UNTHSC provost wins international award for glaucoma research

07/13/2014 8:33 PM

07/13/2014 8:33 PM

For Tom Yorio, solving medical questions is a lot like solving a puzzle: Sometimes someone else sees the piece that just fits.

“Working together, that’s how we help solve puzzles,” Yorio said. “That’s science.”

Yorio, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, has been working with students, faculty and colleagues to better understand the causes of glaucoma and find ways to treat the eye disease.

Yorio’s contributions to glaucoma research will be recognized July 22 by the International Society for Eye Research, which is awarding him the Ernst H. Bárány Prize. The award is given every two years for outstanding scientific contributions to the field of ocular pharmacology related to glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degernation or related retinal diseases.

“This is a great honor to get this prize,” Yorio said, crediting collaboration with graduate students and faculty. “Rarely do you do anything alone.”

Glaucoma is a “group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness,” according to the National Eye Institute. Yorio said the incurable disease afflicts millions of older people worldwide.

As an expert in pharmacology, Yorio explores how drugs affect the eye systems and how some drugs impact the disease. The area of study aims at protecting vision. Loss of vision is one of the many fears expressed by people, he said.

“How do we find out how to protect that?” Yorio said. “It’s a precious thing we have.”

Yorio arrived in Fort Worth in 1977 as an assistant professor. He is a native of New York City.

When he started at the institution, the campus that is UNTHSC today didn’t exist. Then the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine was in an old bowling alley on Camp Bowie Boulevard. Today, it’s a 33-acre campus with a research library, a six-story patient clinic and an international crime lab.

Yorio’s contributions are many. He founded the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and started a public health degree that lay the groundwork for a new School of Public Health. He is also credited with helping launch labs used by UNTHSC doctors to conduct $40 million worth of research every year with funding from the National Institutes of Health, according to the university.

“It’s been a fantastic opportunity,” Yorio said, adding that the health science center has become a major complex with five schools. “I’m very proud to be part of this institution.”

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