Gertrude D. Pyron Award

The Retina Research Foundation’s Gertrude D. Pyron Award

The Pyron Award was created by the Retina Research Foundation of Houston, Texas, to recognize outstanding vision scientists whose work contributes to knowledge about vitreoretinal disease.

Gertrude D. Pyron

The award, which offers a cash prize and research grant, is presented each year at the ASRS Annual Meeting. The recipient is chosen by the ASRS Awards Committee.

The Pyron Award has been endowed by an estate gift from Gertrude D. Pyron of San Antonio, Texas. She was an imminent geologist during her lifetime, and made her bequest to Retina Research Foundation (RRF) because of her admiration for Dr. Alice McPherson’s leadership in vision science.

Retina Research Foundation was founded in 1969 by Dr. Alice McPherson, a member of the American Society of Retina Specialists, to establish and fund programs for the eradication of vitreoretinal disease. A public charity based in Houston, it has grown with support from a few community leaders to a major foundation, with broad support, funding a grant program, a major awards program, a career develop­ment program, and annual support for several research chairs.

The awards program sponsors lectureships not only at the ASRS Annual Meeting, but also the Award of Merit Lecture of The Retina Society, the Mills & Margaret Cox Award of The Macula Society, the Kayser Award of the Schepens International Society, and the Gonin Lecture of Club Jules Gonin.

Research chairs are endowed at the Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Travel awards and scholars programs are supported at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the Pan­American Association of Ophthalmology.

The ASRS is proud to be the recipient of the Pyron Award as part of this major awards program. The awards program for the RRF was established in 1978 to provided honoraria and research grants to internationally known retina scientists in recognition of their lifetime achievements.

The Retina Research Foundation has sponsored a Lectureship Research Award at the American Society of Retina Specialists Annual Meeting since 1995. From 1995 through 1998, the lectureship was named in honor of W.H. Helmerich, III. Commencing in 1999, the award series changed to honor Gertrude Pyron.

The 24th Annual Gertrude D. Pyron Award and Lecture 

The 2019 Retina Research Foundation’s Gertrude D. Pyron Award recipient is Joan M. O’Brien, MD, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, director of the Scheie Eye Institute, and William F. Norris and George E. de Schweinitz Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

The Pyron Award was created by the Retina Research Foundation of Houston, Texas, to recognize outstanding vision scientists whose work contributes to knowledge about vitreoretinal disease.

After receiving the award at the ASRS Annual Scientific Meeting, Dr. O’Brien presented the 24th Annual Gertrude D. Pyron Award Lecture, “Genetics of Retinal Disease.” She also received a $30,000 cash prize including a $5,000 personal honorarium and a $25,000 research grant.

In addition to Dr. O’Brien’s duties as a chairman and ocular oncologist, she serves as the principal investigator of a 5-year, $11.25 million R01 glaucoma genetics study on African Americans that has enrolled more than 10,000 patients in Philadelphia and has the potential to provide more targeted screenings and treatments for this disease.

Dr. O’Brien’s research on ocular genetics has advanced diagnostic and treatment options for several diseases. Working with Boris Bastian’s lab at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), Dr. O’Brien discovered and characterized 2 novel oncogenes in uveal melanoma, GNAQ and GNA11, which were published in Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine. This discovery allowed for personalized, targeted therapy for patients with uveal melanoma, improving their quality of life. 

Dr. O’Brien also identified numerous unique pathogenic variants in the retinoblastoma gene (RB1). This testing, which allowed retinoblastoma therapy to be directed according to underlying genetic risk, is now offered nationwide at no charge through the National Eye Institute’s (NEI’s) eyeGENE initiative.

During her 17 years at UCSF from 1993 to 2010, Dr. O’Brien began directing her NEI-funded Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) laboratory, which focused on ocular genetics research. Her achievements have been recognized by a number of honors, including the Women in Ophthalmology Suzanne Véronneau-Troutman Award; American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Achievement and Secretariat Awards; University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine Laureate Award; the National Medical Association’s Rabb-Venable Ophthalmology Award; induction into the Haile T. Debas Academy of Medical Educators; and election to the National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. O’Brien completed an ocular oncology fellowship at UCSF in 1993 after finishing an ophthalmology residency at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1992. She completed a research fellowship in immunology at Harvard Medical School and one in molecular ophthalmic pathology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. O’Brien completed an internship in internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston in 1987, and received her medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School.

The Retina Research Foundation Honorees

1995    George F. Hilton, MD
1996    Robert C. Watzke, MD
1997    Thomas M. Aaberg, Sr., MD
1998    Stanley Chang, MD
1999    Harry W. Flynn, Jr., MD
2000    Gholam A. Peyman, MD
2001    Yasuo Tano, MD
2002    Michael T. Trese, MD
2003    Lloyd M. Aiello, MD
2004    Morton F. Goldberg, MD
2005    Mark S. Blumenkranz, MD
2006    Brooks W. McCuen, II, MD
2007    Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA
2008    Susan B. Bressler, MD & Neil M. Bressler, MD
2009    C.P. Wilkinson, MD
2010    Julia A. Haller, MD
2011    Jean Bennett, MD, PhD & Albert M. Maguire, MD
2012    Daniel F. Martin, MD
2013    George A. Williams, MD
2014    Andrew P. Schachat, MD
2015    Gary W. Abrams, MD
2016    Donald J. D'Amico, MD
2017    Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD
2018    Joan W. Miller, MD
2019    Joan M. O'Brien, MD

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