Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research

Awards are important; they are public statements of our aspirations. Helen Keller Laureates provide invaluable examples of roads well traveled, inspiring promising new researchers to choose their own paths more wisely. Therefore, the Foundation considers the Helen Keller Prize Program to be among its most important efforts to end blindness.

The Foundation Board believes that vision research will advance in direct proportion to the public’s awareness and understanding of research on eye disease and injury.  With the establishment of the Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research in May 1994, the Foundation dramatically began its efforts to promote public recognition of vision research.

The Helen Keller Prize has been embraced by the vision research community, a veritable army of 20,000 scientists and clinicians worldwide who labor to preserve the precious gift of sight for present and future generations.  The Foundation believes that the Helen Keller Prize will ultimately become a powerful public symbol of their efforts.

Helen Keller Laureates are selected by an international panel of biomedical researchers and physicians.  The Prize ceremony occurs at the annual convention of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), an international conclave that attracts more than 13,000 scientists and physicians from over 80 countries.  Keller Johnson-Thompson, great-grand niece of Helen Keller, awards the Prize to the Laureate.

In 2015, BrightFocus Foundation, which advances outstanding research and public information on vision disease, joined the Helen Keller Foundation as a partner in presenting the Prize.

To see all of the Helen Keller Prize Laureates: Click Here

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2020 Helen Keller Laureate

Sheila West, Ph.D.

Sheila, the 2020 Laureates developed significant research breakthroughs that have contributed greatly to Helen Keller’s vision to “hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness”. Click here to read more

The prize selection committee

Nicholas A. Delamere, Ph.D
Professor and Head, Department of Physiology
University of Arizona College of Medicine
Tucson, Arizona, USA
Past President, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Joe G. Hollyfield, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus
Cole Eye Institute
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Past President, International Society for Eye Research
Past President, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Committee Members

J. Bronwyn Bateman, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology
David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California, USA
Founding Director, Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute
Former Chair, Department of Ophthalmology
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Past President, Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology
Past President, Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology

Dean Bok, Ph.D., 2016 Helen Keller Laureate
Dolly Green Professor of Ophthalmology Emeritus
Distinguished Research Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurobiology Emeritus
Stein Eye Institute
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California
Los Angeles, California, USA

Emily Y. Chew, M.D., 2014 Helen Keller Laureate
Director of Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications
National Eye Institute/National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Past President, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Joel S. Schuman, M.D., FACS
Director, New York University Langone Eye Center
Professor and Chairman of Ophthalmology
New York University Langone Health
New York University School of Medicine
Professor of Biomedical, Electrical and Computer Engineering
New York University Tandon School of Engineering
Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology
New York University Neuroscience Institute
Professor of Neural Science
Center for Neural Science
New York, New York, USA

Lois E. H. Smith, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Ophthalmology
Harvard Medical School
Senior Associate in Ophthalmology
Boston Children’s Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Alfred Sommer, M.D., M.H.S., 2005 Helen Keller Laureate
Dean Emeritus
Bloomberg School of Public Health and University Distinguished Service Professor
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Past Chair, Lasker Foundation Board
Jury President, Champalimaud Foundation Vision Science Prize

Professor Hugh R. Taylor AC, M.D., 2009 Helen Keller Laureate
Melbourne Laureate Professor and Harold Mitchell Chair of Indigenous Eye Health
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
The University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia
Immediate Past President, International Council of Ophthalmology

King-Wai Yau, Ph.D., 2019 Helen Keller Laureate
Professor of Neuroscience and Ophthalmology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Terri L. Young, M.D., M.B.A.
Peter A. Duehr Endowed Professor of Ophthalmology, Pediatrics and Medical Genetics
Chairwoman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Medicine and Public Health
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

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