Chew Sek-Jin Memorial Lecture (Sponsored by Cooper Vision)

2019 awardee:Professor Earl L Smith III
(Dean, College of Optometry, University of Houston, USA)

The Chew Sek-Jin Memorial lecture is named in the memory of Dr. Sek Jin Chew, who died at the age of 39 years of complications from surgery for a brain tumor. He was a Professor of Ophthalmology at the Singapore National Eye Center and Deputy Director of the Singapore Eye Research Institute. Dr Chew received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Rockefeller University in New York, where his close friendship and scientific collaboration with Josh Wallman also began. Together they worked to resurrect the International Myopia Conference series, which had been earlier attached to the now long defunct Myopia International Research Foundation, for which Dr Chew served as President.

The Chew Sek-Jin Memorial Lecture represents a now well-established tradition in the International Myopia Conference series and one of 2 keynote presentations. By tradition, it is given by a senior myopia researcher whose work has made a significant impact on the myopia research field. The awardee was selected by an awards committee, whose members were also responsible for identifying suitable candidates based on their myopia-related research achievements; the final selection was based on anonymous votes by committee members.

Professor Earl Smith has had a very long association with the University of Houston, where he received his OD (1972) and PhD (1978). He subsequently joined the faculty of its College of Optometry, where he has served in many roles, including as its Dean most recently. Professor Smith currently holds the Greeman-Petty Professorship in Vision Development in the University of Houston’s College of Optometry. His long term interests in the optics of the eye and the role of vision in the regulation of refractive errors have been the foundation of a very successful research career, which is reflected in his many awards, including from the American Academy of Optometry, the Glenn Fry Award (1996) and Prentice Medal (2010), and from the Contact Lens and Cornea Section of the AOA, the Korb Award for Excellence (2011). Professor Smith’s research is both unique in the myopia research field in its use of the rhesus monkey as an animal model for myopia. That Professor Smith’s research has been funded by the National Eye Institute of National Institutes of Health for 36 years speaks to the high quality of his research and productivity, as does his publication record, which includes over 200 refereed papers.

As a recipient of the Chew Sek-Jin Memorial lectureship, Professor Smith joins a growing list of senior myopia researchers, lead by Josh Wallman (2006; conference dedicated to Sek-Jin Chew), who also passed away before his time; other more recent recipients include Terry Young USA (2008), Tom Norton USA (2010), Seang Mei Saw, Singapore (2013), Frank Schaeffel, Germany (2015), and Christine Wildsoet, USA (2017).

2019 Josh Wallman Memorial Lecture &
ZEISS Young Investigator Award for Myopia Research

2019 awardee:Dr. Virginie Verhoeven
(MD PhD, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands)

Dr. Virginie J.M. Verhoeven
Dr. Virginie J.M. Verhoeven
Title of Lecture:
A decade of human myopia genetics research: big data, big questions

The Josh Wallman Memorial Lecture acknowledges both the contribution of Professor Josh Wallman to myopia research and his support for junior researchers. As a long-term senior faculty member of City University of New York, Josh Wallman pioneered the use of the avian model for understanding eye growth and made invaluable contributions to vision research and the field of myopia. There are likely no myopia researchers who have not read a paper from Josh Wallman’s myopia research laboratory and, for researchers who crossed his path, he will be remembered for his enthusiasm for science and interest in and promotion of their work.

The ZEISS Young Investigator Award for Myopia Research recognizes young researchers for their distinguished contribution in the field of myopia research. ZEISS is committed to its heritage: Promotion of excellence in research. Innovation has a long tradition at ZEISS since 1846. Promoting future scientists is anchored in the company statutes – a specification of Ernst Abbe who established the Foundation. ZEISS’s sponsorship of the Josh Wallman Memorial Lecture reflects their strong belief in the importance for better and healthier lives, of both science and innovative business.

The awardee was selected by an awards committee, who reviewed nominations meeting the following requirements - an active junior myopia researcher, who had completed within the last 10 years, their PhD or equivalent research degree, or myopia research training (for non-related PhD research).

Dr Virginie Verhoeven obtained her MD degree in general medicine, Utrecht University in 2008, an MSc degree in genetic epidemiology, from the Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences (NIHES), Rotterdam in 2012, and a PhD degree from Erasmus University Rotterdam (Erasmus Medical Center) in 2015 under the guidance of Professors Klaver and Vingerling. The title of her PhD dissertation was “What causes myopia? Complex genetics and epidemiology of a common condition.” Dr Verhoeven’s publications are impressive, including three co-authored papers in Nature Genetics, her awards include a Ludwig von Sallmann clinician-scientist award and in 2016, she received a prestigious grant from the Dutch government on the topic of genetics of high myopia, enabling her to start her own research group. She is described by one of her past mentors as a dedicated researcher and passionate clinician. She is a member of the international myopia genetics consortium CREAM and is also currently pursuing a residency in Clinical Genetics.

Dr Verhoeven joins the growing list of past recipients and highly successful junior myopia researchers – Dr Regan Ashby Australia (2013), Dr Scott Read Australia (2015), and Dr Sandra Benavente-Perez, USA (2017).

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