Saturday Spotlight: Presidential Medals Awardees

It takes a special community to ensure that the institution continues to be a leader in health science education.

In 1995, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Salus University’s  founding college, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), seventy-six people of note were awarded the President’s Medal of Honor. On Friday, April 26, 2019,  thirty-five additional notable individuals will be awarded Presidential Medals to commemorate the 100th anniversary of PCO and the 10th anniversary of Salus.  

Every Saturday leading up to Friday April 26, we will highlight a few of the new awardees.

Alexander Dizhoor, PhD         

Dr-Alex-Dizhoor-Confocal-microscope-OCt-2015.jpgDr. Alexander Dizhoor, who received his PhD in Molecular Biology from Moscow University, joined Salus when he moved his laboratory from Wayne State University in order to conduct studies in molecular biology, pharmacology and congenital diseases of photoreceptors. He was awarded the newly established Hafter Family Chair in Pharmacology. Dr. Dizhoor and his team have since conducted groundbreaking research on signal transduction in retinal rods and cones and its link to congenital blinding disorders. Their work has been featured in many academic journals and professional publications, as they were the first to restore light sensitivity in retinas lacking photoreceptors and clarify various molecular mechanisms related to retinal blindness. The National Institute of Health (NIH); the Lions of Pennsylvania Sight Preservation and Eye Research Foundation; the Human Science Frontier Program; and the Pennsylvania Department of Health have supported Dr. Dizhoor’s work. Dr. Dizhoor’s professional affiliations include the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Society for Neuroscience, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He has served as a member of NIH study sections and as a reviewing editor for the international journal Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience.          

Brien Holden, PhD          

Brien-Holden.jpgDr. Brien Holden’s contributions extended across research, education, public health and social enterprise and generated more than $1.3 billion in research, education and humanitarian funds. In 2010, the Institute for Eye Research in Australia was renamed the Brien Holden Vision Institute in recognition of his contributions. In November 2018, 17 students began their studies at the first optometry program in Haiti thanks to the recent collaboration between l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti (UEH), Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) International and Charity Vision with support from the University of Montreal. His efforts were acknowledged through a host of national and international awards and honors, including an Order of Australia Medal for his work in eye health and vision science; the Schwab Social Entrepreneur Award for Africa 2010 at the regional World Economic Forum; the Charles F. Prentice Medal (optometry's highest scientific honor) and seven honorary doctorates from universities in Canada, South Africa, UK and the U.S.         

Bernard P. Lepri, OD ’79, MS, MEd         
Bernard-Lepri-_correct.jpgDr. Bernard Lepri is a senior advisor for Global Regulatory & Clinical Affairs at Carl Zeiss Meditec, Inc. In this role, he provides support for global medical technology related to clinical trial design and scientific substantiation of medical device product claims of safety and effectiveness. Dr. Lepri was the FDA’s expert for ophthalmic medical devices indicated for the treatment and/or correction of visual impairment resulting from macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, stroke and other ocular diseases. He joined Zeiss upon retiring from the FDA Center for Devices and Radiologic Health’s Office of Device Evaluation in 2018. Dr. Lepri is a former PCO assistant professor and director of External Clinical Programs. With his background in vision rehabilitation and counseling, Dr. Lepri authored the clinical section of the Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) Guidance for Retinal Prostheses - Guidance for Industry and FDA staff. This was the first time in the history of the FDA that low vision assessments were incorporated into FDA guidance for industry. As a result, companies developing retinal and cortical visual implants for blind and visually impaired patients now evaluate psychological preparedness for these surgeries and perform functional vision assessments to demonstrate effectiveness and probable benefit in addition to safety. Dr. Lepri was the primary low vision clinical reviewer of numerous first-of-a-kind low vision medical devices such as the Argus II retinal implant for end stage retinitis pigmentosa, the implantable miniature telescope for end stage age related macular degeneration and the HumanOptics' CustomFlex Artificial Iris for congenital and acquired aniridia. He also worked with the FDA’s Center for Biological Evaluation and Research in bringing the first gene therapy treatment (Luxturna) to approval for patients with vision loss due to confirmed biallelic RPE65 mutation-associated retinal dystrophy. Dr. Lepri’s other FDA accomplishments include designing refractive analysis strategies for Paragon’s CRT Orthokeratology lenses to demonstrate effectiveness in the temporary reduction of myopia, clinical review of the first LASIK lasers, the Crystalens Accommodating IOL, the Ophtec Artisan Phakic IOL for the correction of myopia, the BrainPort ® Vision Device - an electronic assistive device for the blind used as an aid to orientation, mobility and object recognition - and the SensiMed Triggerfish™ Telemetry contact lens for 24-hour monitoring of diurnal variations in intraocular pressure.