Ophthalmology faculty selected for College of Medicine Faculty of the Year and Rising Star awards

Mahnaz Shahidi, PhD and Ahmad Aref, MD recently added two new awards to their outstanding achievements in the advancement of vision science.

(l to r) Dr. Rohit Varma, Dr. Manhaz Shahidi, Dean AzarCollege of Medicine Dean Dimitri Azar presented the 2014 Departmental Faculty of the Year Award to Dr. Shahidi, Morton F. Goldberg Professor of Ophthalmology, and the Rising Star Award to Dr. Aref, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, at a College of Medicine ceremony on March 7.

“It is certainly an honor to accept this award, and I hope I can continue to contribute to the advancement of our department, college, and institution,” Dr. Shahidi remarked upon receiving the Departmental Faculty of the Year award.

As Director of the Applied Physics Research Laboratory, Dr. Shahidi integrates basic and clinic research in the field of biomedical imaging.  For over 20 years, her National Eye Institute funded research program has improved the accuracy and reliability of the diagnostic tools ophthalmologists use to directly view the retina.  Her work has made it possible to detect subtle changes in retinal tissue earlier in the disease process, opening the way to better diagnoses and monitoring of blinding retinal diseases.  In 2012, Dr. Shahidi was named the University of Illinois at Chicago Inventor of the Year for invention of an optical imaging device (EyeFlow) that measures blood flow in the conjunctiva of the eye.  The EyeFlow device provides a quick and cost effective means to diagnose and screen patients who are at risk of stroke, a leading cause of death and long-term disability in the United States.  Dr. Shahidi also serves the department as Vice Chair for Research.

(l to r) Dr. William Mieler, Dr. Ahmad Aref, Dean Azar“I am humbled to be chosen among an extremely talented and accomplished group of peers,” Dr. Aref said of his Rising Star Award.  “I am truly honored.”

Dr. Aref is one of the Ophthalmology Department’s most skilled physicians.  As a surgeon, he has demonstrated an ability to tackle some of the most complex ophthalmic diseases in a safe and efficacious manner.   He has been highly productive pursuing his research interests, which include investigations of the use of fish oil capsules in the treatment of dry eye, a frequent side-effect of the medications used to treat glaucoma.  The American Glaucoma Society recently awarded Dr. Aref the prestigious Mentoring for Advancement of Physician-Scientists award.

“Dr. Aref and Dr. Shahidi are examples of the best that academic medicine has to offer in advancing patient care and vision science,” said Dr. William Mieler, Acting Head of Ophthalmology.  “Their contributions raise the bar and set an example for the graduate and medical students, residents and fellows they mentor.”

by Julie Daraska