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UR Medicine Flaum Eye Institute Welcomes Family Eyecare Associates

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Webster optometry practice Family Eyecare Associates has joined the Flaum Eye Institute, continuing growth of the Ophthalmology department. 

Therese Farugia, O.D, will continue to provide patients state-of-the-art vision care, augmented by convenient access to Flaum’s specialized medical and surgical eye care.

“Dr. Farugia has a sparkling reputation as an optometrist who has taken excellent care of her patients over decades and joining the faculty is a perfect fit,” said Steven Feldon, M.D., M.B.A., director of the Flaum Eye Institute and chair of Ophthalmology. “This acquisition improves access to care to advance our population eye health initiative for prevention and early detection of eye disease. Often, early treatment directly translates into preservation or restoration of vision.”

Farugia established the optometry practice 30 years ago, providing primary vision care for all ages, contact lenses, and screening and monitoring for glaucomacataracts and macular degeneration. The practice is at 2000 Empire Blvd., and includes an optical shop serving several thousand patients.

“Being part of FEI has many benefits for our patients. It has the best of instrumentation and technology, research and education all of which serve patients well,” Farugia said. She leads the practice that includes others in her family – her brother, Joseph Farugia, is an optician and their mother helped manage the office for many years.

“We’re truly Family Eyecare Associates, because my family has always been a big part of this,” she said.

Read More: UR Medicine Flaum Eye Institute Welcomes Family Eyecare Associates

School of Medicine Names New Dean for Graduate Education

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Photo of Richard Libby

Richard T. Libby, Ph.D.

Richard T. Libby Ph.D., professor of Ophthalmology and of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and a member of the University’s Center for Visual Science, has been named Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA), pending approval of the University Board of Trustees. Beginning Sept. 1, Libby will direct the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Ph.D., postdoctoral and master’s degree programs. He succeeds Edith M. Lord, Ph.D., who served a decade in the role and is shifting her focus to microbiology and immunology research.

An innovative researcher in the neurobiology of glaucoma, Libby arrived in Rochester in 2006 after postdoctoral and fellowship experiences that enlightened him on the power of model genetics systems in the study of eye disease. Years spent training at the Medical Research Council’s Institute for Hearing Research in Nottingham, England, and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, formed the foundation for his current laboratory, which is focused on understanding the cell signaling pathways that lead to vision loss in glaucoma.

Libby is director of the Cell Biology of Disease Graduate Program, has served on numerous academic committees integral to research activities and graduate education, and is a respected mentor and teacher. He has published, as author or co-author, more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific articles and numerous reviews, book chapters and commentaries, and has presented internationally on a range of topics in eye and vision research.

“Rick understands that excellence in a research enterprise is essential to attracting the best and brightest talent and has articulated a vision for further improving the experience here, making it clear to the outside world that Rochester is the best place to learn and study,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of the Medical Center and Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester. “He is a passionate scientist whose experience in a clinical department will bring valuable insight to graduate programs in basic and clinical research—a true asset to his role in helping prepare future generations of scientists.”

“Complementing his expertise in leading graduate programs, and thorough understanding of their needs, Rick has developed a thoughtful approach to what it will take to continue moving them forward. It’s clear that he’s driven by a desire to develop our trainees and motivated to give them the best graduate/postdoctoral experience possible,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research at the School of Medicine and Dentistry and Associate Vice President for Health Sciences Research at the University of Rochester. “In addition, having developed his own career in a somewhat untraditional way, Rick brings an added dimension to understanding and supporting others who are exploring diverse career options.”

Libby received a doctorate degree in biology from Boston College in the field of neurodevelopment.  He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical Research Council’s Institute for Hearing Research in Nottingham England, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. He joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty as an assistant professor in 2006, was named associate professor in 2012, and professor in 2018.

“Rick is a great choice to succeed Edith Lord as the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education,” said Dirk Bohmann, Ph.D., Donald M. Foster, M.D. Professor of Biomedical Genetics and Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research, who led the search committee. “He realizes that research excellence and successful graduate and postdoctoral programs are mutually dependent. You cannot have one without the other. He will be a passionate advocate for the graduate students and postdocs.”

“Under Dr. Lord’s leadership, GEPA has greatly enhanced the support and training of URMC’s graduate students and postdoctoral fellows,” Libby said. “In fact, GEPA has helped lead the nation in providing enhanced educational opportunities to ready trainees for the numerous careers available to the modern-day scientist. I am excited to be a part of this team. I look forward to further developing GEPA’s missions of providing world-class training for our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and to helping our trainees continue their important work focused on understanding human health and disease.”

Lord’s four-decade career in Rochester is dotted with milestones and accomplishments. She joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty as a senior instructor in 1976 and rose through the ranks to professor in 1994. In 10 years as Senior Associate Dean, she worked to improve the experience of graduate students and postdocs in and outside the lab, adding Postdoctoral Affairs to the Office for Graduate Education’s name, standardizing salaries and benefits, and advocating on behalf of trainees. She spearheaded a revamping of the fundamental basic science courses, incorporating more workshops and active learning components and emphasizing team-based science. She also fostered professional development initiatives and guided efforts to support students’ health and wellbeing. Her return to the research lab will include focusing on an NIH grant to study the immune response in tumors.

‘Bionic Eye’ Helps Wyoming County Man See His Bride Again

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

“Oh my goodness – do you see that?” It was the wave of a hand, but William Heidt was in tears. For the first time in more than 15 years, the Wyoming County man saw something, thanks to a “bionic eye” provided by UR Medicine’s Flaum Eye Institute

His wife, Rebecca, stepped toward her husband of 50 years, and Heidt immediately recognized she was there.  His family and doctors cheered. 

“Every day I’ll become clearer and clearer to you,” she said, beaming with joy. The Heidts recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. And after all those years, you could say Heidt is seeing his wife in a whole new way.

He received the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, cutting-edge technology designed to restore some vision for people who suffer with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease that causes progressive degeneration of the light-sensitive cells of the retina. It leads to blindness and affects 1.2 million people worldwide. There is no treatment or cure.  

The Argus II device, made by Second Sight, works by converting images captured by a miniature video camera mounted on the patient’s glasses into a series of small electrical pulses, which are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes implanted on the surface of the retina. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina’s remaining cells, resulting in the perception of patterns of light in the brain. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns, thereby regaining some visual function.

The optoelectronic device restores vision by allowing people to see contrast, such as a doorway or light-colored dish on a table, in addition to motion. Following activation of the system, patients undergo months of vision training to maximize their ability to interpret the signals and what they are seeing.

Read More: ‘Bionic Eye’ Helps Wyoming County Man See His Bride Again

Bike to Work Week is Coming: Here's Everything You Need to Know

Friday, May 11, 2018

Ever thought about incorporating a bike into your daily commute? May is Bike Month. We talked to some of our very own seasoned commuter cyclists, and learned there’s a lot more to pedaling than meets the eye.

“You’re safer on your bike than you are on the couch because of diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Scott MacRae, M.D. “It adds up because we’re sitting all the time. So, if we have this pedaling revolution, it will have huge benefits for us.”

MacRae is a lasik eye surgeon for Flaum Eye Institute by day, but outside of work he’s the president of the Rochester Cycling Alliance (RCA) and an outspoken advocate of cycling. He points to the health benefits of cycling, but also its economic impact on the community overall.

In biking and walking-friendly cities like Portland, OR, he said, families spend more time on their bikes and less money filling up their gas tanks. MacRae also notes statistics that show lower obesity rates three times lower in countries (i.e. Holland and Sweden) where most children bike to school.

Bike to Work Week, an annual event promoted by the League of American Bicyclists, is May 14-18. Approximately 1.1 percent of Rochester residents commute by bicycle, according to a 2016 report by the League of American Bicyclists, but cycling advocates hope to see that number climb

Read More: Bike to Work Week is Coming: Here's Everything You Need to Know

Aby Joseph and Sarah Walters received the ARVO Foundation/Retina Research Foundation/Joseph M. and Eula C. Lawrence Travel Grant

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Aby Joseph and Sarah Walters received the ARVO Foundation/Retina Research Foundation/Joseph M. and Eula C. Lawrence Travel Grant to the 2018 ARVO Annual Meeting in Honolulu, HI.

Congrats to both!

Training brains—young and old, sick and healthy—with virtual reality

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

An accidental discovery by Rochester researchers in 2003 touched off a wave of research into the area of neuroplasticity in adults, or how the brain’s neural connections change throughout a person’s lifespan.

Fifteen years ago, Shawn Green was a graduate student of Daphne Bavelier, then an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University. As the two created visual tests together, Green demonstrated exceptional proficiency at taking these tests himself. The two researchers hypothesized that it might be due to his extensive experience playing first-person, action-based video games. From there, Green and Bavelier demonstrated that, indeed, action-based video games enhance the brain’s ability to process visual information.

In years since, video gaming technology has gotten more sophisticated, regularly incorporating or featuring virtual reality (VR). The Oculus Rift headset, for example, connects directly to your PC to create an immersive VR gaming experience.

If we know that action-based video games enhance visual attention, might VR games do the same (and perhaps to a greater degree) because of the increased level of immersion?

That’s the question a current group of Rochester researchers—Duje Tadin, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences; Jeffrey Bazarian, professor of emergency medicine; and Feng (Vankee) Lin, assistant professor in the School of Nursing—hope to answer.

Read More: Training brains—young and old, sick and healthy—with virtual reality