Ben Souferi, second-year at TouroCOM-Harlem, stands in front of his award-winning poster for his research on eyesight restoration at the AMA Expo in November.
The Eyes Have It

DO student wins prestigious AMA award for eyesight restoration research

Second-year TouroCOM-Harlem student earns a first-place win from the AMA.

Ben Souferi, a second-year medical student at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, recently won a first-place award from the American Medical Association (AMA) for his research in eyesight restoration.

Award-winning research

Souferi earned the first-place honor in the medical student Basic Science category during the AMA Expo Research Symposium this past November for his study involving the regeneration and implantation of new cone cells, the primary photoreceptors that impact vision acuity and color.

Ben Souferi, OMS II

Over the past five years, in the laboratory at City College of New York, Souferi developed and tested his research. Souferi’s mentor, Mark Emerson, PhD, assistant professor of biology, helped him during each step of the process. 

“Regeneration of cone photoreceptors is one of the most promising therapies for vision restoration,” Souferi said. “Their loss is one of the main causes of blindness.” He is hopeful that his research will aid in restoring vision to patients that have lost cone receptors or were born without them.

Souferi’s research is now under review for publication. “I hope that my findings will help other scientists gain further insight into their own research,” he said.

Research & development

Research has played a tremendous role in his life as an undergraduate student, a master’s student, and a medical school student, Souferi says. “I think all aspiring physicians should do research. All the things you learn in class are not always tangible, but once you’re in the laboratory and you can actually see the things you learn, it helps you understand even more.”

With undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology, Souferi was excited to delve further into his passion as a medical student. “I love the small aspects of biology and biological intricacies. I only learned about these topics in the classroom, but once I learned to apply this knowledge within the laboratory, I gained a deeper understanding of biology,” he says.

Trust the process

Souferi says it was difficult to summarize five years of research and data into a 45 x 45-inch poster and a 5-minute presentation. He began by putting all of his ideas into a PowerPoint and then slowly shortened it without sacrificing the message. “That’s when I stopped to make the poster,” he said. “The process of preparing for this conference provided me the opportunity to piece together years of experimentation into a clear and concise story. All my findings led up to this point.”

Ben Souferi condensed five years of research into five minutes for his AMA presentation.

A challenge that Souferi is learning to manage is trying to be at the forefront of something when the next step is not always clear. “I review recent literature, discuss my findings with my peers and mentor, and with all my resources, I apply my own knowledge and take the next stride forward,” he says.

The next level

While he’s been involved in research since his undergrad days, medical school allowed Souferi to take his research skills to the next level. “Touro does a great job of solidifying our basic science knowledge and teaching us the various clinical manifestations of disease and research that the medical field uses to support its findings,” he says. 

In the immediate future, Souferi is looking to gain a greater understanding of different kinds of laboratories and delve into clinical research.

For further reading:

More than $1.3 million in funding awarded to osteopathic researchers

How to fund your first research project

4 comments

  1. Dear Ben,
    Your phenomenal contribution to ophthalmology is FANTASTIC !!! You are making a fine contribution to our profession as well. This means so much to me as I went into practice in 1960 I was the first to open as an ophthalmologist – others usually started as EENT I did cataracts and corneal transplants and was one of the first to use lens implants ! I started Tulsa’s resident training in 1970.
    Your entry means so much !
    J Harley Galusha DO

  2. Ben,
    As an adjunct faculty member at TouroCOM, let me congratulate you on your achievement. This is very impressive. And I’m sure much more will be coming.
    Paul J. Morris DO

  3. Hi, I am Mackenzie from the American Osteopathic Colleges of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery. This is a really great article. I know this is something that our physicians could really connect to. We have a quarterly magazine that we send out to our membership. Would we be able to put your article in our magazine for the spring or summer addition? Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the feedback and for your interest, Mackenzie! I’ve sent you a direct email.

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