As of 2019, 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment1 and 1.1 billion people affected were unable to access the eye care needed to address any impairments and prevent further vision loss2, which has since been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With a predicted surge growth in aging populations3, as well as economic inequality affecting disadvantaged groups' access to preventative healthcare and quality medical treatment, eye health has become a global issue.
For World Optometry Day, we interviewed Dr Dimitrios Karamichos, Chief Editor of Analytical Cellular Pathology, and asked him to curate a selection of articles on the topic of eye health.
What is the focus of your research and what’s your background?
I’m an engineer by training – with a background in electrical & electronic engineering before focusing and obtaining a PhD in Tissue Repair and Engineering. My focus is on interdisciplinary and collaborative corneal research that can give rise to deep understanding of disease(s) as well as the development of novel therapies. In particular, I'm interested in corneal trauma/scarring, keratoconus, and diabetic keratopathy.
What are the recent trending topics in eye health, pathology and medicine?
A new trend in eye health and medicine is the rise of telehealth as a solid alternative to traditional medical appointments. Telehealth is literally a virtual way to an eye exam. It allows patients to meet and chat with optometry or medical professionals from home safely and conveniently. This new trend of telehealth is important as it can benefit patients by allowing them to take precautions early in sickness. This is of particular importance to the eye care profession, as telehealth could provide critical help to patients in emergency situations and/or on their way to the hospital.
Are there any key or interesting developments in eye health currently?
With the youngest of the baby boomers hitting 65 by 2029, the number of people with visual impairment and/or blindness in USA is expected to double to more than 8 million by 2050, according to the most recent census data. This is a huge “warning” of what might be coming our way, but also an opportunity for us to increase our efforts at all levels, including research & science, technology and resources, as well as care and treatment.
Are there any current challenges that researchers within the field of ophthalmology are facing?
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly impacted delivery of medical care everywhere. Ophthalmologists were particularly affected as surgical procedures are elective and patients tend to be older, with more comorbidities. Such impact did trickle down to pre-clinical and clinical research with most of those studies coming to a halt, because of the inability to see, examine, and treat patients in the clinics. Things have clearly improved, but 2 plus years of COVID is a significant time that has come with significant financial cost for many.
Broadly speaking, why is Open Access important for health disciplines?
What good comes from scientific discoveries and scientific freedom if people cannot see, read, share and download the findings? Open access is critical at so many levels – it provides visibility, transparency, collaborations opportunities, and health care and medical advancements. There is just no two ways about it.
Should all health and medical-related papers be open access?
In the context of health and medical-related papers open access seems to be more and more critical, as it can provide numerous benefits. For example, open access research can be viewed and cited almost immediately. More importantly, their content can increase conversations within a topic and allow for great public engagement. Today, a lot of journals include options and a mix of open access and non open access publications. While this approach allows for flexibility, it does create some issues and distinctions between the researchers that are funded versus the ones that are not.
Things like lower number of citations and impact, as well as less opportunities to collaborate with experts globally, can all stem from a non-open access policy.
The US recently announced that all federally funded research must be published open access, what do you think about that?
I think this is a step in the right direction. It is a way to mandate open access where possible. Besides, federal spending should be visible and available to all, and not held behind a money curtain.
What can Open Science do for general global health initiatives?
Improving health worldwide should be the target here, and for some of the world’s poorest countries research is critical. Open science is our gateway to developing new therapies, advancing healthcare practices, understanding basic scientific questions and phenomena, but above all overcoming barriers to collaborative, interdisciplinary research.
Why do you like being a Chief Editor of Analytical Cellular Pathology?
The level of decision-making, management challenge, and leadership responsibility can be very rewarding. I have found a fantastic team within ACP that makes my life as a Chief Editor that much easier. ACP has enjoyed a wonderful growth since I became the Chief Editor, and that is credit to the whole ACP family. I look forward to ACP’s bright future and doing what I can to grow this impressive journal.
How did you choose the articles in your Eye Health collection?
This was a challenging project because I had to make a decision and select only a few from a long list of very strong articles. Ultimately, it came down to the impact and broad interest of the described research topic. The current selection is a collection of articles that represents a range of topics at the forefront of scientific research and curiosity.
Biography: Dr. Karamichos obtained his BEng in Electrical & Electronic Engineering from the Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK. He completed his MSc at Imperial College, University of London, London, UK focusing on tissue engineering, imaging modalities, and radiology. In 2006, he obtained his PhD in Tissue Repair and Engineering from University College London, University of London, London, UK. This was followed by two postdoctoral fellowships with UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX and Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. From 2013 to 2020, Dimitrios was with Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI) at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) where he served as the Associate Director of Research for the Oklahoma Center for Neuroscience, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Program Development for the Graduate College, and held the W. Stanley Muenzler, MD Endowed Professorship in Corneal Disease. In 2020, he joined the North Texas Eye Research Institute (NTERI), University of North Texas Health Science Center as the Director of Research. In 2022, he became the Executive Director & Endowed Chair of NTERI.
This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration adapted from Adobe Stock by David Jury.