There aren’t many people with longer or stronger ties to ICO than Dr. Darrell Schlange. After graduating from ICO in 1964, he pursued a residency in pediatric vision before returning to teach at the college in 1965, and he’s remained on the faculty ever since. Together with his wife Ruth, Dr. Schlange established the Brittany Research Award, in honor of their first grandchild. This ongoing, annual $5,000 award was conferred for the first time this year. The monies were divided between three projects, all led by ICO faculty members. Anyone with IRB approval may apply for the Brittany Research Award, which is awarded through the college’s Research Resource Committee. The next application deadline for the Brittany Research Award is Jan. 10, 2015.
What inspired you and Ruth to establish the Brittany Research Award?
Brittany was born with congenital heart conditions, among them tetralogy of Fallot. She would have been 25 this year. She was born in May of 1989, and she died in January of 1990. She benefitted from research, even though she didn’t live long enough to see the outcome of this research take full effect. Brittany began care at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn. As a result of some of the medical procedures that she participated in, the doctors at Hope have developed a standing protocol that they still use for babies with congenital heart conditions. Even though Brittany’s not with us, we know that she was part of a process that’s benefitted many others.
What role has research played in your career at ICO?
Research is extremely important at all levels, whether it’s heart research or visual science. You can see the outcomes of your research and understand how it affects people’s lives. That’s been a powerful lesson. One of the studies I did with Faheemah Saeed, OD ’05, was with people who have both nystagmus and albinism. We gave them contact lenses with a special tint to counteract the albinism, and we measured their eye movements, acuity glare and light sensitivity. Their lives are better now. They can do activities they couldn’t before, including for some the ability to drive. International conferences offer the opportunity to present your data, and it’s amazing how many people from other countries you’ll meet who have had experience with some of the same findings. You start sharing, and there’s a lot of give and take and we all learn.
Why do you and Ruth value supporting ICO?
For Ruth and I, ICO has been a sort of family. I’ve been here for a long time, and it’s been really good to us. The education process at ICO is extremely dynamic and far-reaching, and we see the value in what the college does with students. Students achieve great skills and knowledge and go out and energize others. For Ruth and I to help facilitate this is really consistent with our goals in life. We feel very committed to the institution, to the profession and to research that enhances the quality of life.