Khanal becomes first UAB faculty to receive prestigious, national career development award

Individuals with myopia have an abnormally elongated eyeball, which causes blurry vision at distance and stretching of the tissues at the back of the eye, leading to a lifelong risk of irreversible vision loss.
Written by: Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Alicia Rohan

Inside SafalKhanal2022Safal Khanal, O.D., Ph.D.Safal Khanal, O.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, has received the 2022 Career Development Award from the American Academy of Optometry. Khanal is the first UAB faculty member and one of only six faculty members nationwide to receive this honor since its inception in 2015. 

This competitive, national award is designed for educators and scientists and provides funding for innovative, original, independent and principal investigator-driven projects. Through this award, Khanal will receive $200,000 in grant funds over two years to pursue a clinical research project that investigates why myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, develops and progresses in humans.

Myopia is the most common and fastest-growing ocular disorder and a serious threat to eye health, with devastating consequences that can often lead to permanent blindness.

“The long-term goal of my translational research program is to inform ocular and environmental factors leading to myopia development and use this knowledge to devise safe and effective interventions aimed at preventing the onset of myopia and slowing its progression,” Khanal said. 

Research in the field of myopia piqued Khanal’s interest because the condition is already a global epidemic — more than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from myopia and are at risk of losing sight due to myopia-related complications, which can lead to a major public health burden of blindness. According to Khanal, traditional myopia management strategies, such as glasses, contact lenses and refractive surgery, can correct blurry distance vision and help people see clearly to a large extent; but they cannot prevent or slow excessive eye growth associated with myopia.

“Without a mass implementation of preventive and curative strategies, myopia will soon become the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide,” Khanal said. “I hope that our research works will contribute to the development of effective myopia control strategies that can be readily adopted as public health measures and rapidly translated to clinical care so as to avert the impending tsunami of myopia and myopia-related complications across the globe.”