Explore UAB

by Satina Richardson 

Katherine K. Weise, OD, MBA, FAAO, UAB School of Optometry professor and Pediatric Optometry Service director at UAB Eye Care, is the national network co-chair of the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group (PEDIG). She will serve a five-year term as one of the few optometrists to head the research organization of 300 optometrists and ophthalmologists. 

She leads the National Institutes of Health-funded entity alongside Stacy Pineles, MD, MS, professor of Ophthalmology and Residency Program director at the Stein Eye Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Their collaboration will exemplify the advantages of OD-MD partnerships. 

“When optometry and ophthalmology come together, we can care for the patient better,” Weise said. “The expertise of surgeons and non-surgeons comes from different perspectives. When we work together in PEDIG, we don’t compromise, we optimize.”

The goals they have while at PEDIG’s helm are to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in research and to ensure that research provides answers for children of many backgrounds. They also hope to publish manuscripts on diversifying the study participants pool. They aspire to introduce new technological tools too.

“Stacy and I feel like a PEDIG amblyopia app for eye care providers who don’t specialize in peds, but who want to help kids will be a fantastic tangible product,” Weise said. “A second committee is working hard on a visual acuity app, which would allow parents, pediatricians, school personnel and others to obtain a reliable assessment of a child’s vision.”

Weise has been involved with PEDIG research since 2002. She first became the local principal investigator for ATS-3, a study about treating lazy eye in older kids and has remained part of every related study since. ATS-23 launches this summer. 

Other involvement in the group includes having a role in 26 of the 135 manuscripts PEDIG has published. She has served as a local principal investigator or sub-investigator at UAB and served as the national vice-chair for PEDIG from 2019-2020. As the national co-chair for one of the PEDIG studies, Myopia Treatment Study 1, with Michael Repka, MD, MBA, professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Weise co-authored a paper that was one of the highest accessed in JAMA Ophthalmology in the summer of 2023. 

Her involvement in PEDIG benefits other UAB pediatric optometry faculty who care for UAB Eye Care patients and bolsters UAB Optometry students’ education.

“I love helping children,” she said. “Helping a child in clinic makes my heart grow. When I can help that child as a doctor at UAB Eye Care within the UAB School of Optometry, I know that my students will go on to help more children, which makes my heart grow even more. 

“When I can help a child through rigorous, NIH-funded, multi-center, gold-standard clinical research, I know there’s a kid—thousands of them—on the other side of the world who is being helped by our best collaborative work. That makes my heart grow exponentially.”