May 11, 2020

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UMMC ophthalmology faculty named Young Optometrist of the Year; Grad school trio selected for scholars program

Published on Monday, May 11, 2020

UMMC ophthalmology faculty earns national AOA distinction

Portrait of Dr. Roya Attar

Dr. Roya Attar, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at UMMC, has been named the nation’s Young Optometrist of the Year by the American Optometric Association.

Attar, the Medical Center’s first faculty optometrist, was chosen from a field of 30 nominees submitted by state optometric associations. Last October, the Mississippi Optometric Association selected Attar to receive its Helen St. Clair Young Optometrist of the Year Award for outstanding contributions to the profession of optometry and to the visual welfare of Mississippians.

Candidates for the national honor have been in practice less than 10 years. The association said Attar “demonstrates remarkable leadership when serving the profession, patients and her community.”

Pending changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Attar will be recognized at the association’s June meeting.

“Dr. Attar has brought a wealth of optometric clinical and teaching experience and shares with us a very unique perspective,” said Dr. Kimberly Crowder, professor and chair of ophthalmology at UMMC. “As the first UMMC optometrist, she continues to guide the ophthalmology department in our understanding of where we have some clinical opportunities to improve services for our patients.

“Dr. Attar always has a patient-centered mindset, and I greatly appreciate her for that. I am very proud of her for this well-deserved award.”

In March, Attar received a second honor when she was named the 2020 Young Optometrist of the South by the Southern Educational Congress of Optometry International. That award goes to an optometrist in the Southeast who has been practicing no more than 10 years and who has made significant contributions to the profession of optometry and the general public.

Attar performs timely eye examinations and makes full glasses and contact lens optical services available to patients. She provides front-door treatment for patients having an acute problem and makes determinations on whether a patient also needs to see an ophthalmologist.

Attar has volunteered with various nonprofit organizations and has served as a vision screening volunteer for high school athletes and for employees at the Mississippi State Capitol.


Grad scholars program taps three UMMC students for cohort

Three UMMC students are among eight doctoral students from four Mississippi universities who have been selected as members of the second cohort of the Robert Smith, M.D. Graduate Scholars Program, part of the Jackson Heart Study Graduate Training and Education Center at UMMC.

Portrait of Maria Jones-Muhammad

The second cohort of UMMC-GTEC scholars consists of the three UMMC students, three students from the University of Mississippi, one student from Mississippi State University and one student from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Portrait of Jamarius Waller

UMMC students Maria Jones-Muhammad (neuroscience) and Jamarius Waller (medicine and experimental pharmacology

and therapeutics) and incoming student Torrye Evans II (medicine) will join the five other doctoral students to embark on the research opportunity beginning with a summer institute scheduled for July 27-31. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the year’s summer institute will have an online format.

Portrait of Torrye Evans

Part of the broader National Institutes of Health-funded Jackson Heart Study, the largest community-based study of cardiovascular disease risk factors in African-Americans, UMMC-GTEC is a two-year research training and mentoring program. Designed for doctoral and health professional students who are considering careers in cardiovascular health sciences, the didactic program allows students to participate in the research process alongside mentors from leading research institutions.

Dr. Marino Bruce, professor and director of faculty development in Department of Population Health Science in the John D. Bower School of Population Health, is the new principal investigator and co-director for UMMC-GTEC. Before coming into this role, Bruce was research associate professor of medicine, health and society; associate director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health; and director of the Program for Research on Faith and Health at Vanderbilt University, where he also served as the first science director for UMMC-GTEC.

“Mississippi has been a rich source of talent, creativity and innovation for our nation, and UMMC-GTEC is designed to invest in promising doctoral students who are interested in careers in biomedical research,” Bruce said. “Our goal is to help develop a cadre of scholars from underrepresented backgrounds who can have distinguished careers in cardiovascular science in particular and health science in general.”

The program will provide an intense research training and mentoring experience. Scholars commit to attending a five-day summer training institute for two consecutive summers, one mid-year meeting, quarterly webinars and traveling to a JHS Vanguard Center at Johns Hopkins University. One of the benefits is that scholars will have regular interaction with senior researchers and mentors throughout the program. Mentors will help the scholars learn how to write peer-reviewed manuscripts, conduct analyses and make scientific presentations.