MPH Student Elizabeth Eads featured in the IU School of Medicine, Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, Spring 2014, Opthamology Update

Elizabeth is developing an educational intervention to help explain glaucoma to patients who have the disease, and to impress upon them the importance of complying with their prescription regimen. Read the full story below.  

IUSM students in the Department of Ophthalmology are at the forefront of clinical and translational science research projects

From learning how drugs work to understanding why patients don’t always take their medications as prescribed, students at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute are participating in research they hope will change peoples’ lives.

In the lab of Tim Corson, Ph.D., Halesha Basavarajappa, a thirdyear Ph.D. student, is working on the basics of drug discovery. He’s learning the basic steps of designing molecules that might become drugs to treat age related macular degeneration and retinopathy of prematurity.

Lyne Racette, Ph.D., investigates racial differences in glaucoma and is studying why some patients are better than others at understanding and taking their medications.

Working with her is student Elizabeth Eads, who is developing an educational intervention to help explain glaucoma to patients who Indiana University School of Medicine Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute Ophthalmology Update have the disease, and to impress upon them the importance of complying with their prescription regimen.

“I speak with each study participant individually to explain open-angle glaucoma, its risk factors, eye anatomy, how their prescription drops work and the importance of compliance in order to save their sight,” said Eads, who is completing her master of public health degree at IUPUI. 

While Eads is learning teaching patients to take their drugs, Basavarajappa is working on designing drugs that could prevent vision loss.

“After I got my master’s degree in biochemistry, I decided I wanted to work on drugs that could be used to fight diseases,” he said.

“I am interested in reducing health disparities in glaucoma,” Dr. Racette said. “People of African descent are disproportionately affected by primary open-angle glaucoma. This high-risk population is also less likely to adhere to sight-preserving medical treatment. We are developing educational and motivational approaches to improve adherence to glaucoma treatment in patients of African descent, with the long-term goal of eliminating this health disparity.”

Dr. Racette received the 2013 Investigator Award from Prevent Blindness America to fund this research. “Liz was instrumental in developing the educational intervention we are using to improve adherence in glaucoma patients. Her training in public health combined with her experience working with patients allows her to make significant contributions to our studies,” Dr. Racette said.

Eads has worked with Dr. Racettesince last fall, as part of her internship in the master’s in public health program. “My background in science, my background in working with patients with a local optometrist and my studies on vulnerable populations all come together when I am at the Glick Eye Institute,” Eads said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn under Dr. Racette’s guidance. Each day is something new and so far has been a truly rewarding experience. I feel like I am making a difference in the lives of study participants.”

Basavarajappa began working with Dr. Corson two years ago. “Halesha began work studying KIF14 as an oncogene in retinoblastoma, and published a review on this topic early in his training, and contributed to our recently published study of this gene in ovarian cancer,” Dr. Corson said. The major focus of Basavarajappa’s work is on the mechanistic studies of an antiangiogenic natural product; he has recently had his first paper on this topic accepted by the scientific journal PLoS ONE. His work is funded by the Ausich Graduate Scholarship from Kemin Health.

“Halesha has done excellent work screening derivatives of this product to find a very potent and selective analog that we are actively pursuing as a therapeutic lead for AMD and ROP,” Dr. Corson said. “In parallel, he has delved into how these compounds might be working.”

Dr. Corson’s lab, the first to become operational at the Glick Eye Institute building in 2011, seeks to apply the tools and techniques of chemical biology to the problems of eye disease. He and his team are interested in understanding the biology of - and developing potential therapies for – ocular tumors, AMD, ROP and other neovascular eye diseases.

Basavarajappa said he has appreciated the opportunity to work in Dr. Corson’s lab, and expects to continue his research until he completes his Ph.D.

“These are the types of research projects we could only hope to undertake when we moved to this building three years ago,” said Louis B. Cantor, M.D., chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology. “Dr. Corson is part of the basic science team that works with Michael Boulton, Ph.D., our director of basic science and translational research, and Dr. Racette is a member of the clinical research team of Alon Harris, M.S., Ph.D., FARVO, director of clinical research.”

“When we look at the intersection of basic science and clinical research, these are the kinds of projects that impact the lives of our patients. The opportunity to work on new drugs to treat blinding eye diseases, and the opportunity to work with patients to make sure they understand how their medicines work, and why it’s important to take them as prescribed, can be life changing for the scientists and for the patients who will benefit,” Dr. Cantor said.