998, Dr. Cohn reestablished Helen Keller International Europe (an affiliate to Helen Keller International), and dedicated the organization to promoting measures to prevent blindness, eye disease and malnutrition in developing countries by raising visibility and funds. Since its inception, the program has performed over 300,000 cataract surgeries and improved the quality of post-surgical results to meet World Health Organization’s standards.

    Stephen T. Petty, M.D. Over a 40-year span, Dr. Petty has provided eye care to thousands of patients and helped to train numerous ophthalmologists from South America, Africa, and Asia to bring sight-saving vitreoretinal surgery to areas where it did not previously exist. He has taught in multiple countries, including Peru, Ecuador, China, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Azerbaijan, where he received a government award for helping to train the first retina specialist in the nation. In addition to participation in mission trips, he’s led fundraising efforts and collected more than $300,000 in donations to pay for much-needed medical supplies and equipment. 

    • The International Blindness Prevention Award is given to an ophthalmologist who has made significant contributions to restoring sight throughout the world. This year’s winner is Sheila West, Ph.D., PharmD. Dr. West’s research has informed all aspects of the present World Health Organization guidelines for trachoma control. Her research continues to have multiple avenues, including the natural history of progression of retinal dystrophies, surveillance methods for trachoma control, and interventions to improve outcomes of trichiasis surgery. She currently has over 350 publications, and has mentored over 40 students in her career. 
    • The Outstanding Advocate Award recognizes ophthalmologists who participate in advocacy-related efforts at the state or federal level. This year’s awardee is Gregory P. Kwasny, M.D. Dr. Kwasny successfully unified and led colleagues from across the state of Wisconsin to defend the profession of ophthalmology. The impact of his work remains today, as Wisconsin’s laws and regulations continue to serve the best interest of patients. He’s also been an active leader for ophthalmology at the national level. 
    • The Straatsma Award acknowledges excellence in resident education and is given jointly by the Academy and Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology to a program director dedicated to the principles and significance of residency education. This year’s recipient is Shahzad Mian, M.D. Dr. Mian is the Terry J. Bergstrom Collegiate Professor for Resident Education in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan Medical School. He also serves the Department as Associate Chair for Education and is an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan Medical School. His research focuses on the role of lasers in corneal transplantation, keratoplasty techniques, and clinical studies in refractive surgery. 
    • The Artemis Award recognizes a young ophthalmologist Academy member who has demonstrated caring and service of an exemplary degree to their patients. This year Jeff Pettey, M.D., is being recognized. He is the founder and medical director of the Moran Eye Center’s local surgical outreach program Operation Sight in Utah and a global advocate for groups underrepresented in medicine. 
    • The Special Recognition Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding service in a specific effort or cause that improves the quality of eye care. This year’s recipient is the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. The CDC is being recognized for its critical role in leading a partnership to address a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which calls for coordination of efforts to make eye health a priority for the nation. 
    • Each year, Guests of Honor are chosen by the president of the Academy for their contributions to the field of ophthalmology. This year, president Cynthia A. Bradford, M.D., is honoring: 

    Reagan H. Bradford, Jr., M.D. for his dedication to the profession of ophthalmology and delivery of patient care. Since 1985, he has practiced medical and surgical retina at Dean A. McGee Eye Institute. Dr. Bradford contributes to the education of medical students, ophthalmology residents, and retinal fellows and has served on multiple ophthalmology journal review panels. He serves as a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and as ophthalmology service head for OU Hospital. 

    Michael W. Brennan, M.D. for his hard work and contributions to the Academy. His interests include developing physician leaders and empowering physician organizations. While secretary of state affairs (1997-2004), Dr. Brennan helped establish the Academy Leadership Development Program, which prepares state and subspecialty society leaders. 

    Amalia M. Miranda, M.D. for her commitment to the Academy in many different roles. She has been a member of the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology for many years and has served as EyePAC chair since 2004. Through a Leadership Development Program cross-fertilization project, Dr. Miranda also became the Academy participant in the European Leadership Development Program 2007-2009. 

    “This year’s award winners’ dedication and innovative work in the field of medicine has been essential to driving ophthalmology forward,” Dr. Bradford said. “Their exceptional achievements in service and education have advanced our ability to solve challenging problems, all while ensuring that patients receive the effective care they need.” 

    For full awards descriptions, recipient biographies and information about additional awards presented to Academy members at AAO 2017, please visit The Academy’s annual meeting – "Where all of Ophthalmology Meets” – takes place Nov. 11 – 14, 2017, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. It is the largest ophthalmology conference in the world.