College of Optometry Associate Professor Kierstyn Napier-Dovorany, OD, FAAO, joined WesternU in 2009. She earned her Doctor of Optometry degree from the New England College of Optometry in 2005 and completed a Primary Care/Ocular Disease Optometry Residency at White River Junction VA Medical Center in 2006.
Describe one of your current research projects.
I am currently studying the interaction between vision impairment and mobility. We know that there are several factors that make people, especially older adults, at risk for falling, and having a vision impairment is one of them. I am working with faculty from other universities, including a physical therapist and two orientation and mobility specialists, in assessing how different types of vision impairment affect balance, movement, confidence about falling, and actual falls.
What do you want people to know about your research?
I want people, especially older adults or those who work with older adults, to understand the importance of minimizing fall risk. Falls are a substantial problem for older adults, as they can cause severe injuries, more health problems, and lower quality of life. Taking care of your health, including your eyes, is a big part of reducing falls in older adults.
How would you like people to use the results of your research?
I hope that people who learn about the topic of falls and vision impairment will work with older adults to keep them safe. It is important for older adults to have regular eye exams, even if they are healthy. Additionally, some people with vision impairment get fewer eye exams because they are told that nothing more can be done. It is important for eye care providers talk to their older patients about the best ways to keep healthy and moving throughout life.
What inspires you most about your research?
I am always inspired by older adults who are thriving. I love to see older adults who are still active in their community. Some of my patients and subjects are still working or volunteering, some are still learning, others have taken up new hobbies. I look at them and hope that I have the same drive to live life with aplomb when I am older.
What would you as a researcher today tell yourself as a researcher when you were starting out?
If I could give advice to myself as a young researcher, it would be to not give up. I’m still giving that advice to myself! Research is harder than it seems. It is difficult to plan a good study, it’s hard to find subjects, and it’s difficult to figure out what the results really mean. But I think that the study of mobility and vision impairment is important, so I keep going, even when it is hard.
In light of recent news and developments – do you have any tips on how you are adapting to social distancing, online learning, working off campus, caring for patients amid this pandemic?
The pandemic has certainly changed all aspects of my life: my research, teaching, patient care, parenting, socializing. From the very beginning of the pandemic we decided to isolate with a family next door. It has been so helpful for our kids, and we adults, to still have in-person social connections. Additionally, it keeps us all accountable in social distancing and complying with restrictions. I have also learned the value of surgical tape. It can really seal down a mask to prevent fogging glasses, and it is gentle on sensitive skin. I tape many of my patient’s masks, I’ve taped students’ masks in lab, and I tape my own mask when using face shields or glasses!