Research to Prevent Blindness and American Academy of Ophthalmology Award Grants for Big Data Research to Improve Patient Care

SAN FRANCISCO and NEW YORK– July 30, 2019 – The American Academy of Ophthalmology (the Academy) and Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) today announced this year’s recipients of the Research to Prevent Blindness/American Academy of Ophthalmology Award for IRIS® Registry Research. The grant supports researchers who want to conduct big data research in ophthalmology and blindness prevention.

These four clinical researchers were selected based on the potential of their original research to advance the Academy’s mission of improving patients’ lives through research and innovation:

  • Rishi Singh, MD, Cole Eye Institute, Cleveland Clinic, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Lerner College of Medicine

Even though there are effective treatments for diabetic macular edema, there remains a disparity in outcomes among minority populations. What can ophthalmologists do to help close that gap? Dr. Singh will use IRIS Registry data to better understand differences in the selection and frequency of treatment among patients of different races, socioeconomic status, and education levels, as well as how visual outcomes differ among those groups.

  • Thomas M. Lietman, MD, professor, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine Viral conjunctivitis is the most common cause of pink eye. It’s also very contagious. Dr. Lietman will use IRIS Registry data to better detect, track, and predict pink eye epidemics in the United States.


  • Jennifer Elizabeth Thorne, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Uveitis can often complicate cataract surgery. Dr. Thorne will investigate whether uveitis patients have worse surgical and visual outcomes compared with cataract patients without uveitis. She will use IRIS Registry data to understand the factors that contribute to better and worse visual outcomes in people who have uveitis, including whether it’s beneficial to use corticosteroids to prevent surgical complications.

  • Subhash Aryal, Ph.D., associate professor, biostatistics & epidemiology, UNT Health Science Center

What causes central serous chorioretinopathy and what’s the best treatment? Current research is based on studies that are too small or poorly constructed to provide good answers. While most people regain their vision without treatment, about 5 percent suffer permanent vision loss. Dr. Aryal will use IRIS Registry data to learn which of the three main treatment options offer the best results for this blinding condition.

Each grant, worth $35,000, provides recipients with a subset of the massive IRIS Registry database for analysis based on their study. Researchers also receive training on how to use the IRIS Registry’s analytic capabilities, as well as $10,000 in direct research funds. Results will be submitted for peer-reviewed publication within six months of study completion. 


The Academy and RPB created the grant to help clinical researchers use the power of the Academy’s IRIS Registry database to investigate the causes of both rare and common eye diseases and to uncover innovative approaches to prevention and treatment. The IRIS Registry is the world’s largest medical specialty clinical database, having amassed data on 60 million patients.


Launched in 2014, the IRIS Registry is the nation’s first comprehensive eye disease clinical registry. The Academy developed this data-rich resource to empower ophthalmologists to effectively improve their practices, and to reveal patterns of disease and better approaches to their prevention and treatment.


“Bright people combined with big data will help us expand our knowledge of eye disease and improve upon the high-quality patient care we provide to our patients,” said David W. Parke II, MD, CEO for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “These researchers’ work promises to make significant contributions to ophthalmology.”


“We at RPB extend congratulations to the recipients of this award, who will be harnessing extensive clinical registry data to address critical population health questions pertaining to sight-threatening conditions and related interventions,” said Brian F. Hofland, PhD, president of RPB. “We are proud of the important work these researchers will be undertaking and of our partnership with the Academy, which allows for this unique research opportunity.”

Four more grants will be awarded in 2020. The application process will open Oct. 1, 2019. For more information, visit the Academy’s website.



About the American Academy of Ophthalmology The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit


About Research to Prevent Blindness Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) is the leading nonprofit organization supporting eye research directed at the prevention, treatment or eradication of all diseases that damage and destroy sight. As part of this purview, RPB also supports efforts to grow and sustain a robust and diverse vision research community. Since it was founded in 1960 by Dr. Jules Stein, RPB has awarded more than $368 million in research grants to the most talented vision scientists at the nation’s leading medical schools. As a result, RPB has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss in the past 50 years. Learn more at



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