AAP’s Landmark Award goes to URMC’s Dale Phelps

Oct. 12, 2010
Award honors neonatologist’s pioneering work with retinopathy of prematurity

Dale Phelps, M.D., professor of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center, received the Landmark Award Saturday at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in San Francisco. She was honored for her pioneering work collaborating with the ophthalmology investigators in treating retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a common eyesight problem in babies born early.

Phelps is a leader in the research of how to identify and treat this sight-robbing disease among premature babies, having helped design the first clinical trial of cryotherapy for ROP. The trial was stopped early because it was so effective that researchers wanted to speed its implementation as a treatment. Based on the trial, ablation therapy became standard of care for ROP in 1988, and cryotherapy or later laser therapy has since preserved vision for thousands of preterm infants.

“Dr. Phelps’ research is a remarkable example of how quickly science can move from research to treatment,” said William Maniscalco, M.D., chief of Neonatology at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “ROP is a particularly upsetting problem for families whose babies have already been through so much and survived. Thanks to Dr. Phelps and her colleagues, we can help these babies keep their sight.”

ROP primarily affects babies who are born before 31 weeks of gestation and weigh less than 3 pounds. The smaller a baby is at birth, the more likely that baby will develop ROP, which is one of the most common causes of vision impairment and blindness in childhood.

Phelps was presented her award Oct. 2 by colleagues Ronnie Guillet, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital, and Rosemary Higgins, M.D., program scientist for the Neonatal Research Network at the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.