B.S. (1977) The Ohio State University. Major: Physiological Optics.
M.S. (1979) The Ohio State University. Thesis: Equivalent Oxygen Percentages of Optical Polymers with Respect to Surface Coatings.
O.D. (1979) The Ohio State University, College of Optometry.
Ph.D. (1982) The Ohio State University. Dissertation: Corneal Physiology Under the Closed Eyelid of Humans.
Convener, International Organization of Standards, ISO/TC 172/SC 7/WG 9 Contact Lenses and Contact Lens Care Products.
Steering Committee, American National Standards Institute, ANSI Z80 Committee on Ophthalmic Products.
Member and Former Chair, American Optometric Association, Commission on Ophthalmic Standards.
Editor/Author, Borish's Clinical Refraction. Elsevier Medical Publications, St. Louis, Missouri.
Inaugural Member, World Council of Optometry, Global Commission on Ophthalmic Standards.
Director, Eye Physiology and Ocular Prosthetics Laboratory.
Member, National Academies of Practice, National Academy of Practice in Optometry.
Chair, UABSO Optometry Faculty Advisory Committee
Professor of Vision Science, Department of Vision Science, UAB School of Optometry.
Senior Scientist, Vision Science Research Center, UAB School of Optometry.
Dr. William J. "Joe" Benjamin is a tenured Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Optometry (UABSO). He is the Director of the Eye Physiology & Ocular Prosthetics Laboratory, a Senior Scientist of UAB's Vision Science Research Center, and a clinician in contact lens practice and primary eye care. His basic research interests include the physiology of the cornea and ocular surface, and are related to his clinical research and practice with prosthetic eye devices such as contact lenses and conjunctival inserts. Dr. Benjamin is the convener (chair) of the Contact Lens working group of the International Organization for Standards (ISO), an active member of the Z80 contact lens subcommittee of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the primary editor/author of ANSI Z80.20 and ISO 18369 on contact lenses, former chair of the AOA Commission on Ophthalmic Standards, editor/author of the text Borish's Clinical Refraction (now in its 2nd Edition), and an optometric member of the National Academies of Practice. In former lives he was the Director of the Institute for Contact Lens Research at the University of Houston and UABSO's Director of Clinical Eye Research. He is a member of the International Society for Contact Lens Specialists, a council member of the International Society for Contact Lens Research, holds a patent on an improved design for a conjunctival insert, and is a coursemaster of the contact lens series at the UABSO. He received the Dr. Josef Dallos Award from the Contact Lens Manufacturers Association (CLMA) in 2006 and the Achievement Award from the Contact Lens & Cornea Section of the American Optometric Association in 2007. He and his wife, Dr. Patricia Benjamin, now monitor from afar the academic progress of their son, Daniel, an engineering student in materials science at Auburn University.
OPT 317: Contact Lenses II -- Coursemaster, with CL II Laboratory.
OPT 503: Advanced Contact Lenses - Coursemaster.
MIC 200: Microbiology & Immunology -- Section Head for Ocular Microbiology and the Ocular Microbiology Laboratory.
CLN 318: Contact Lens & Cornea Service -- Clinical Instructor.
OPT 237: Contact Lenses I -- Former Coursemaster and current lecturer for Correction of Astigmatism, Visual and Practical Optics Related to Contact Lens Wear, and the CL I Laboratory.
VS 113: Vegetative Physiology -- Instructor for the Laboratory on Corneal Oxygen Supply and Demand.
Dr. Benjamin is interested in the quality of vision supplied by contact lenses in cases of presbyopia. After much resistance, initially, his overall theory on how contact lenses actually worked to provide presbyopic correction became generally accepted in the contact lens field. He recently attributed better performance of some multifocal soft contact lenses to more usable vision at intermediate distances in comparison to monovision. With his clinical coordinator, Ms. Maria Voce, he is currently working to perhaps further prove the point.
Dr. Benjamin is also interested in how contact lenses stay wet on the eye. He derived a method of measuring the wettability of rigid lenses on the eye, called the "in vivo contact angle" and found that traditional contact angles measured in vitro were of little prognostic value. This was because wettability is provided by a stable protein and/or mucin layer -- not a direct interaction between the aqueous portion of the tear fluid and lens surfaces. His general theory about how rigid lenses stayed wet was generally accepted in the contact lens field and his technique was recently adapted to the assessment of soft contact lenses at Alcon Laboratories, Inc. in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Dr. Benjamin has noted a decline in the ability of eye care practitioners to use the microspherometer (i.e., Radiuscope) and that their ability to fit and prescribe rigid contact lenses has deteriorated as a result. He has devised an attachment to the corneal topographer for the measurement of the back and front surface radii of rigid contact lenses with the help of Mr. Jerry Millican. The basic idea is to replace the microspherometer with a less costly alternative that can be operated by a technician in the office, enhance the ability to more proficiently verify rigid contact lenses, and increase the accuracy with which the lenses can be prescribed. Dr. Keshia Elder has assumed the lead role in bringing this new device to fruition.
The chief problems with ocular inserts, also known as conjunctival inserts, were that they were not comfortable, sometimes expelled from the cul-de-sac of the eye, and too small to contain enough drug or dry-eye medication to last very long. Dr. Benjamin and his colleagues, Dr. Walter Cygan, Dr. Lisa Schifanella, and Dr. Richard Sprouse, devised a way of molding the cul-de-sac so as to determine a physical design for a novel conjunctival insert. The new design is larger than previous inserts such as the Lacrisert or Ocusert, and promises to be more comfortable when made of a hydrogel material as well as better retained in the eye. Development work on this project is slowly proceeding.
Dr. Benjamin has been very active in evaluation of the amount of oxygen supplied to the cornea through contact lenses and by the overlying eyelids when the eye is closed. In 1993, he published a landmark article on the relationship between the equivalent amount of oxygen reaching the cornea underlying contact lenses and the oxygen transmissivity of those contact lenses. In this article he coined the words "hyper-transmissible" and "hyper-permeable," two terms now used throughout the eye care field. He predicted that contact lenses would eventually allow an amount of oxygen to reach the cornea so high, in the hyper-transmissible range, that further increases in transmissivity would likely not lead to clinically significant increases in corneal oxygen supply until other factors involved in contact lens wear were also alleviated. Thus, he applied a Law of Diminishing Returns to oxygenation supplied during contact lens wear. All those in the contact lens field have accepted this premise or had to grudgingly succumb to its consequences.
Dr. Benjamin has advanced the measurement techniques for oxygen permeability (Dk) of contact lens materials and oxygen transmissivity of contact lenses (Dk/t), and has created a method of calibration for the instrumentation - a method needed in the field since there were no acceptable prior methods of calibration. He recently acquired the third of three basic methods of measurement for Dk and Dk/t and his laboratory is the only site world-wide known to have acquired all of them. He and his Dk coordinator, Mr. Matthew Young, have determined the Dk of over 75 available contact lens materials and a similar number of prototype materials, from the USA, Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Australia.
Over many years Dr. Benjamin studied the tonicity or "osmotic" balance of the tear fluid. Relatively recently, however, he and several colleagues (Dr. Thomas Karkkainen, Dr. Alan Landers, Dr. Denise Pensyl, and Mr. Matthew Young) have adapted a technique to rate the tonicity of fluid within a soft contact lens. They found that soft contact lenses became very hypertonic on the eye probably due to evaporation, and that an osmotic gradient was established from the front of the lenses to the back and probably into the epithelium of the cornea. The theory is that this chronic hypertonicity triggers dry eye symptoms that are known to be the most frequent complaint of patients about soft contact lenses, and maybe other complications of lens wear such as papillary hypertrophy and epithelial surface problems even leading to infection. While the last 40 years were spent understanding and upgrading oxygen capabilities of contact lenses to the point of hyper-transmissibility, the next many years may be spent understanding and solving the problem of hypertonicity. The goal is to create an innocuous contact lens or, perhaps, one that makes the eye feel better than when not wearing a lens at all! Dr. Benjamin is currently collaborating with Dr. Ernie Bowling and Dr. Alan Landers in this area.
Benjamin WJ. Comparing Multifocals and Monovision: Find out which presbyopic modality patients preferred after trying both in lenses of the same material. Contact Lens Spectrum 22(7):35-39, 2007.
Chapters in Benjamin WJ (2006) Borish's Clinical Refraction, 2nd Ed. Elsevier Publications, St. Louis, MO; .