Article Date: 5/1/2010

Following My Bliss
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Following My Bliss

Delaying “real life” led to an appointment on the National Advisory Eye Council.

JOSEPH A. BONANNO, O.D., PH.D., F.A.A.O., BLOOMINGTON, IND.

When I began optometry school at the University of California at Berkeley in 1977, I planned to go into private practice in Northern California upon graduation. But as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” In this case, “life” was my desire to remain a student. Here's my story …

Change of plans

As graduation from optometry school loomed in 1981, I didn't have an employment plan. (Knowing only how to be a student, I procrastinated.) As a result, I decided to further delay “real life” by continuing my education.

This led me to a primary-care residency at the Eye Institute, Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia, Pa. and then a position in the Contact Lens Service at Philadelphia's Wills Eye Hospital. During this job, I became interested in understanding the physiological consequences of contact lens-induced hypoxia on corneal health.

Soon thereafter, I attended the American Academy of Optometry meeting. Listening to the meeting's many excellent research presentations on the cornea and contact lenses inspired me to seek a Ph.D. in Vision Science at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry and become a professor of Optometry and Vision Science. My Ph.D. garnered me a position at my Alma Madder and then at Indiana University, where I currently teach and hold the associate dean position.

For 18 years, I've been conducting research on the corneal endothelium's ion and fluid transport properties. This research has led to a membership and chair on the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Physiology/Pharmacology Program Planning Committee, as an ad hoc reviewer for several National Eye Institute (NEI) grant panels and a membership on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review Anterior Eye Disease Study Section. Last August, the NEI appointed me to their National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC).

NAEC overview

The NAEC guides the NEI about conducting and supporting research, research training and the dissemination of health information, among other programs, that focus on blinding eye diseases and disorders, visual function mechanisms, sight preservation and the health needs of those who have visual impairments. It's comprised of 12 appointed members from the fields of optometry, ophthalmology, the basic sciences, public policy, law, health policy, economics and management.

While the NAEC doesn't have the final say on what the NEI will fund, the NEI does take the NAEC's opinion on these matters into serious consideration prior to making a final decision. For example, the NAEC must review all clinical research grants, and these often involve optometrists or optometric institutions.

Representing optometry in this capacity has been a great honor. Further, I've enjoyed getting to know my fellow appointees, learning about the inner workings of the NEI and being one of the first healthcare providers to see where funding for eye care is going. Yes, life happened to me while I was making other plans, but I wouldn't have it any other way.” OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: May 2010