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Friday / August 19.
HomeminewsAustralians Awarded 2019 William C. Ezell Fellowship

Australians Awarded 2019 William C. Ezell Fellowship

Two Australian researchers – Rajendra Gyawali and Revathy Mani – were among 13 recipients of 2019 William C. Ezell Fellowships, awarded by The American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF).

The prestigious Fellowships recognise the contribution of talented graduate research students in optometric education, clinical practice and scientific research.

DIABETIC EYE DISEASE: RAJENDRA GYAWALI

The importance of research into diabetic eye disease was recognised with a 2019 William C. Ezell Fellowship awarded to Australian researcher Rajendra Gyawali.

Mr Gyawali, a UNSW Scientia PhD scholar, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, is working on eye health service delivery research under the supervisory team of A/Prof Isabelle Jalbert, Prof Fiona Stapleton, and Prof Lisa Keay (the iCareTrack Project). His research aims to improve the appropriateness of eye care delivery for people with diabetes in Australia.

Mr Gyawali said despite a desire across optometry to provide the best possible care to all patients, there are consistent gaps in what is known as best care (evidence) and the service that is actually provided in practice.

“This evidence-to-practice gap is especially important for diabetic eye disease, which is one of the leading causes of vision loss in Australia and the world, and the burden is likely to increase. Optometrists play an important role in reducing this burden by providing appropriate and timely care,” said Mr Gyawali.

The research project is investigating the determinants (i.e. barriers and facilitators) of care provided by Australian primary eye care practitioners. Information gathered will be used to design, implement and evaluate theory-based interventions to improve the care provided to people with diabetic eye disease.

“We are examining the quality of current clinical practice guidelines for diabetic eye disease, including the NHMRC guidelines. We also aim to produce evidence on the determinants i.e. barriers and facilitators of appropriate eye care provided by Australian primary eye care practitioners. Finally, we will develop, implement and evaluate intervention programs aimed at improving the appropriateness of eye care delivered to people with diabetic eye disease. We expect to have some positive impact of the project on the appropriateness of diabetic eye care delivery in Australia.”

Mr Gyawali acknowledged Optometry Australia’s involvement as a partner in the project.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY: REVATHY MANI

Revathy Mani received a Fellowship in recognition of her research which aims to understand how saccadic eye movements are affected in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

“TBI is a serious public health problem due to its acute and chronic debilitating consequences. It leads to physical, cognitive, emotional and sensorimotor disturbances,” explained Ms Mani.

“The complex neural connections of the saccadic eye movement system are located in the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain – the most vulnerable areas in brain injury. These centres in the brain also play an important role in attention, working memory and decision-making.”

Ms Mani said the emergence of eye tracking technology has made measuring eye movements more efficient in detecting subtle defects in TBI. It also offers potential to evaluate attention, working memory and executive functions.

“Hence, our aim is to investigate how temporal constraints of attention disengagement and working memory capacity affect saccadic eye movements, using an eye tracker in individuals with head injury.”

Ms Mani said there is a need for a simple, objective, cost effective and sensitive biomarker to detect and monitor TBI.

“The first line of assessment after a head injury often includes assessment of neuropsychological functions, which is time consuming, subjective, and influenced by educational, cultural and ethnic background. Additionally, interpretation requires expertise and it is not sensitive to detect subtle deficits in TBI.”

“Conventional neuroimaging techniques, such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, are expensive, require expertise, and often fail to detect diffuse axonal injuries (DAI) – the signature injury of TBI. Hence, our specific eye movement paradigms measured by the eye tracking technology may be a quick, sensitive, objective and cost effective surrogate visual bio-marker for early detection of TBI and monitoring treatment and recovery.”

Ms Mani’s research is primarily supported by an International Post Graduate scholarship Award (UIPA) from the University of New South Wales (UNSW, Sydney).

About the Fellowship

The Ezell Fellowship program is named after the founding President of the AAOF, Dr William C. Ezell, and was established to provide recognition and support to talented post-doctoral students who are pursuing an advanced degree in optometric research and education. Over 420 William C. Ezell Fellowships have been awarded since the inception of the program in 1949.

The award is a monetary prize of US$8,000. Each student also receives travel grants to the annual meetings of the American Academy of Optometry and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), which are $750 each.

The Fellowships are funded by leading optometric companies, private endowments, and other industry representatives.

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