Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, PhD, of the University of Washington, School of Medicine has been named the 2017 Bressler Prize recipient by the Lighthouse Guild. The $50,000 annual award recognizes a mid-career vision clinician-scientist whose leadership, research and service have led to important advancements in the understanding of vision loss, treatment of eye disease or the rehabilitation of people with vision loss. Van Gelder is being acknowledged for his work on the pathogenesis of uveitis and non-visual photoreception. His laboratory investigates uses of polymerase chain reaction diagnostics in uveitis and has been at the forefront of the field of non-visual photoreception for the past 20 years.
As a physician-scientist, Van Gelder has been in a unique position to translate his research findings directly into patient care. His group used field sleep recording techniques to demonstrate that blind children with loss of optic nerve function display substantial dysregulation of circadian rhythm, whereas blind children with intact optic nerves show substantially less sleep disruption. More recently, his team is using photoswitch chemicals that can be modulated by visible light as an approach to reverse blindness from outer retinal degeneration.
Van Gelder, a 20-year ARVO member, has been active in numerous committees: Annual Meeting Program Committee, ARVO Foundation Awards Committee, Commercial Relationships Committee, as well as an editorial board member of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science and Translational Vision Science & Technology journals.