ARVO Foundation names 2024 winners of Dr. David L. Epstein Award

February 8, 2024

$100,000 award to fund collaborative research on glaucoma

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Foundation announced today the 2024 recipients of the Dr. David L. Epstein Award: Yvonne Ou, MD (mentor) and Tyson Kim, MD, PhD. They will be granted an $100,000 award to support a collaborative project related to glaucoma.

This award was created by Epstein’s family with the intention of furthering his long-standing determination and interest in solving the complex issues of glaucoma through well-conceived and executed scientific research that focuses on finding the causes and new treatments for the disease. For their project, Ou and Kim will study Intravital imaging of microglia dynamics during synapse disassembly in glaucoma.

“Glaucoma is among the most prevalent and intractable age-related neurodegenerative eye diseases,” say Ou and Kim. “Our current understanding of microglia in this disease is largely based on indirect evidence from fixed tissues, which can only capture a snapshot in time. As microglia are highly dynamic and exhibit diverse responses depending on the context and stage of neurodegeneration, it is perhaps unsurprising that these studies have identified conflicting roles for microglia in retinal degeneration. Our long-term objective is to delineate the role of microglia in age-related neurodegenerative eye diseases utilizing advanced imaging techniques. We hypothesize that longitudinal intravital imaging of microglia in the living eye will reveal age- and disease-associated dynamics that predict neuroprotective or pathological behaviors of microglia.”

Funded through the ARVO Foundation, the Epstein Award is given annually to a well-established senior investigator with a documented history of conducting eye and vision research in glaucoma and of mentoring clinician-scientists to independent academic and research careers.

Ou is the recently named Dr. and Mrs. Stacy R. Mettier, Jr. Professor of Ophthalmology, vice chair for Postgraduate Education, and academic director of the Glaucoma Division in the Department of Ophthalmology at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Kim is also a faculty member at UCSF where he is an assistant professor of ophthalmology.

“Dr. David Epstein has been my most influential mentor and has profoundly impacted my career as a clinician-scientist in ophthalmology,” says Ou. “As I completed my glaucoma clinical and research fellowship at Duke, I was struck by the supportive environment and incubator that Dr. Epstein established for developing clinician-scientists. Today in my roles as Vice Chair for Postgraduate Education and Co-Director of the UCSF-Proctor Clinician Vision Scholars K12 program, I try to emulate Dr. Epstein’s legacy by mentoring junior clinician-scientists such as Dr. Tyson Kim and imbuing in them ‘Epstein-isms’: be an inquisitive clinician, develop your passion for scientific inquiry, and be an ‘ornament’ to your profession.”

“The Dr. David L. Epstein Award and mentorship from Professor Yvonne Ou are instrumental in creating a glaucoma research program which merges my passions in optical engineering and studying cellular-level dynamics in the pathophysiology of neurodegeneration,” says Kim. “I aspire to build a cross-disciplinary research program that utilizes advanced imaging and molecular assays to interrogate detailed cellular mechanisms and advance our fundamental understanding of neurodegeneration and protection in glaucoma.”

Kim says he also greatly appreciates the legacy of mentorship that this award embodies. “I have heard Dr. Ou speak of the critical and influential role Dr. Epstein’s mentorship played in her own career as a clinician-scientist. I view science and mentorship as two of the most meaningful ways to impact human life, and I look forward to mentoring others toward innovative research and improving human sight.”

For more information about the Dr. David L. Epstein Award, visit ARVO’s website.