Advancing Research: Samuel Asanad, winner of the 2018 RPB award
Los Angeles (December 14, 2018) – In 2018, Samuel Asanad was one of three medical students across the U.S. to receive the Jules Stein Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) Eye Research Fellowship under the mentorship of Doheny neuro-ophthalmologist, Dr. Alfredo A. Sadun along with Sadun Lab research associate, Fred N. Ross-Cisneros, at Doheny-UCLA, and director of neuroscience, Dr. Michael Harrington, at the Huntington Medical Research Institute (HMRI). Sam’s fellowship focused on identifying potential early detection ophthalmic biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).
Through this work, Sam found remarkable thinning across the layers of the retina in not only severe stages of Alzheimer’s, but even cognitively healthy, pre-clinical stages of Alzheimer’s. Sam was invited to share and present his work through podium talks at the world’s largest vision science conference, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2018 and the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) with the support of the National Eye Institute (NEI) travel grant and International Alzheimer’s Association fellowship. His objective is to use the visual system as a means of understanding Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects many through aging, though is still not as widely understood.
Originally from Woodland Hills, California, Samuel Asanad graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2012, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with highest departmental honors and Phi Beta Kappa honor society membership. He matriculated at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA on full-scholarship as a David Geffen Leaders of Tomorrow Scholar. The award recognized Samuel’s leadership in founding “Furnish the Homeless,” an innovative student-run 501©3 non-profit organization having a profound impact on the underserved community through providing student disposed furniture items to homeless individuals living in transitional housing units, while simultaneously minimizing illegal dumping in UCLA residential areas.
Sam’s interest in ophthalmology began from his experience at the UCLA Mobile Clinic Project during his first two years of medical school, exposing him to homeless individuals presenting with a diverse array of visual complaints in addition to general medical complaints. The frequency of these visual complaints was the impetus for Sam and committee members to pursue a collaborative effort with the Jules Stein UCLA Mobile Eye Care Clinic, supplementing health services with eye care. Sam is currently applying for ophthalmology residency where he plans to continue his new-found passion for neuro-ophthalmology and is determined to push the field into a new era of eye care.