Professor Peter Shah has become an Honorary Professor and will continue his ground breaking research with support from the University.
The first World Glaucoma Day takes place on Thursday, March 6 2008, and Prof Shah is keen to encourage people in the West Midlands to become more aware of glaucoma and investigate whether they are at risk.
Prof Shah, a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Birmingham & Midland Eye Centre and the Heart of England Foundation Trust, has spent nine years working on the Research into Glaucoma and Ethnicity (ReGAE) project. This looks at why glaucoma is four times more common in African-Caribbean people and occurs on average 10 years earlier.
He is currently working with Dr Vinette Cross, a Senior Research Fellow in Ethnicity and Health at the University, to research patient expectations and experiences of African-Caribbean glaucoma, the family history and genetic make-up of people with glaucoma, and the outcomes of surgical intervention.
“I believe glaucoma blindness is avoidable, with early detection and treatment,” Prof Shah said. “Glaucoma is at least as common as diabetes, but people are just not aware of it or that they may be at a high risk of developing it. Our aim is to prevent avoidable blindness in the diverse ethnic populations of Birmingham, West Midlands and the UK.”
Dr Cross added: “We want to identify key areas for primary and secondary eye-care service development and provide information and education to the groups that are most likely to be affected by this disease – but may not realise.”
The ReGAE study has three active phases. Phase one is a series of studies looking at awareness and perceptions of risk of glaucoma among various communities. Phase two aims to indentify the specific reasons why African-Caribbean patients get severe glaucoma. Phase three focuses on improving the safety and success rates of sight saving glaucoma surgery in patients from all ethnicities.