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Clinical Care and Practice Advancement

Council on Research

MEMBERSHIP: Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD, chair; Susan Cotter, OD, MS; Timothy T. McMahon, OD; Lynn Cyert, OD, PhD; Joan Stelmack, OD, MPH; members; and John Whitener, OD, MPH, Staff.


The Council on Research continues to be proud of the success of the biennial Summer Research Institutes that we have sponsored and conducted. From their inception in l988, the Summer Research Institutes have resulted in optometrists receiving over $59 million in clinical research grants.

The 2012 Summer Research Institute will be held in Columbus, OH, on July 9-13, 2012. Optometrists from across the country will participate in this program to develop new cutting-edge research projects.

As in past "Summer Camps," optometric scientists will receive lectures from seasoned research veterans about how to formulate research questions, design research, and write proposals. The Research Workgroups formed at the Summer Research Institute will work on developing the research protocol for clinical studies that might be fundable by the National Eye Institute (NEI), industry, or other sources.


Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT) - The CITT was a multi-center,, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial designed to compare the success rate of active therapy regimens for the treatment of symptomatic convergence insufficiency in children 9-<18 years of age. The workgroup of optometrists first met at the 1988 Summer Research Institute to begin plans for a clinical trial addressing vision therapy. After many transitions and funded planning grants, in September 2004 NEI funded the CITT for five years for over $6 million. Data collection has concluded and the CITT Group published their primary outcome manuscript and several secondary manuscripts. The CITT group is also planning a sequence of additional clinical trials on related issues at the participating institutions and has submitted proposals to NEI.

Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Ethnicity and Refractive Error (CLEERE) - The CLEERE Study is an extension of the Orinda Longitudinal Study of Myopia to other, non-Caucasian ethnic populations: Asian, Hispanic, African American, and Native American. CLEERE has enrolled 4929 children at sites in Alabama, California, Arizona, and Texas. The CLEERE Study is analyzing longitudinal data from the other groups. It is funded by the National Eye Institute through 2011.

VA Low Vision Intervention Trial II (VA LOVIT) - LOVIT II is a multicenter, randomized clinical trial that is being conducted to compare the effectiveness of basic low vision care and interdisciplinary low vision rehabilitation for veterans with vision loss due to macular diseases and best-corrected visual acuity 20/50-20/100. Subjects include 330 veterans from Chicago; Salisbury, NC ; Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Madison and Milwaukee WI. Outcomes are the changes in patients' self-report of difficulty performing reading activities measured with the 48-item Veterans Affairs Low Vision Visual Functioning Questionnaire. The study will receive approximately $1.6 million in funding by the Rehabilitation Research and Development Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs through December 2014.


The Contact Lens Assessment in Youth (CLAY) Study Group is attempting to answer two questions pertinent to soft contact lens wear in children, teenagers, and young adults: (1) the rate of and reasons for interruption in lens wear and (2) the age profile of risks for corneal inflammatory events. The group has retrospectively evaluated the data from more than 13,000 visits from 3,549 patients and has identified 426 corneal inflammatory events. The investigators have presented multiple reports at ARVO and AAO meetings and have published multiple papers. Each clinic Principal Investigator has been responsible for leading at least one publication and abstract proposal. In particular, they are now focusing on the serious inflammatory events, on the reasons for events in the 18-25 year old age range, and on events in younger children. They have met with experts from other groups in order to plan prospective studies involving personality differences that may affect the risk of an event.


The Impact of uncorrected refractive errors in preschoolers on early reading performance

(U-READ) Study Group is addressing the relationship between uncorrected refractive error and academic performance in preschool children enrolled in Head Start programs. At the end of the next pilot study, the results will be published, and the group is planning the next project and research grant proposal.

CL versus SRx

This study group has been focusing on the feasibility of Contact Lens Wear for Amblyopic Children with Anisometropia and Aniseikonia. The group includes faculty from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, Vanderbilt University, the Illinois College of Optometry, the Indiana University School of Optometry, and the Southern California College of Optometry. The study group has submitted one grant proposal and is moving ahead with additional projects and proposals.

Dry Eye Study

The Dry Eye Study group consists of faculty from the Illinois College of Optometry, the Southern College of Optometry, the Indiana University School of Optometry, and The Ohio State University College of Optometry. Their first project will be a multi-center study of the various forms and risks of dry eye. The current plan of action is to refine the proposal and protocols and submit to the National Eye Institute.


The AOA Council on Research is pleased to report that funding for vision research by researchers at schools and colleges of optometry and by optometrists at other academic institutions continues to be strong. The Council continues to monitor the growth in funding to optometric research from the National Eye Institute, other components of the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration, Department of Defense, industry, and other sources. In particular, the AOA Council on Research continues to monitor the awarding of grants to vision research by researchers at schools and colleges of optometry and by optometrists at other academic institutions.

In Fiscal Year 2010, there was a 10% increase in grant awards to investigators at schools and colleges of optometry totaling 91 grants to the following institutions: Illinois College of Optometry, Indiana University School of Optometry, New England College of Optometry, The Ohio State University College of Optometry, Salus University, SUNY State College of Optometry, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry, University of Houston College of Optometry, University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry, and Western University of Health Sciences. This 10% increase is significant especially in light of current budget constraints at NEI and NIH. Notably, the total dollars of NIH awards to investigators at the schools and colleges of optometry was 28.8 million dollars, which is reduced from last year's 30.8 million dollars; however, Fiscal Year 2009 was a unique year for NIH funding, as the NIH received a one-time supplement to its budget via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), so-called stimulus funding, and 23 optometry researchers, at eight of the schools and colleges of optometry and four additional optometrist-scientists at other institutions, received more than 5 million dollars from this largesse.

While most of the Fiscal Year 2010 awards were for continuation of ongoing grants, ten of the awards were for newly-funded grants, and five were for renewal of existing grants. This high level of success in the current, stringent peer review competition attests to the quality of the science conducted at optometric institutions, and the recognition given to our investigators by their scientific peers. Most of the awards were for regular (R01) research grants; eight of the awards were for institutional vision research training grants, one was for an individual research fellowship, seven were for cooperative clinical studies, one was for a shared instrumentation project, two were NIH Research Enhancement Awards (for smaller institutions), and seven were for Exploratory-Developmental grants.

As expected, nearly all of the NIH awards (83) were funded by the National Eye Institute of NIH, but this year there were more awards than in past years from other NIH institutes including: NIAID (3), NIDCD (1), NIBIB (1), NIGMS (1), NINDS (1), and NCRR (1). This increased funding from other NIH components reflects the ability of optometric investigators to collaborate in a meaningful way with investigators of multiple disciplines in multiple ways.


The DOD's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) funded $11 million in grant awards to vision researchers. There were only nine proposals accepted by the Vision Research Program (VRP) out of 120 received proposals. A total of $1.7 million was awarded to faculty at New England College of Optometry and SUNY State College of Optometry for research into the diagnosis and treatment of visual dysfunction associated with traumatic brain injury.


The purpose of the Council is to facilitate, assist and promote the development of optometric research. The duties of the Council on Research are as follows:

  1. To be an advocate for optometric research;
  2. To develop research goals and to provide assistance in the development of research proposals;
  3. To foster cooperation between and within research communities, the profession, and scientific institutions;
  4. To provide a central source of optometric research information to the profession; and
  5. To perform other functions relating to research, as appropriate.