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NECO Students Share Research at Academy 2014

Students standing with Dr. Jamara

Student researchers receive opportunity to present their research to the optometric field

The AAO is committed to encouraging and inspiring the next generation of clinicians in current research and development in the optometric field by inviting students to attend and present papers at the Academy. This year, several students from the New England College of Optometry presented posters and research projects to share their work with the field. Student researcher Kristen Kerber, Class of 2016, explains, “The meeting was a great opportunity for me to not only share my master’s work and get the experience of presenting data, but also as a future clinician, to learn and experience the continuing education lectures and networking events.” Participants were able to attend sessions on topics including contact lenses, ocular surface disease, and amblyopia.

Kristen Kerber, Class of 2016

At the Academy, Kristen Kerber presented her poster, “Peripheral Awareness and the Effect of Central Attentional Load in Myopia.” Kerber examined the hypothesis that the interaction between central and peripheral vision may contribute to the development and/or progression of myopia. “We proposed that increasing the attentional load in the central vision would lead to a decreased peripheral awareness in myopes. Through psychophysical measurements, group data (myopes and emmetropes) showed a significant interaction between peripheral eccentricity and attentional load, and was significant at the farthest eccentricity measured (30deg). In addition, myopes performed significantly worse at all eccentricities in the high attentional load task compared to the low attentional load task, but emmetropes did not.” She believes a larger group of subjects will be necessary to prove this hypothesis further.

Kristen Kerber, Class of 2016, and her faculty advisor, Professor Fuensanta Vera-Diaz

Laura Goldberg, Class of 2016

Laura Goldberg, Class of 2016, received the Elmer H. Eger Memorial Student Travel Fellowship Award to cover her travel expenses and support her participation as a student presenter on her research at Academy 2014. Goldberg explains, “The meeting offered a plethora of symposia, lectures, workshops, paper and poster presentations as well as an exciting exhibit hall where vendors displayed the newest products and innovations related to optometry. I was able to present a poster on my research in Dr. Rucker’s lab entitled: “Atropine Confers More Protection Against Myopia Progression with Luminance Flicker” during the Evening Poster Special Event on Thursday.” Her poster was recognized as a finalist for Best Presentation at the conference.

Laura Goldberg, Class of 2016

Courtney Kronewitter, Class of 2017

Student researcher Courtney Kronewitter, Class of 2017, was invited to present after winning a travel grant on Poster Day last year. Her fellow researchers included Dale Anderson, Andrew Rabkin, and Brent Stoliker, all from the Class of 2017. Her group submitted an abstract to the AAO for consideration and was accepted due to their original research. Her group’s presentation, “Eye Dye: The caustic consequences of ocular staining with food coloring” examined the effects of putting food coloring in the eye. Kronewitter explains that she wanted to understand people’s motivation and provide proper education to the online community. She notes, “The main rationale I encountered was that since it [food dye] was edible, it would most likely be safe to put anywhere in your body. This prompted me to consider the pH factor and its affects on the eye. The pH of the digestive system/stomach is quite different from that of the eye, so our group decided to assess the pH of various brands and colors of the dyes.” Their findings uncovered a significant difference in name brand and off-brand food colorings. The off-brand dyes contained low pH, having the potential to induce an acidic corneal burn. As a result, they made a recommendation to the FDA to consider adding warning labels to food coloring packets and created a blog to inform online audiences of the risks of putting food coloring in the eye.

Courtney Kronewitter, Class of 2017

Anne Bertolet, Emily Humphreys, Hannah Woodward, and Jessica Zebrowski, Class of 2017

Anne Bertolet, Emily Humphreys, Hannah Woodward, and Jessica Zebrowski, all part of the Class of 2017, presented a poster on “Bridging the Gap: Improving the Efficacy of Referrals from Primary Care Optometrists to Low Vision Specialists.” Other students involved in the research but unable to attend Academy were Inna Kreydin and Jenna Adelsberger. Their research focused on identifying patient barriers (economic status, physical distance from an office, lack of information) to low vision treatment and what optometrists can do to improve the efficacy of referrals to low vision specialist. Anne Bertolet explains, “One of the major points our results suggest is that there is a discrepancy between what primary care optometrists and low vision specialists define as low vision. The majority of low vision optometrists use a functional definition of low vision: any visual impairment that can hinder quality of life or daily functioning. Interestingly, we found that primary care optometrists were a lot more varied in their definition, with less than half choosing a functional definition and the rest opting for various best-corrected visual acuity based definitions. This suggests that there are some patients who could benefit from low vision services, but are not getting referred and that developing a standardized definition would be advantageous to help normalize the referral and treatment processes.” After the presentation, the students were approached by Medscape Medical News to be included in a story. The group has detailed their experiences for an upcoming edition.

Emily Humphreys, Anne Bertolet, Jessica Zebrowski Hannah Woodward, Class of 2017, with their faculty advisor, Professor Richard Jamara

Congratulations to all the excellent student presenters who did a fantastic job of representing the New England College of Optometry at Academy 2014.