Letter to the Editor: PBA encourages involvement from optometry

October 23, 2012

Editor’s Note: There are three optometrists on the Prevent Blindness America (PBA) Board of Directors. Brian Klinger, O.D., is the sole AOA designee on the PBA Board. In this role, he has been a tireless advocate for the leadership role of optometry in pursuit of PBA’s mission of expanding access to essential eye health care services. In August, after a grant selection by PBA involving a new eye care adherence program for school children, Dr. Klinger raised the serious question of whether there had been imbalance or bias in the selection process and announcement messaging, and urged that any bias against optometry in future grant selection processes be eliminated. The following letter to AOA News from PBA comes in response to these concerns and describes the grant program and opportunities open both to optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Dear Editor:

As a part of our mission of preventing blindness and preserving sight, Prevent Blindness America (PBA) has been a proud supporter of public health research related to vision and eye health and safety. Currently, PBA sponsors the Investigator Award, which provides support to a researcher conducting work in the one of the following priority areas: 1) the burden (economic or otherwise) of eye disease and vision loss on society; 2) best practices in integrating vision screening and follow up care with access to existing systems; and 3) vision program effectiveness and evaluation. While in the past we have supported basic laboratory science research, we have moved closer to research supported by our mission.

Annually, one to three grants are awarded. The grants are for a one-year period. However, investigators can submit subsequent renewals. The call for proposals goes out in late December through March. The call will be posted on all major organizations websites. The online application form is hosted on the ARVO (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) website, as ARVO serves as an administrative coordinator for the grant process. Proposals are initially reviewed by PBA staff to ensure they meet the basic award criteria. They are then reviewed by a Prevent Blindness America-assigned committee, chaired by a member of our Scientific Committee. The review committee consists of optometrists, ophthalmologists, and vision and eye health researchers with a broad array of backgrounds and expertise. The recipient is informed in June, and the funding begins July 1.

PBA welcomes applications for this award from across all professions and PBA strives to broadcast their availability widely. We are pleased to have supported optometrists, ophthalmologists, and other public health researchers with this award. If you are interested in finding out what types of proposals have been supported in the past, please feel free to contact Sarah Hecker at 312-363-6035 or by email: shecker@preventblindness.org.

For more information, visit the Prevent Blindness America website at www.preventblindness.org/investigator-awards.

Sandra Block, O.D., PBA board member, chair of Community Programs and Public Health professor at the Illinois College of Optometry, medical director, School-based Vision Clinics Illinois Eye Institute at Chicago Public Schools
Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., MSPH, PBA board member, chair of the Scientific Committee, Nathan E. Miles chair of Ophthalmology at the Medical School at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

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