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NECO Professor Receives AOF/Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Innovation in Education Grant

October 3, 2016 - Elena Z. Biffi, OD, MSc, FAAO has been selected as one of three 2016 Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. Innovation in Education Grant Recipients by the American Optometry Foundation (AOF). Dr. Biffi is an Assistant Professor of Optometry at New England College of Optometry, NECO, and staff optometrist at the South Boston Community Health Center.

The AOF awards the Innovation in Education grants to “aid recently appointed faculty in advancing their teaching skills in the areas of improving delivery of information to students, new methodologies, increasing the use of new technology in all teaching settings, and the promotion of online learning tools.”  (source:  American Academy of Optometry Foundation website) 

Dr. Biffi was selected for a grant to support her research project “Effectiveness of a Novel Smartphone App for Diagnostic Interpretation of OCT Data.” She will be honored at the American Optometric Foundation Celebration Luncheon on November 12.

In her proposal, Dr. Biffi explains, “The widespread availability of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) has revolutionized diagnostic approaches to retinal pathology by allowing for microstructural characterization of disease processes, leading to improved differential diagnosis and management of ocular disorders.”  She explains that despite the extreme value of OCT imaging, utilizing the image effectively and efficiently to diagnose patient conditions requires a great deal of training and expertise. Considering the limitation of current resources, she envisioned a smartphone/tablet app presenting well-annotated OCT reference images to aid in diagnoses.

Dr. Biffi's project will examine how such a diagnostic reference app containing an annotated atlas of OCT data can assist learners (specifically OD students) in diagnosing common retinal pathological conditions. She believes this app would increase effectiveness and efficiency in diagnosis with good user satisfaction.  Funds from the grant will help to cover costs of the production and development of the app.

Dr. Biffi’s research will be tested by third and fourth year students from New England College of Optometry after completion of  her course, Clinical Ocular Imaging Topics.  She will examine three main outcomes: 1.)  Was the research tool helpful in assisting in the diagnosis of common retinal pathological conditions? Did it result in a clear diagnosis?  2.)  Did the app result in better time efficiency for diagnosis?  3.)  What was the learner satisfaction rate when using the tool?

The app would initially be available to students to assist in their diagnosis of OCT scans with the goal of making it publically accessible to practicing optometrists.

About New England College of Optometry

New England College of Optometry is an independent graduate college of optometry that educates students for careers in eye care delivery, research and education. NECO was founded in 1894 as the Klein School of Optics, and is the oldest continuously operating school of optometry in the United States. NECO prepares the next generation of eye care providers, educators, leaders, and innovators through a rigorous curriculum and extensive clinical experiences.   Through a vast network of clinical affiliations, our students put patient care first, providing vision care to children, older adults, the homeless, and individuals with disabilities through our mobile eye clinic, satellite clinics in schools, homeless shelters, community health centers, and VA medical centers.

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