F Y EYE - The Official Newsletter of SUNY State College of Optometry
SUNY State College of Optometry
Issue 18 May 2009
FR O M   T H E   P R E S I D E N T

President's Letter 

Overlooking Bryant ParkWith the onset of June, we arrive at completion of the semester and the academic year.  The students completing their first year of the doctor of optometry degree program are always the ones to look the most relieved and, one might say, elated with the simple notion of survival.  Indeed, during their first year alone, they spent over 800 hours in lectures and laboratories.  These students should also hold a quiet sense of satisfaction both with their achievements as individuals and with their decision to pursue a career in optometry.
The April 29, 2009 NY Times had an article focused on the shortage of doctors as an obstacle to the health care reform.  President Obama was quoted as saying "We are not producing enough primary care physicians" and Senator Hatch suggesting the "[health care] work force shortage is reaching crisis proportions".  While the Association of American Medical Colleges is advocating for a 30% increase in medical school enrollment, such a strategy is likely to increase the cost of health care and the likelihood that there would be an increase in those electing careers in primary care is not high.
It is well understood within health professions that today much of the country's primary care is delivered by non-MD health professionals, including, among others, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and doctoral-level providers such as optometry, dentistry, pharmacy and, again, nursing.  These are the providers who will most likely meet the increasing demand for primary health care following health care reform.
In primary eye care, the trends are evident and have been for a long time.  The U.S. Department of Labor projects no significant increase in the ophthalmologists in the next twenty years, and more recently, the emphasis among new ophthalmologists is within sub-specialties.  Collaborations between ophthalmologic sub-specialists and optometry as the providers of primary eye care are increasing and reflect the best of inter-disciplinary cooperation.  While ophthalmology will meet an increasing need for tertiary care intervention in the years ahead, projected increases in the optometric workforce parallel the increases in the aging of the population and incidence of conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, AMD, glaucoma and cataracts.
Our first (or now second) year students should enter the summer months confident that they have selected well.
David A. Heath, O.D., Ed.M.
 M A I N   F E A T U R E
2009 Commencement Awards Recipients
The recipients of the Commencement Awards for the Class of 2009 have been named and we congratulate their being recognized.  After careful discussion, the Committee on Scholarships, Awards and Financial Assistance have made its decisions.  Below are a few of the awards and their recipients.
Academic Excellence                                                 -      Melanie Ann Shearer
for Outstanding Clinical Performance in Vision Training      -   Ryan Christopher Bulson
Excellence in Vision Training                                       -      Juanitta D. Collier
for Academic & Clinical Achievement in Ocular Disease    -     Ashley Brooke Fazzary
for Excellence in Primary Care                                    -     Jaclyn Anne Benzoni
(for the entire listing of award recipients, on the link below)
Faculty & Staff Recognition Committee Formed
Dr. Heath has established the Staff and Faculty Recognition Committee.  The Committee is charged with developing a recognition program to encourage achievement and outstanding service by the employees of the SUNY State College of Optometry.  As the Committee meets over the next few months, they will be reviewing how to recognize individuals for their years of service and outstanding achivements.
Members of the committee are:  Ms. Pamela Lederman (Chair), Ms. Norma Ayala, Dr. Robert Duckman, Ms. Guerda Fils, Ms. Liduvina Martinez-Gonzalez, Ms. Nancy Kirsch, Ms. Karen Sampson and Ms. Betshally Torres.
The Committee plans to hold the College's first recognition event this Summer, on August 6th.  They welcome your thoughts, comments and ideas.  If you would like to make any suggestions, please e-mail the group at recognition@sunyopt.edu
F A C U L T Y   P R O F I L E S
Meet Dr. Robert Sack
Dr. Robert SackDr. Robert Sack has been at the SUNY State College of Optometry since 1972.  Currently, he is Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and teaches about ocular tear film, ocular surfaces and microbiology in various areas of the professional program.  His principal research has been in the area of diurnal changes in the structure, origins and physiological function of the tear film and in the area of changes in host defense mechanisms associated with eye closure.  His studies employ a wide range of biochemical techniques to characterize the interactions of tear proteins and their physiological functions.  The areas currently under investigation include characterization of angiogenic inhibitors and activators; proteases and inhibitors in the pre-ocular tear layer in the open and closed eye states; and, the functional role in the host defense mechanisms, in ocular allergies, various types of dry eye syndrome and wound healing after refractive surgery.  Recent work has also expanded his research to include evaluation of tear proteins as potential biomarkers of diabetes and other diseases.  His laboratory has developed protein arrays which are being used to characterize the distribution of low abundance proteins in tears, vitreous and aqueous humor samples in normal and pathological situations as diagnostic tools and in understanding the pathophysiology of ocular diseases.  His research efforts are supported by grants from industry and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
Dr. Joan Portello Encourages Community Service 
Dr. Joan Portello has taken her position as an educator to "encourage" her "students to enjoy the profession" of optometry and to "value the services that they provide" as not everyone is able to access these services.  Moreover, the profession of optometry is one of community service.  A member of the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists since 2002, Dr. Portello went on her first mission trip with her students in 2002 to Oaxaca, Mexico.  Since then, she assists in arranging volunteer optometrists and students to return to provide eye care each year for the local residents of the city.  Student volunteers are accompanied by two doctors, often alumni who participated in past missions.  In addition, Dr. Portello organizes the annual optometeric involvement in Metro Special Olympics where more than 50 optometry students and several optometrists volunteer to provide eye exams for the participating athletes, as well as eyewear when needed; and, coordinates and provides optometric care for some of the homeless in the Bowery area of New York City.
Last year, the New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA) recognized Dr. Portello's work and active involvement by awarding her its community and public service award.  "It's more than just a unique learning experience.  Living and working [in] these communities enriches us as people....  The greatest joy I receive is when I see my colleagues and former students continue this work by themselves."
Dr. Portello is an Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences.
DI D   Y O U   K N O W ?
  • That 94.2% of the Class of 2010 passed Part 1 of the National Board their first time taking it.  This is consistent with prior classes over the past several years and exceeds the performance of students nationwide.  The national pass rate for all takers was 87.3% and 91.9% for first time takers.

  • Extramural researach funding for the College of Optometry is expected to increase to $3.4M for the 2009/10 fiscal year.  This is an increase of approximately 20% in budget projections year over year.

  • The University Optometric Center's Referral Service exceeded 3,000 patient visits for the year this month.  The Referral Service has grown rapidly and met its five-year goal as set forth in the strategic plan "A Shared Vision", in just 18 months!

    UOC Referral visits

Vision 2020/USA
Dr. Michael Heiberger attended a meeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland on April 30th.  The meeting consisted of a diverse group of representatives of organizations concerned with worldwide prevention of blindness and increased federal support for eye care service delivery.  Dr. Heiberger was the College's representative at the meeting.
The attendees were welcomed by Dr. Paul Sieving, Director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), who encouraged the group to work together to increase awareness of the need to support programs geared toward delivering vision care services wherever needed.  The meeting was chaired by Dr. Louis Pizzarello, an ophthalmologist at the Harkness Eye Institute and a leader of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.  Three working subgroups were formed to discuss 1) domestic initiatives; 2) international initiatives; and, 3) governance of a possible new umbrella organization to stimulate additional federal support for eye care services and the prevention of blindness.
From this meeting emerged a new organization -- Vision 2020/USA -- which will benefit from the successess of other Vision 2020 programs that now exist in Australia and Great Britain.
"Increased activity by the College in collaborative programs to provide eye and vision care worldwide is central to elements in our new strategic plan.", according to Dr. Heiberger.  "Being involved with governmental and non-governmental organizations with international objectives will help us to involve more of our faculty and students in international activity."
International Center of Excellence in Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation
The first meeting of the Advisory Board to the Center of Excellence in Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation at Wenzhou Medical College was held May 31, 2009.  This distinguished group agreed to serve in an advisory and in an evaluative capacity for the three-year project that is supported by the Lavelle Fund for the Blind.  The group consists of:
Paul B. Freeman, O.D., ,F.A.A.O.
Private Practitioner and Low Vision Diplomate
Kara Cowel Gagnon, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Director of Low Vision at the Blind Rehabilitation Program
West Haven Veterans Medical Center
Judith Goldstein, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief, Wilmer Eye Institute Low Vision Service
Johns Hopkins University
Nancy D. Miller, L.M.S.W., A.C.S.W.
Executive Director/CEO
VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Grace Ambrose Zaken, Ed.D., COMS
Department of Special Education
Hunter College of the City University of New York
These individuals bring decades of experience in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired.  They are essential in bringing a comprehensive perspective to the development of a model center at our partner institution, the School of Optometry and Ophthalmology at Wenzhou Medical College.  
Prior to the meeting, Dr. Michael Heiberger, Project Coordinator, along with Drs. William O'Connell and Richard Soden, visited Wenzhou in March for a series of meetings with the Wenzhou team in order to observe a number of aspects concerning low vision and rehabilitative care, education in low vision and the facilities and equipment that are available for low vision care.  They also visited other areas within the Eye Hospital and visited a cardiac unit and a stroke unit at other WMC-affiliated hospitals in order to determine the potential for patient referrals to the low vision service.
During their visit, the doctors encountered two SUNY externs, Ms. Lynn Trieu '09 and Mr. Marques Bostic '09, who had just arrived to begin the last leg of their fourth-year externship.  Student externs who rotated to WMC have found the experience to be extraordinary in terms of the number of patients and types of eye conditions that they encounter while there.
Dr. Heiberger said that eighteen percent of the world's blind and eleven percent of the world's visually impaired people live in China.  These are big numbers, he noted, as China's population numbers 1.3 billion and there are fewer than 30,000 eye practitioners in total in the country.  One of the objectives of this project is to train eye care providers at all levels (professionals as well as support staff) to provide low vision and rehabilitative services to the blind and visually handicapped to the extent of their ability.
The College will host a team from Wenzhou in the Fall of 2009.  These faculty were selected to be the first group of trainers who will utilize techniques as curricular material developed by the project to train others so that the extent and quality of low vision services and their effect on the visually impaired can be demonstrated at Wenzhou and emulated elsewhere in China.  
2009 Illusion Contest First Prize Team includes SUNY Graduate Student
Mr. Robert Ennis, along with three other teammates, won First Place in the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest for 2009 at a gathering of neuroscientists and psychologists at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Florida.  Led by his undergraduate advisor, Dr. Arthur Shapiro at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, their submission was entitled "The break of a curveball".  They explained, and demonstrated, how a curveball fools the eye through an animation which shows a spinning ball that seems to move in a straight line when watched directly; but when seen out of the corner of the eye, the spin of the ball fools the brain into thinking that the ball is curving.  Dr. Shapiro and his team received a trophy of a sculpture created by Italian artist Guido Moretti, itself a visual illusion that changes shape depending upon the angle from which it is viewed.
Dr. Miduturu Srinivas, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences received notice that his R21 grant submission entitled "Pharmacology of Connexin Channels:  Structure-Activity Studies" will be funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.   
The College would like to remind everyone that all job openings are posted on the College website --http://www.sunyopt.edu/HR/jobs.shtml.
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