Each issue, Dr. Mark Colip proposes a new topic to members of the ICO family. With the help of noted alumni, he puts a spotlight on important people at ICO and across the profession of optometry. In this issue we ask, how has research changed at ICO in the last three to four years?
“Research activities at Illinois College of Optometry have expanded remarkably in the past few years. The growth has led us to make plans for the construction of the Dr. Newton K. Wesley Research Center here at ICO. More on that later. Under the capable leadership of Yi Pang, OD, PhD, Assistant Dean for Research, the depth and breadth of research topics being investigated by ICO faculty, residents and students is something that makes me very proud.
Prior to Dr. Pang’s involvement, if an applicant asked me about serious research opportunities at ICO, I had to advise them that research was really not a key focus at ICO. Today, I can proudly give a very different answer. ICO faculty are pursuing research protocols in various areas throughout the year. They are contributing to our knowledge base and advancing the development of new technologies that will improve patient care in years ahead.
In this issue of ICO Matters, and in future ICO Matters, we will feature a peek behind the curtain at some of those research projects in our new ‘Research Highlight’ section. Make sure to tune into the faculty discussion on myopia research on page 18. (You can find that discussion in ICO Matters online or on our YouTube channel)
Research now touches every stage of a students’ optometric journey. Just last week I was recruited to sit as a research subject/patient for some work being done with a new imaging system. The faculty member conducting the study was well informed, professional, and emphasized how this technology would improve patient care. Our students can also get involved. Student interest has risen so much that we now have appointed Dan Roberts, OD, PhD, as Director of Student Research to guide and direct the highly accomplished ICO students conducting these remarkable studies. The students also have opportunities to develop studies of their own. As an example, eight ICO students had the wonderful opportunity to offer presentations at the prestigious ARVO Conference this spring. I’m told that is the highest number of ICO student presenters at ARVO ever! We can all be very proud of the impact being made by our colleagues and friends.
Look for details on our construction progress with the Dr. Newton K. Wesley Research Center and for an opening of the new research center very soon. We hope you will tune into the coming ICO Matters to learn much more about this initiative.”
Yi Pang, OD, PhD, FAAO
Professor; Associate Dean for Research
“Research at ICO has significantly improved in the past few years in nearly every aspect including publications, presentations, external research funding, and student research involvement. Many of the research activities have not only doubled but tripled or quadrupled. There are many new research initiatives including the Summer Research Program, several research awards, and the degree recognition ‘Graduated with Research Honors’ a prestigious title given to students who conducted significant research while at ICO. Research would not have grown so much without the involvement of the entire ICO community.
ICO has unbelievable faculty members. ICO faculty work so hard not only as researchers but also as mentors for student researchers. I want to tell everyone, ‘We have the BEST faculty!’ ICO also has extraordinary leadership. Our president, Mark Colip, OD ’92 my dean, Stephanie Messner, OD and other PAC members, Len Messner, OD, Christa Ojeda, Erik Mothersbaugh, OD ’12, and Dan Ren have supported research in countless ways. Finally, without our amazing research supporting staff, Elyse Nylin and Jessica Martinez, we would not be able to conduct so many high-quality clinical trials and research projects.”
Jennifer S. Harthan, OD ’06, FAAO
Professor; Chief, Cornea Center for Clinical Excellence
“The better question might be, ‘How has it not changed?’ Everywhere you look, research at ICO has expanded. Before, ICO was doing maybe a project here or there, but this college-wide concerted effort to build out research is something more recent. More faculty are involved, more students are involved, and we’re taking on larger multi-center research projects. We're collaborating more and with larger institutions. We're building a research suite where we can take on multi-year-long projects.
We have built a reputation for producing excellent research. We're able to produce high-quality, high-volume research and we're able to get it done effectively. A couple of years ago, we might have had to initiate a conversation. Now partners are reaching out to us. Our clinic has always been one of the best in the nation, but now we have built a great clinical research reputation as well. This opens all kinds of opportunities. For example, I personally have been involved in several multi-center research projects. I’m currently working on a large project with UIC. We also have a strong partnership with the Mayo Clinic. We are working with industry partners, other academic institutions, and larger hospitals. These partnerships just wouldn’t have existed even a few years back.
Lastly, the type of funding that we're getting now has significantly increased. We didn't have the amount of NIH grants that we do now. We're doing more investigator-initiated trials, and we’re able to get the needed funding. No matter where you look, research has expanded. The ideas are bigger. The scope is bigger. But importantly, the support we need to make these big projects a reality has remained constant. And our focus on treating patients to the best of our ability is only heightened with these new research projects.”