• Research to Prevent Blindness and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Award New Research Grants to Improve Eye Care

    Award recipients to use the American Academy of Ophthalmology IRIS® Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight) clinical database to improve care for all patients

    SAN FRANCISCO and NEW YORK – Aug. 9, 2022 – The American Academy of Ophthalmology and Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) today announced the 2022 recipients of the RPB/AAO Award for IRIS Registry Research. The researchers will use the IRIS Registry—the nation’s first and largest comprehensive eye disease clinical registry—to conduct population-based studies in ophthalmology and blindness prevention.

    The Academy and RPB began the grant partnership in 2018 to improve patients’ lives through research and innovation. The awardees get access to the IRIS Registry and specialized training on how to conduct big data research. Having amassed data on 75 million patients, the IRIS Registry is an invaluable resource for researchers looking to uncover better approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases in people across races, ethnicities, and ages.

    The following researchers were selected to receive the RPB/AAO Award for IRIS Registry Research in 2022 based on the potential of their original research to advance eye care:

    Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD, Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Utah Health

    Dr. Hartnett will use IRIS Registry data to determine if women in the United States bear a greater burden of blindness and vision loss, as well as other potential disparities in visual impairment. Big data will allow the study of differences in age-adjusted blindness and/or vision loss in children and adults based on gender and ophthalmology disease categories in a way that has not been studied before. Dr. Hartnett notes that identifying health care disparities is the first step in addressing them.

    Kyle Kovacs, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Weill Cornell Medicine

    Dr. Kovacs will evaluate outcomes in patients who had secondary intraocular lens placement to determine complication rates at more than three months after surgery. Because some techniques used for secondary intraocular lens implantation are relatively new, surgeons need to better understand the long-term, real-world risks so they can counsel patients on their best option for refractive rehabilitation.

    Adrienne Scott, MD, Associate Professor, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

    Dr. Scott will use big data to explore a possible protective effect of sickle cell trait in patients with both diabetic retinopathy and sickle cell disease. Dr. Scott hopes to better clarify this association and provide ophthalmologists with important information to consider when screening, monitoring, and treating patients who have diabetes and sickle cell disease/trait.

    Victoria Tseng, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

    Dr. Tseng will investigate racial/ethnic differences in the incidence, treatment patterns, and visual outcomes in patients with neovascular glaucoma, a condition that must be treated early to avoid vision loss. Dr. Tseng hopes to gain insight that will help reduce disparities in care, maximize visual outcomes, and prevent permanent disability.

    "I am so pleased to see not only the high caliber of clinician-scientists who were named as awardees this year,” said Brian F. Hofland, PhD, President of RPB, “but also the range of important topics covered by these research projects. Many of the projects will provide information that is needed to improve the eye care of patients from diverse populations, including patients from underrepresented minority backgrounds and women, who suffer a disproportionate burden of vision loss. These areas of study are very meaningful to both RPB and the Academy.”

    Each grant, worth $35,000, provides recipients with a subset of the massive IRIS Registry database for analysis based on their specific area of focus. Researchers also receive training from Academy staff on how to use the IRIS Registry’s analytic capabilities, as well as $10,000 in direct research funds. The results of each awardee’s research will be submitted for peer-reviewed publication within six months of study completion. 

    “We expect this research will reveal new insights that will advance eye care, especially in patients from diverse backgrounds,” said Stephen D. McLeod, MD, CEO for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “We are pleased to partner again with RPB in this effort to promote big data research for the benefit of all patients."

    Four more grants will be awarded in 2023. The application process will open November 2022. For more information, visit the Academy’s website.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology 

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit aao.org.

    About Research to Prevent Blindness 

    Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) is the leading nonprofit organization supporting eye research directed at the prevention, treatment or eradication of all diseases that damage and destroy sight. As part of this purview, RPB also supports efforts to grow and sustain a robust and diverse vision research community. Since it was founded in 1960 by Dr. Jules Stein, RPB has awarded more than $397 million in research grants to the most talented vision scientists at the nation’s leading medical schools. As a result, RPB has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss in the past 60+ years. Learn more at www.rpbusa.org.