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Training, ocular imaging standards top priorities among global ophthalmology leaders

Representatives from a dozen global organizations and as many countries launched a new collaboration with the National Eye Institute aimed at advancing vision research and eye heath globally
June 7, 2023

From left to right: Shefa Gordon, Ph.D., Carol Cheung, Ph.D., Iris Rush, Arturo Ramirez-Miranda, M.D., Stephen McLeod, M.D., Stephanie Watson, BSc, Ph.D., Robert Mullins, Ph.D., Sundaram Natarajan, D.O., John Grigg, M.D., R.V. Paul Chan, M.D., Michael F. Chiang, M.D., Frank Lovicu, Ph.D., Gyan “John” Prakash, Ph.D., Mitch Brinks, M.D., Victoria Sheffield, Ching-Yu Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., Sangeeta Bhargava, Ph.D., Neeraj Agarwal, Ph.D., J. Mark Petrash, Ph.D, Kerry Goetz, Ph.D., Kathleen Anderson, Ph.D.

Representatives from a dozen global organizations and as many countries launched a new collaboration with the National Eye Institute aimed at advancing vision research and eye heath globally. 

“We share a common mission, which is curing blindness and delivering eye care to people who need it,” NEI director, Michael F. Chiang, M.D., said at the meeting, which was held in New Orleans in late April in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). 

The Global Partners in Vision Research & Training event was aimed at identifying common priorities, goals and objectives for future collaboration, said Gyan “John” Prakash, Ph.D., director of the NEI Office of International Program Activities.

Partnerships that promote training and educational opportunities were among the group’s top priorities, especially when it comes to the grant application process. “Researchers apply for grants and when they don’t get them, they walk away. They don’t reapply. If we had a consortium to mentor those applicants, we may find some great research that is currently not getting funded,” said Victoria Sheffield, former vice president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and former president of International Eye foundation.

A consortium focused on mentoring potential grantees would also help address global variability in ophthalmic methodologies, according to Stephanie Watson, M.D., a corneal surgeon at the University of Sydney and chair of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists Public Health Committee. As an example, Watson pointed to the fact that in different regions of the world, tear collection methods differ widely, which limits the ability to pool data internationally to compare studies and draw conclusions from them. 

Similarly, vision researchers and ophthalmologists struggle with a lack of ocular imaging data standards. Retinal scan data taken by a device from one manufacturer are often not interoperable with scans taken by devices from another manufacturer, which limits the ability to pool imaging data and take full advantage of artificial intelligence applications.  

Creating a globally aligned effort to develop ocular imaging standards would be impactful, noted Carol Cheung, MPhil, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The dynamics of the new collaboration are still a work in progress. For now, the focus is on making the effort sustainable, without any one organization running everything, as recommended by the meeting’s co-organizer, R.V. Paul Chan, M.D., head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, and executive editor of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Global Ophthalmology Guide.



Kathryn DeMott
Science Writer