Innovation in contact lenses for children wins Donald Korb Award

Earl Smith receives Donald Korb Award for innovation in contact lenses

Earl L. Smith III, O.D., dean of the College of Optometry at the University of Houston (UH), recently received an award for his work in slowing the progression of nearsightedness in children.

Smith, who also holds the endowed Greeman-Petty Professor chair, accepted the Donald Korb Award for Excellence at a ceremony June 17 from the contact lens and cornea section of the American Optometric Association (AOA).

The Korb award is given in recognition of an individual who has been an innovator and leader in the field of contact lenses and anterior segment disease, which include anomalies dealing with the front of the eye involving the cornea, iris and lens. The honor takes into account those who have propelled the profession's knowledge base through novel research, made a major developmental impact on the profession and positively affected the way practitioners manage their patients.

Smith and his colleagues have proposed a treatment strategy to slow the progression of myopia in children, with the overall goal being to decrease the degree of nearsightedness. The idea came about as a result of their basic research on the effects of vision on eye growth and the optical development of the eye.

His team is partnering with researchers in the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, Australia, to develop new contact lenses that can be used to implement these strategies in children. They already brought eyeglasses to market in 2010 that demonstrate an ability to slow the progression of myopia in children.

Traditional treatments for correcting both nearsightedness and farsightedness have focused on moving the visual image backward and forward with corrective lenses. Smith and his colleagues, however, have demonstrated that moving the central image onto the retina and leaving the peripheral image behind the retina can drive the eye to elongate, causing myopia to increase. The new technology addresses this problem by bringing the peripheral image forward, onto, or even in front of, the retina, resulting in clear vision.

"Receiving this award is particularly meaningful to me," Smith said. "I have the greatest respect for Dr. Korb. In my view, he is one of the most creative and insightful clinician scientists of our time, an entrepreneur in every sense of the word and a true visionary. It's a great honor to receive an award established in his name."

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