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David J. Calkins, PhD, Vice-Chairman & Director for Research, Vanderbilt Eye Institute is Recipient of 2011 Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize

NEW YORK, NY – The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has awarded the 2011 Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize to David J. Calkins, PhD, Vice-Chairman and Director for Research, Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology, also at Vanderbilt University.

The Rudin Glaucoma Prize recognizes the most significant scholarly article on glaucoma published in a peer-reviewed journal in the prior calendar year. Recipients are nominated by their peers, and a winner is chosen by The New York Academy of Medicine's Lewis Rudin Prize Selection Committee and approved by the NYAM Board of Trustees. The prize was established by Lewis and Jack Rudin, New York builders and philanthropists who recognized the importance of rewarding superior research on glaucoma. Since its inception in 1995, the committee has recognized the outstanding contributions of physicians and scientists working on the challenges of glaucoma and has become a highly respected and acknowledged award.

Dr. David Abramson, Chair of the Lewis Rudin Prize Selection Committee, focused on the importance of Dr. Calkins’ insightful research and his perseverance in helping to foster greater understanding of glaucoma, a disease of the eye that affects an estimated four million Americans each year. It is also the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

"Dr. Calkins' work helps to define the scope and impact of this often misunderstood but treatable disease of the eye," Dr. Abramson said. "The prestigious Rudin Prize honors his critical work and will lead the way to future research regarding the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma."

"Dr. Calkins' work has clarified how and why the delicate nerves in the eye deteriorate in glaucoma and emphasized that loss of vision is more complicated than simply the level of pressure in the eye," Dr. Abramson said. "The prestigious Rudin Prize honors his critical work and will lead the way to future research and novel therapies to prevent loss of vision in glaucoma."

For Dr. Calkins, the award represents not only a culmination of his work in Glaucoma but general national recognition of this debilitating disease and its effect on the progression of research and work toward a cure as a result of the Rudin Prize.

"I feel honored to receive this prestigious award and would like to express my sincere thanks to the Academy and to the Rudin family," Dr. Calkins said. "It is my hope that awards such as this will draw public attention to glaucoma as an age-related neurodegenerative disorder and speed the push for new neural-based treatments."

About Dr. Calkins

In addition to his posts at Vanderbilt, Dr. Calkins is a leading authority on the neurobiological basis of vision loss in glaucoma and on structure-function relationships in the retina and early visual pathways. Dr. Calkins received his PhD in 1994 from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine Program in Neuroscience, followed by postdoctoral training at the Max Plank Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany and at the Johns Hopkins University Krieger Mind-Brain Institute.

In 1998, he became faculty at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Center for Visual Science, where he continued his studies of retinal and optic nerve circuitry. With his 2004 recruitment to Vanderbilt, Dr. Calkins transitioned to a new focus on the underlying mechanisms of neurodegeneration in glaucoma and on translational therapies. This work has been widely acclaimed for its quantitative approach and pre-clinical implications with key publications in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Neuroscience, and Molecular Neurodegeneration. Importantly, Dr. Calkins’ research has been a focus of the Glaucoma Research Foundation’s Catalyst for a Cure consortium to understand neurodegeneration in glaucoma and find new therapeutic interventions, now entering its 10th year of funding.

Dr. Calkins has also enjoyed funding from the National Eye Institute, the National Institute of Aging and several industry and foundation partners. Dr. Calkins also has served on the ARVO Diversity Committee, several NIH study sections, and regularly reviews fellowships and grants for many vision organizations including Fight for Sight, Research to Prevent Blindness, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the International Retinal Research Foundation. In 2010, he was named an ARVO Silver Fellow for his contributions.

Dr. Calkins directs the Vanderbilt Eye Institute’s Resident Research Program and is an active mentor for graduate students in neuroscience and pharmacology, post-doctoral fellows, and undergraduates in Vanderbilt’s neuroscience major. He is married with five young children.

About the Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize

The Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize of NYAM was established in 1995 in honor of Lewis Rudin, the late New York City real estate developer and founder of the Association for a Better New York. The prize is funded by the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc., with additional support from Jack Rudin, Chairman of the Rudin Management Company. The Rudin Family has a long tradition of service and philanthropy in New York City.

About NYAM

The New York Academy of Medicine advances the health of people in cities.

An independent organization since 1847, NYAM addresses the health challenges facing the world’s urban populations through interdisciplinary approaches to policy leadership, innovative research, evaluation, education, and community engagement. Drawing on the expertise of diverse partners worldwide and more than 2,000 elected Fellows from across the professions, our current priorities are to create environments in cities that support healthy aging; to strengthen systems that prevent disease and promote the public’s health; and to eliminate health disparities.

Posted on July 21, 2011

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