F Y EYE - The Official Newsletter of SUNY State College of Optometry
SUNY State College of Optometry
Issue 12 November 2008
FR O M   T H E   P R E S I D E N T

President's Letter

President David A. HeathWhile the daily news continues to reflect economic volatility in the markets and a commensurate uncertainty for the future of state funding of higher education, we are able to celebrate ongoing support for critical infrastructure projects on our campus.  While some of these appear mundane (i.e. elevator, fire alarm and HVAC upgrades), others will be transformative, improving the college environment, enhancing the quality of education and advancing the intellectual dynamic of the community.
In this issue of FY EYE, we are excited to be able to share with you initial architectural renderings for two projects underway:  the renovation of our ground floor and the development of the Student Center for Life and Learning (2 fl, 3 fl and 3 fl mezzanine).  These projects are well into the design phase and we hope the first phase of construction will begin on the ground floor in mid-2009.
When I arrived at the College eighteen months ago, it was apparent that the campus had few public spaces that were inviting and which encouraged our students to engage in discourse and debate outside of the classroom.  In addition, functional areas of the institution are often structurally segregated and interdepartmental exchange is difficult.  While these two projects will provide critical improvements to our teaching and learning spaces, as importantly, they will provide our students, faculty and staff with a campus center possessing an aesthetic that is welcoming, promotes a sense of community and supports our common purpose.  
David A. Heath, O.D., Ed.M.
M A I N   F E A T U R E

SUNY College of Optometry Building Improvements

Architect's Rendering of New LobbySince SUNY Optometry relocated to its present location in 2000, the building has shown its age.  Very little renovations were done within the building prior to the College's move.  One of these areas is the ground floor/lobby.  To make the most efficient use of space, as well as make it more attractive and inviting, the ground floor/lobby will undergo an architectural improvement thus adding a greater sense of open space on the 42nd Street entrance, with special attention to lighting.  As mentioned in Issue 6 this past March, part of the space, adjacent to the lecture halls, will be converted into an area suitable for the display of art from the SUNY College at Purchase, Neuberger Museum of Art.  At the same time, the seating capacity in the lecture halls will be increased and additional rest rooms installed.
The illustration at the right is the conceptualized plans for the renovation of floors 3 &Center for Student Life and Learning 3M.  An integral part of the Campus Center for Student Life and Learning, the combination of the south portions of Floors 2, 3 and 3M will make maximum use of these areas in terms of both the view across 42nd Street into Bryant Park and the abundant sunlight that hits the building.  The illustration shows how the architects are able to design a dramatically functional space that accommodates leisure and social activities.
F O C A L   P O I N T
SUNY College of Optometry Receives Grant for Center of Excellence in Wenzhou, China 
Dr. Qu, President, Wenzhou Medical College, and Dr. HeathThe SUNY State College of Optometry has received a three-year $430,700 grant from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind to establish a Center of Excellence in Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation in Wenzhou, China.  This is the first such center of excellence of its kind in the region.  
In partnership with Wenzhou Medical College Eye Hospital, the expertise of SUNY faculty and its affiliates will be utilized to:
  • Provide upgraded and expanded vision care services for growing numbers of low vision patients;
  • Increase the number of qualified low vision practitioners and paraprofessionals by implementing a train-the-trainer educational model; and
  • Develop replicable models of care delivery for the visually impaired and blind throughout China.
Wenzhou Medical College Eye HospitalAn estimated 17 million individuals in China have low vision (vision loss not correctable with eye glasses, medication or surgery) and a Center of Excellence in Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation to provide quality care for the visually impaired in the region, will have a significant impact.
"The generosity of the Lavelle Fund will make a difference in the quality of care for thousands of low vision patients throughout China" said President Heath.  "Creating a Center of Excellence will increase the capacity to provide direct services, as well as expand the educational experience in low vision care for optometry students, professionals and paraprofessionals."
"We are delighted to partner with the SUNY College of Optometry to bring services, support and professional education to China for the benefit of low vision patients" said Andrew Fisher, Executive Director of the Lavelle Fund for the Blind.
SUNY Optometry develops outstanding optometrists and vision scientists in the field of optometry and vision science; makes new discoveries that advance vision science and patient care; provides exceptional general and specialized optometric care that improves patients' lives; and, enhances public health through education and service to a broad range of communities.
The Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc., is dedicated to supporting programs that promote the spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical development of blind and low-vision people of all ages, together with programs that help people avoid vision loss. 
DI D   Y O U   K N O W ?
  • Glaucoma is almost three times more common in African-Americans than in whites.  (Friedman et. al., 2004)

  • Revenue growth across all of higher education has been coming from tuition rather than other sources, including government appropriations, gifts or endowment earnings. (www.deltacostproject.org)

  • Public colleges and universities which are classified as "research-doctoral" institutions generally receive less than 30% of their revenues through state or local appropriations. (www.deltcostproject.org)

  • In the 2008 fiscal year, the College's foundation, the Optometric Center of New York, provided $921,726 in total support to the College of Optometry.
College Foundation Retains Fundraising Counsel
The Angeletti Group, a well-known fundraising consulting firm, has been retained by the College's foundation, the Optometric Center of New York (OCNY), to help launch a major gifts campaign in concert with the strategic planning process for the College.
"This is an exciting time for the institution as we look to the future and begin to develop a Case for Support which will include programs and services such as the Homebound Program, the Indigent Patient Fund, scholarships and academic chairs" said Richard Feinbloom, OCNY President.  "The Angeletti Group will help us achieve our goal," he added.
Among the firm's other clients are Yale-New Haven Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, University of California at Los Angeles and Middlebury College.
Angeletti's Senior Vice President, Larry Jerome, will be working with President Heath, Ann Warwick, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Pamela Lederman, Associate Director of Development, to conduct a preliminary feasibility study which will include interviews with major constituencies of the institution including OCNY Trustees, faculty, staff, donors, alumni and friends. 

SUNY Optometry Receives Award from NY State Comptroller's Office

SUNY College of Optometry has been selected to receive an award from the New York State Office of the Comptroller for exceptional delivery of payroll services to our employees.  The 2008 Comptroller's Payroll Achievement Award, now in its fifth year, is the result of a unique partnership between State agencies and the Office of the State Comptroller.  The New York State Payroll Users Group and the Comptroller's Bureau of State Payroll Services together developed performance measures and statewide performance standards for all agency payroll offices.  State agencies are able to assess their performance, evaluate their business process and identify agencies with "best practices" in their attempt to improve the overall delivery of payroll services to New York State employees.  The selected agencies are encouraged to share their best practices with other state agencies.  This is the second year that the College has been selected to receive this award.  In celebration of this achievement, representatives of the awarded agencies will attend a ceremony in Albany, New York on Thursday, December 4th in Albany.
President Heath, on behalf of the faculty, staff and students, congratulate Mr. Marcel Catafago, Mr. Dwayne Moore and the entire payroll staff on a job well done!
$20,000 Essilor Grant Awarded to Dispensing Manager 
Ms. Nancy KirschMs. Nancy Kirsch, Manager of Dispensing, has been awarded a $20,000 Essilor Technology Grant.  The award is based upon the institution's commitment to the growth of premium optical technology as well as how the money will help elevate the standards and visibility of ophthalmic dispensing for students and patients. 
Faculty Profile -- Qasim Zaidi, Ph.D. 
Dr. Qasim Zaidi holds the title of Distinguished Professor in the Department of VisionDistinguished Professor Qasim Zaidi Sciences at the SUNY State College of Optometry.  Born in England, Dr. Zaidi grew up in Pakistan, went to college in Turkey and came to the United States for graduate study.  After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he did post-doctoral study at AT&T Bell Labs and then joined the faculty at Columbia University.  He relocated his laboratory to the Lighthouse for the Blind and in 1995, after one year, moved his lab to SUNY Optometry.
One of Dr. Zaidi's research projects aims to discover the neural strategies that enable human observers to accomplish complex perceptual tasks and to use these strategies towards designing intelligent artificial systems.  He is working towards explaining 3-D shape percepts with a detailed model of neural responses in the cortex based on the original discovery that 3-D shape percepts from texture cues are automatically linked to patterns of orientation flows in retinal images whereas spatial frequency gradients are used to infer relative depth.  His studies on the neural responses have shown how to explain variations in visual percepts by variations within neural populations and how early processes in the cortex enhance the processing of critical information in later stages.
Recently, Dr. Zaidi has begun to concentrate on color perception and how neural processes that categorize and identify objects across different illuminations, despite the absence of shape or texture cues.  Results have shown that human observers use heuristic strategies that are simpler than these optimal algorithms but not as accurate, as if they consider the costs of computation in solving complex tasks.  These strategies have raised new kinds of questions about the use of color information by observers and the geometry of perceptual color space, which are being pursued by graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the lab.
As part of his teaching activities, Dr. Zaidi has taught graduate seminars on various aspects of visual perception, spearheaded the redesign of the Ph.D. program and trained a number of post-docs who are in faculty positions all over the world.  Dr. Zaidi serves as Chair of the Research Council and is a member of the Institutional Research & Planning Committee (formerly the Strategic Planning Committee).  His research projects ono the neural basis of 3-D shape perception and color perception in natural settings have been supported by NIH (National Institutes of Health) since 2001 and 1988, respectively.

National Eye Institute Grant (NEI) Awarded to Dr. Benjamin Backus

Dr. Ben BackusDr. Benjamin Backus has received a grant from the National Eye Institute for his study "Cue reliability and depth calibration during space perception".  The grant totals $600,000 over four years and will be used to study learning that occurs in the visual system.
For this grant, Dr. Backus and his team will create visual stimuli in which new cues are pared with old cues and measure the rate at which the new cues start to be used for perception.  "The brain extracts various signals from retinal images, called 'cues', and it must learn how to interpret these cues", states Dr. Backus.  This form of learning, called 'cue recruitment', is an exciting new area of vision research pioneered by Dr. Backus and his former students.  The results of this study will have application in the field of vision therapy.
"We are delighted that Dr. Backus has the opportunity to continue his work in this important area of vision science", said Dr. David Troilo, SUNY Optometry's Vice-President and Dean for Academic Affairs.  "The support of the National Eye Institute is a testament to the contribution that Dr. Backus and his team can make to the field."
The SUNY College of Optomoetry has nationally and internationally recognized faculty engaged in cutting-edge research in vision science.  Investigators conduct a variety of studies about the visual system and methods for improving visual function.  The College's in-house research facility, the Schnurmacher Institute for Vision Research, coordinates a colloquium series and supports post-doctoral as well as faculty research.
SUNY Optometry Receives Grant with Helen Keller International 
A grant of $60,000 from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind was awarded to SUNY Optometry to partner with Helen Keller International (HKI) for a Pre-school Vision Screening Initiative.
Members of SUNY's clinical faculty will provide on-site follow-up vision exams to children who fail the screening.  HKI will provide administrative and logistical support for the program and HKI optometrist will conduct the initial screening.
"We believe that this partnership with HKI's ChildSight, offers important vision testing for youngsters who might not otherwise receive it", said Dr. Ida Chung, Chief of Pediatrics at SUNY.  This is the third year in the project's three-year grant cycle.
Shelton, L., Troilo, D., Lerner, M., Gusev, Y., Brackett, D.J. and Rada, J.S. (2008)  "Microarray analysis of choroid/RPE gene expression in marmoset eyes undergoing changes in ocular growth and refraction.  Molecular Vision, 14:1265-1479.
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