Grantees create the first noninvasive technique to measure eye pressure.

Breaking Ground in Glaucoma: Spotlight on Dr. Joel Schuman

In 1995, with his ophthalmology residency a few years behind him, Joel S. Schuman, MD, received a BrightFocus grant to delve into the genetics of glaucoma. And before a decade passed, he and his colleagues were the first to identify a molecular marker for human glaucoma.

With several BrightFocus projects, Schuman has led research to develop advanced imaging for glaucoma and other vision diseases, which has led to advances in detection and early treatment.

Most notably, Schuman was a member of the team that developed a groundbreaking medical imaging procedure called optical coherence tomography (OCT) that creates a 3D map of the eye. This quick and noninvasive procedure allows ophthalmologists to measure the thickness of the optic nerve and to assess the nerve and surrounding tissue for signs of stress caused by pressure elevation. OCT is rapidly becoming the practice standard for diagnosing glaucoma and monitoring its progression. It makes it possible to intervene and reach treatment decisions earlier and is invaluable in helping to preserve precious sight.

“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘If it weren’t for BrightFocus, I could never do this research," said Dr. Schuman. "What’s especially valuable about the BrightFocus mission is its focus on young investigators," he continued. “They are our future, and BrightFocus has the foresight to invest in them, as the organization invested in me."

“I have been privileged to be involved in research that has made a difference in people’s lives around the world. This would not have been possible without BrightFocus.”—Dr. Joel Schuman