Dr. Stanley Woo, a graduate student of the University of Houston College of Optometry, was presented with the 1997 Minnie Flaura Turner Memorial Fund for Impaired Vision Research Prospectus Award.
The award is granted annually to scholars who have demonstrated merit and excellence in the research area of vision impairment and rehabilitation.
Woo's research focuses on the rehabilitation of the visual handicaps of elderly people who suffer from Age Related Macular Degeneration.
ARMD, a disease that reduces central visual acuity and impairs the central visual field, makes everyday tasks such as reading, writing and seeing faces next to impossible for those suffering from it.
The goal of Woo's research is to rehabilitate a patient's vision loss by maximizing the effectiveness of the remaining, well-functioning peripheral vision.
Woo collaborated with UH College of Optometry Professor Randall Jose to begin the research proposal, Measurement of Reading Speed following Eccentric Viewing Training in the Visually Impaired, which snagged the award.
Woo said his objective in eccentric viewing training is to improve eye movement coordination in the patient's peripheral vision to maximize performance. Reading speed provides a good objective measure to indicate the degree of progress in a patient, he said.
If vision rehabilitation is successful, Woo and Jose anticipate that patients will be able to read smaller print and read more quickly.
Additional benefits include the patient's greater understanding of his or her vision loss, along with increased function and efficiency of the remaining vision.
According to Woo, whose research will be completed this summer, his findings could have important implications for the growing elderly population. Woo said that general awareness of the importance of vision rehabilitation is increasing.
"It is important for us to be able to provide evidence that it can be an effective tool to overcome visual handicaps," said Woo. "By contributing to this area of research, we hope to continue building a case for increasing resources and services for the visually impaired."