Excerpted from page 56 of the March/April 2020 edition of AOA Focus.
Lisa Ostrin, O.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry, is the inaugural recipient of the AOA Investigator Initiated Research Award. The award is designed to support AOA members pursuing innovative, independent, investigator-initiated research relative to the continuum of eye and vision care, and stimulate future large-scale, multiyear grants from major funding institutions.
How will the grant help you pursue your research on myopia?
This grant will be instrumental in allowing us to collect pilot data for a large, longitudinal study investigating myopia in children. During the grant period, we will utilize objectively measuring wearable sensors to precisely quantify children's behaviors that are believed to be associated with myopia. The funding will allow us to bring children to the lab on multiple occasions to assess ocular structure to understand how their eyes are developing and changing. In collaboration with Dr. Jason Porter (University of Houston), we will perform high-resolution ocular imaging to assess optic nerve head and foveal structure, which may help to explain why the myopic eye is more susceptible to other pathologies. We will assess these environmental and behavioral factors and ocular structure with refractive error over one year.
Despite myopia's high prevalence, clinicians and researchers still don't fully understand its complex etiology. The increasing prevalence suggests that something about behaviors and the modern environment may be contributing to its rise.
How did you begin your career in research?
I began my optometric training in a combined O.D./Ph.D. program with a goal of ultimately being involved in clinically oriented research. Several of my colleagues participated in summer research programs and enrolled in O.D./M.S. programs, and others became involved in research after graduating from optometry school and practicing for some time.
Why is optometric research so important?
A strong optometric research foundation is important in providing innovative vision care in the clinic. Through optometric research, many important discoveries have been made that translate into evidence-based treatments for our patients. Optometrists see a wide range of conditions and pathologies, ranging from binocular vision anomalies to glaucoma, putting them in a unique position to make an impact, both in discovery and in treatment.
What advice can you offer to students who might be interested in research as a career path?
Always ask questions and follow where your interests and opportunities lead you.
Courses at Optometry’s Meeting® June 15-18 in Chicago address the care of patients with special needs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million U.S. adults are living with some type of disability. And children with developmental disabilities “often have increased needs for health care and services.”
The AOA’s Investigator Initiated Research Award recipient is working to identify the role a specific protein plays in lens cells—and how it could affect people with Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts and myopia. Learn about the research and how you can apply for research support from the AOA.