It was always a dream for Erin Jenewein, OD, MS, to be part of a research site that was named “Site of the Year.” And, now that dream has come true.

Salus University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) received the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group (PEDIG) “Site of the Year” award at the PEDIG winter conference in February 2020, in Tampa, Fla. It is the first time Salus PCO has won the award.

PEDIG is a National Eye Institute funded inter-professional group that has published many landmark clinical trials in strabismus and amblyopia over the past two decades. And, The Eye Institute (TEI), PCO’s clinical facility, has been a PEDIG clinical site for almost 20 years.

PEDIG award winners“I’m very proud of our team. We worked really hard to see a lot of patients and to be really diligent about how we see those patients. We’re doing a lot of good research here,” said Dr. Jenewein, an assistant professor at PCO and principle investigator for PEDIG. “This award means a lot of me personally as well. So to be a principle investigator of a site that’s the site of the year is pretty amazing.”

The PEDIG Site of the Year Award is based on the number of subjects enrolled in active studies and adherence to strict study protocols. There are currently more than 135 clinical sites. In addition to most U.S. Schools and Colleges of Optometry, many prestigious medical schools and children's hospitals participate in PEDIG, including Wills Eye Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Wilmer Eye Institute, Bascom-Palmer University of Miami, Stanford University, and UCLA, to name just a few. 

Stanley W. Hatch, OD, MPH, FAAO, Resident ’91, chief of Pediatrics and Binocular Vision Service at TEI, said this is one of the biggest study groups ever in the history of optometry. 

“The fact that it is a cooperative between ophthalmology and optometry is even more significant and really a perfect example of inter-professional cooperative studies in this area,” said Dr. Hatch.

These multi-center studies, according to Dr. Hatch, have very detailed protocols.

“Even before we enroll a subject, we have to go through five or six pages of criteria to make sure that each subject has the exact clinical characteristics that make them qualified,” he said. “Then they have a three-to five-page informed consent procedure that they go through, both verbally and written.”

PEDIG awardMost of these studies are cohort studies or clinical trials, where the subjects have to return during the study period, which can last anywhere between one and three years. 

“And those subjects have to return for each follow-up visit within a certain window, usually a three-week window. So we have to really be on top of getting them into that follow-up appointment within that window. When the patient misses that window that’s a protocol violation,” said Dr. Hatch. “All of those things are adherence to the study protocol - dotting every i and crossing every t - on pages of data and gathering and getting the patients in and monitoring every factor of data that we’re taking.”

Karen Pollack is the site coordinator. She’s the one who is gathering all the forms and entering the data, making sure that all the subjects come in for enrollment and that their files contain the correct information. She’s also responsible for getting the subjects back in for follow-ups, one of the more challenging aspects according to Dr. Hatch.

“I’ve been with PEDIG for maybe 20 years and this is the first time we’ve won the award,” said Pollack. “It’s exciting. I’m very proud of Dr. Jenewein.”

PCO faculty PEDIG investigators also include Jing Wang, PhD, associate professor at PCO; Ruth Shoge, OD ’06, FAAO, assistant professor at PCO; Mitchell Scheiman, OD, PhD ‘16, FAAO, director of graduate programs in biomedicine, dean of research and professor at PCO; Jenny Myung, OD, FAAO, Resident ’09, assistant professor at PCO; Siva Meiyeppen, OD, FAAO, Resident ’15, assistant professor at PCO; Dr. Gale Orlansky, OD, assistant professor at PCO; Michael Galloway, OD, Resident ’81, associate professor at PCO; and Dr. Hatch.