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Jillian F. Ziemanski, OD, PhD, FAAO, is the 2021 recipient of the Korb-Exford Dry Eye Career Development Grant by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation. The grant is designed to support an individual to further their knowledge in the broad area of dry eye disease.

Her proposal, Cytokine Priming of the Complement System at the Ocular Surface: Application to Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome, was selected from a pool of very competitive submissions. This $25,000 grant will help her advance eyecare and improve outcomes for people with dry eye disease.

Ziemanski, an assistant professor at the UAB School of Optometry, explained that this is a proof-of-concept project intended to determine whether the complement system is more active in Sjogren's syndrome as a result of the underlying inflammation associated with dry eye disease. These funds will also be used to acquire new skills in flow cytometry technique and analysis.

“Patients with dry eye disease are often severely impacted by constant dryness and burning of their eyes,” Ziemanski said. “They're often desperate for relief. Usually, I can help them, but sometimes, I can't. Sometimes, we just run out of options. My goal is that, through my research, I'll be able to better elucidate the pathophysiology and help develop new devices and/or treatments that can finally help these suffering patients.”