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American Public Health Association Honors Five Ocular Scientists for COVID-19 Papers

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(Clockwise from top left) Philip Morgan, Jason Nichols, Karen Walsh, Lyndon Jones, Mark Willcox

WATERLOO, Ontario—The American Public Health Association (APHA) has recognized the work of five of the world’s most prominent ocular scientists with its 2020 Vision Care Section (VSC) Outstanding Scientific Paper Award. Two papers published by the group as the COVID-19 pandemic took root provided timely, evidence-based guidance to address and correct misinformation regarding safe contact lens wear, according to an announcement. The authors of The COVID-19 Pandemic: Important Considerations for Contact Lens Practitioners and The Ocular Surface, Coronaviruses and COVID-19 were honored with the award during APHA’s 2020 Annual Meeting in late October for contributing “significantly to the advancement of eye/vision care in the public health field.” The gathering is the largest public health conference in the world.

Both papers hold the highest ever Altmetric scores for the journals in which they were published, regardless of topic. Moreover, The COVID-19 Pandemic: Important Considerations for Contact Lens Practitioners is among the top 0.2 percent of all research scored by the analytics service across all disciplines, the announcement noted.

The papers have received widespread attention in more than 40 countries, generating over 6,000 medical, scientific, and mainstream media stories with a potential reach eclipsing 6 billion. The findings spurred the most cohesive alignment on a single public health issue by contact lens manufacturers, educators and fitters in the last decade.

Lyndon Jones, DSc, director of the Centre for Ocular Research and Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo, initiated the project and was lead author of the first paper. Mark Willcox, DSc, director of research at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW (Sydney), headed up the second paper, with Karen Walsh, MCOptom, professional education team leader and clinical scientist at the CORE, Jason Nichols, PhD, associate vice president for research and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, and Philip Morgan, PhD, director of Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester, contributing to both.

Since 1979, the APHA Vision Care Section (VCS) has been an advocate for equality in and access to vision and eye health care. By working alongside other health disciplines, the VCS helps keep vision and eye health at the forefront of healthy advancement for the good of everyone.

Other APHA award winners this year included Robert Cramer, PhD, associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, for his contributions to suicide prevention training for health care providers, and Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for his lifetime of service in shaping response to public health challenges over four decades.