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Swenor Research Group

Dr. Bonnielin Swenor's research aims to improve the health of people with visual impairments and is fueled by her personal experience living with a visual disability. To achieve this, her research concentrates on three interrelated areas:

  • Vision and Aging: examining the impact of visual impairments on health and well-being across the lifespan, with a focus on older adults
  • Access to Care: documenting health care disparities and improving healthcare utilization, quality, and access in patients with vision loss
  • Disability Inclusion: enhancing the inclusion of persons with visual impairments and other disabilities in the biomedical workforce

Dr. Swenor and her team are now expanding on this research framework to more broadly examine disability health. This area of research examines disability – including visual impairment - as a health disparity population, and uses an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to establish the evidence needed to design effective policies and programs that will reduce disability health disparities. The overarching goals of this research are to maximize health, equity, and participation for persons with all types of disabilities.

 

Vision and Aging

The Swenor Research Group focuses on examining the interrelationship between vision loss and aging. This includes determining the effects of visual impairment and eye disease on physical and cognitive functioning in older adults, and identifying interventions that could enhance the health of older adults with visual impairment and eye disease.

swenor research framework chart
Figure: Swenor BK, et al. Aging With Vision Loss:A Framework for Assessing the Impact of Visual Impairment on Older Adults. Gerontologist. 2019 Aug 24. pii: gnz117.

This work is guided by an overarching research framework (Figure) that integrates concepts and terminology from both ophthalmology and geriatrics. Under this framework, visual impairment leads to downstream changes in functioning – physical, cognitive, and social/psychological functioning – that in turn lead to negative health outcomes associated with accelerated aging – including frailty, comorbidity, and increased risk of mortality. This framework also acknowledges the complexity of these relationships, as there are common causes or risk factors that may contribute to functioning decrements and negative health consequences among older adults with visual impairments. To achieve these goals, Dr. Swenor’s research team relies on a highly collaborative approach working with investigators across multiple departments, The Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology and the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health.

Access to Care

Access to health care is an important component of aging well. Dr. Swenor and team aims to characterize and ultimately reduce disparities in eye care and healthcare for individuals with visual impairments. This includes collaborating with researchers from WIlmer Eye Institute's Vision Rehabilitation department to examine utilization of low vision rehabilitation services, which are critical to maintaining or enhancing the functioning of individuals with chronic visual impairment.

Related Publications

Disability Inclusion

Driven by her own experience with a disability, Dr. Swenor’s research and advocacy include efforts to enhance disability inclusion. Persons with disabilities offer a unique and valuable perspective that can drive scientific innovation and advance patient care, yet this group is often absent from research and medical settings. To change this, Dr. Swenor is providing evidence of this underrepresentation and identifying barriers to inclusion for persons with disabilities across the academic pipeline, from students to faculty.

Related Publications

Ongoing Studies

 

In the News

 

Our Team

 

Postdoctoral Research Fellows

  • Lamma Assi
  • Fahd Naufal
  • Niranjani Nagarajan
  • Ahmed Shakarchi
  • Varshini Varadaraj

Medical Students

  • Sophie Gu
  • Moon Jeong Lee
  • ​​​​​​​Priyanka Kumar

Master of Public Health Students

  • Mina Motaghi
  • Niranjani Nagarajan
  • ​​​​​​​Yi Sun

Undergraduate Students

  • Yunmeng Wang
  • ​​​​​​​Annie Zhang
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