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December 4, 2013

Q&A: Dr. Kathryn Richdale on Clinical Research at the College

Dr. Kathryn RichdaleDr. Kathryn Richdale, an assistant professor at SUNY Optometry, is the director of the Clinical Vision Research Center (CVRC) . Here she answers a few questions about the CVRC and the important role that clinical research plays at the College

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Tell us, what is the Clinical Vision Research Center, when was it established at the College and what is its goal?

The CVRC was established at the College in February 2013. The primary goal of the CVRC is to provide the necessary infrastructure to allow the conduct of sponsored clinical research in eye and vision care.

How does the CVRC work in conjunction with the University Eye Center and the College to accomplish their goals?

The College, the University Eye Center (UEC) and the CVRC work together to accomplish many greater goals. Through the establishment of the CVRC, the College helps faculty to conduct research in their area of expertise, but the CVRC also supports the students and patients at SUNY. For example, teaching students about the practice of evidence based medicine is one of the missions of the College, and the CVRC provides opportunities for students to learn about the latest clinical studies and gain hands-on experience conducting research.  

In addition, our doctors in the UEC strive to provide the best care and treatment options for their patients – and this now includes the ability to refer patients to clinical studies in the CVRC.

Also, the studies at the CVRC often provide services free of charge, pay patients for their time or offer treatments not otherwise available at a general eye care provider’s office. Together, we’re providing better services to those who work, study or are cared for at our institution.  

You do your research in conjunction with corporate and nonprofit entities. Do you find developing relationships with organizations outside of higher education to be particularly helpful?

The understanding of eye and vision problems and the safe and careful development of new treatments can be a very time consuming and expensive process. At the College and UEC, we have some of the best and brightest clinicians and researchers in the field, but it's only through our industry, private and government partners that we are able to gain the necessary financial support and materials, such as new drugs or devices, to carry out our clinical research. Working with these partners allows us to bring cutting-edge diagnosis and treatment options directly to our patients.

What are your biggest challenges when trying to conduct effective clinical research?

Successful clinical research requires a massive team effort and we’re only as strong as our weakest link. We rely on our sponsors for support, our doctors to communicate with patients about clinical research opportunities, our patients to volunteer as study participants and our clinical research team to provide the best care for our study patients. This past year has been a growing process as we’ve learned how to work together in the best interest of our institution, our patients and the greater optometric community. We’ve come a long way in a short time, but our biggest challenge currently is the recruitment of patients from the UEC’s busy and bustling clinic. 

In your estimation, why is a clinical research program so important for an institution like the SUNY College of Optometry?

Without a doubt, the best health care and teaching facilities in the world are the ones that are actively engaging in research.  Participating in research keeps clinicians at the forefront of their field; making them better teachers and care givers.  Offering research opportunities attracts new patients who recognize the institution for its expertise and its ability to provide the latest health care options. Providing a strong clinical research graduate program attracts more knowledgeable and skilled students. In short, clinical research is the foundation upon which better patient care and education are built.

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To find out about the CVRC's latest research programs click here.