Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology names recipients of 2009 awards


Five scientists will receive awards from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in 2009. Four of them will deliver lectures at the organization's annual meeting, May 3 to 7 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Key Points

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) honors individuals for contributions to ophthalmology and vision research deemed exceptional. At the annual meeting May 3 to 7 in Fort Lauderdale, FL, five scientists will receive some of ARVO's top honors.

Proctor Medal: Joe G. Hollyfield, PhD, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland.

Established in 1949 as a memorial to Francis I. Proctor, this award honors outstanding scientific research as applied to ophthalmology.

Dr. Hollyfield further hypothesized that oxidative damage to DHA in the outer retina and the modification of proteins by these fragments might be inflammatory and lead to AMD. This important finding will form the basis for major research initiatives in the future.

Friedenwald Award: Samuel Wu, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

Named for Jonas S. Friedenwald and established in 1957, this award (like the Proctor Medal) recognizes exceptional scientific research as applied to ophthalmology.

Using his background as a physicist and his training in neuroscience, Dr. Wu has contributed precedent-setting research in retinal signaling processing systems. His major research has centered on retinal studies with salamanders and mice. By analyzing the bipolar cell layer of the salamander retina, he has shown that different rod and cone inputs exhibit different cell morphologies, patterns of dye couplings, receptive field sizes, and surround response strengths.

Dr. Wu now is applying his research at the clinical level and is trying to unravel the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying degenerate processes in the retina, such as AMD, glaucoma, and retinitis pigmentosa, as well as the pathogenesis of such eye disorders.

Mildred Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology: Alan C. Bird, MD, FMedSci, University College London.

Established in 1986, this award honors scholarly contributions to the clinical practice of ophthalmology.

Dr. Bird will receive this award for his multiple contributions to the treatment of retinal vascular disease and genetic and degenerative retinal disorders. His research focuses on inherited and degenerative diseases.

Dr. Bird has studied inherited retinal degeneration (e.g., retinitis pigmentosa), retinal dystrophy, and degenerative diseases of the retina. He also pursued multidisciplinary work including specialized imaging, immunology, experimental pathology, and psychophysics. His observations have led to discoveries that are providing treatments to inhibit the abnormal blood vessels that promote vasogenesis, leakage, bleeding, scarring, and severe vision loss.

Cogan Award: Marie Burns, PhD, University of California, Davis, Sacramento.

Established in 1988 to commemorate David G. Cogan, this ARVO memorial award recognizes researchers aged 40 or fewer years who have made important contributions to ophthalmology and visual science.

Dr. Burns is being recognized mainly for her postdoctoral work related to understanding the mechanisms underlying the termination of rod phototransduction, a process that is more complex than activation. Much of her work has investigated the deactivation of the G protein cascade in photoreceptor cells of the retina.

In her own laboratory, Dr. Burns is continuing her investigation into the molecular mechanisms of phototransduction deactivation. She aims to understand the mechanisms by which different G protein cascades yield signals of varying amplitude and durations. These mechanisms are thought to underlie processes such as learning and memory as well as addiction and tolerance.

Kupfer Award: Martin J. Steinbach, PhD, York University, Toronto.

Since 1993, Carl Kupfer's namesake award has honored individuals who have demonstrated distinguished public service on behalf of eye and vision research.

Dr. Steinbach, the Distinguished Research Professor of Biology and Psychology at his institution, served on the ARVO board from 1981 to 1986, was vice president from 1985-1986, and was an ARVO Foundation trustee from 2004-2005.

In 1998, Dr. Steinbach, along with Jean Réal Brunette, formed the Vision Health Research Council of Canada to unify the country's fragmented vision research community and advocate for research funding from the Canadian public. He took over as president in 2000 and at the same time became an executive member of the National Coalition for Vision Health. He also is active in the Canadian Public Health Task Force for Vision and Ophthalmology.

Dr. Steinbach's exceptional leadership was recognized by his appointment to the advisory board of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health, and Addiction.

Awards lectures

The recipients of the Proctor, Friedenwald, Weisenfeld, and Cogan awards will deliver lectures during the ARVO annual meeting. Visit for schedule details.

Joanne Olson is assistant director of communications for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. Readers may contact her at 240/221-2923 or

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