‘Campers’ devise new optometric studies
Call it an offseason training camp for optometric researchers—the Summer Research Institute put ODs through their paces to mold the next team of experts who could shape the clinical practice of tomorrow.
"Research that changes what ODs do in their practice every day is the basic underpinning of a true profession."
Researchers convened July 14-18 on the campus of The Ohio State University (OSU) for the 14th Summer Research Institute, cosponsored by the AOA Council on Research and the American Academy of Optometry's Research Committee, to produce collaborative clinical research project proposals.
The Summer Research Institute—held biennially—brought together some of the foremost academic experts in the country with researchers, clinicians, and representatives from organizations such as the National Eye Institute (NEI) and Veterans Health Administration.
Karla Zadnik, O.D., Ph.D., chair of the AOA Council on Research and dean of the OSU College of Optometry, says the "summer camp" has an unabashed, stated goal of teaching optometric researchers how to conduct patient-oriented research and how to secure study funding.
"For optometry to be a profession and not a trade, we have to have our own research that we perform, and really excellent research takes resources," Dr. Zadnik says. "Research that changes what ODs do in their practice every day is the basic underpinning of a true profession."
With that target in mind, researchers split into work groups focused on general areas of optometric care and began honing specific clinical questions where studies could make significant contributions to optometrists' daily practice. This year's research proposals include:
- A look at the application of soft bifocal contact lenses to prevent the progression of myopia;
- Research to determine what factors contribute to successful patient compliance in low-vision care, and whether optometrists can affect patient attitudes toward treatment through enhanced education or through intervening factors;
- The efficacy of vision therapy for saccadic eye movement disorders;
- An in-depth investigation behind the underrepresented minorities in optometry schools, and what factors contribute to these small numbers;
- The application of conjoint analysis in the clinical setting for helping patients with keratoconus, i.e., how patient preferences and goals can help guide optometrists to set realistic therapeutic objectives; and,
- Research into the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) to detect early diabetic macular edema.
The work groups will set timelines for developing their proposals moving forward. To date, the Summer Research Institute has generated $78 million worth of clinical research grants since 1988.
"In the same way the AOA's legislative efforts protect the profession of optometry, excellent, extramurally funded research does exactly the same thing," Dr. Zadnik says.
Read about three landmark trials that developed from the Summer Research Institute in the Clinical Abstraction section of the January/February edition of AOA Focus.