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  • Research to Prevent Blindness and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Award Big Data Research Grants for Improved Patient Care

    Awardees will use the American Academy of Ophthalmology IRIS® Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight) clinical database to support eye care research

    SAN FRANCISCO and NEW YORK — The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) today announced the 2023 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 best use it to conduct big data research. Having amassed data on over 70 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 2023 based on the potential of their original research to advance eye care:

    Eric Crowell, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology, Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin 

    Dr. Crowell will use IRIS Registry data to evaluate whether race and socioeconomic status affect rates of visual impairment and blindness in patients with uveitis, a condition that causes 10 percent of blindness in the US. Additional goals include identifying optimal treatments for vision recovery in these patients, as well as identifying the ocular comorbidities that affect outcomes. Dr. Crowell hopes the research will lead to more effective disease management, a decline in overall blindness and improved treatment access for high-risk patients.

    Mary Ellen Hoehn, MD, professor of Ophthalmology, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center

    Dr. Hoehn will analyze IRIS Registry data to evaluate the outcomes of strabismus surgery in patients with strabismic amblyopia. Dr. Hoehn hopes to better understand the factors that contribute to visual recovery and the best timing for surgery. There is currently no well-established guidance to help surgeons determine the timing and benefit of surgery in these patients. Dr. Hoehn believes this analysis could lead to a prospective clinical study.

    Ang Li, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology, Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute

    Goniotomy, a surgery to lower eye pressure in patients with glaucoma, is becoming more common, but information on the long-term outcome of this surgical procedure in large, diverse populations is sparse. Dr. Li will evaluate data from the IRIS Registry to better understand the effectiveness of this procedure in the real world, identifying factors associated with success and failure so clinicians have more guidance on the ideal candidates for goniotomy.

    Matthew Starr, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic

    Dr. Starr will conduct the first big data analysis of patients with endophthalmitis from pars plana vitrectomy. The largest meta-analysis to date involved just 199 cases from the literature. He hopes to establish the frequency and risk factors associated with endophthalmitis following pars plana vitrectomy, providing critical insight into how this vision-threatening infection can be avoided.

    Each grant, worth $35,000, provides recipients with a subset of the 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 after study completion. 

    "Big data has the potential to uncover patterns and trends that cannot be seen in smaller numbers of patients, such as those at a single clinic,” said Brian F. Hofland, PhD, President of RPB. “It is exciting to put the massive amount of clinical data contained in the IRIS Registry in the hands of skilled researchers to help answer critical questions about eye health and the treatment of eye diseases. We are thrilled to partner with the Academy once again to put the power of big data to use for such an excellent cause.”

    “Our ongoing partnership with RPB is essential for advancing big data research in ophthalmology,” said Stephen D. McLeod, MD, CEO for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “We’re looking forward to another year of advancements that help guide ophthalmologists as we provide more evidence-based care for our patients.”

    Four more grants will be awarded in 2024. The application process will open in November 2023. 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


    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 $407 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