Safety and Functionality Eye Research (SAFER)

The SAFER research team SAFER team members at the Wilmer Eye Institute.

What is SAFER?


People with visual impairment are at high risk for falls and have greater difficulty with the activities of daily living than their normal-sighted counterparts. They are also more likely to require a move to assisted-living facilities.


The SAFER team is trying to understand how the home environment affects a person’s fall risk and functionality at home. Home modifications can be an effective strategy to improve safety since we spend most of our time in our homes and thus are more likely to fall there. The SAFER team will determine what environmental features lower the risk for falls and make activities of daily living easier in the home.


SAFER is actively recruiting and evaluating study participants! Those enrolled are asked to participate in the study over a period of roughly 24 months.


The SAFER study is recruiting participants living within the 60 miles from Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore City.


This research benefits all persons with decreased vision due to glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration. Our findings will ultimately help aging individuals with visual impairment live safely and independently for a longer time in the comfort of their homes.

Funding: National Eye Institute - EY022976; Research to Prevent Blindness

See description of the study on the NIH website

Our Team

Pradeep Ramulu, M.D., Ph.D. - Principal Investigator

Dr. Ramulu grew up in suburban Chicago as the son of two immigrant doctors. After obtaining his medical degree and completing Ph.D. studies in molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins, he pursued a residency in ophthalmology, and discovered that his real passion was understanding and preventing the impact that eye diseases have on individuals. This passion led him to propose the SAFER study, so that older adults, especially those with poor vision, can live safely and functionally within the home of their choice. In his free time, Dr. Ramulu enjoys hiking, exercising, vegan dining, and exploring the deeper realities of life.

Pradeep Ramulu

Aleksandra (Aleks) Mihailovic, Sc.M. - Sr. Biostatistician

Aleks Mihailovic is originally from Croatia, and is a long time resident of the United States. She has been with the Glaucoma Research Division at Wilmer for the past seven years, working with Dr. Ramulu and other glaucoma faculty on many studies. Her primary research interest is finding ways to help older adults with visual impairment live safely and independently at their homes for as long as they choose to. When she is not doing research, she likes to work in her garden, bike around Baltimore and spend time with her family and friends.

Aleks Mihailovic

Rhonda Miller, M.S. - Sr. Research Coordinator II

Rhonda Miller's primary interest is in helping aging adults with physical disabilities and/or visual impairment improve safety during activities of daily living. In her free time, she practices hunter/jumper horseback riding, hikes throughout Maryland, and spends time with her family, friends and pets.

Rhonda Miller

Xiangrong Kong, Ph.D. - Associate Professor of Ophthalmology

Dr. Kong received her Ph.D. in biostatistics from the School of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has training in social and behavioral sciences for promoting health seeking behaviors. She has over 10 years of experience in epidemiology and public health studies in both domestic and international settings. Dr. Kong also directs the coordinating centers for two multicenter international studies on retinal diseases. Dr. Kong serves as senior biostatistician for the SAFER study and contributes to study design, program development, data analysis and results dissemination.

Xiangrong Kong

José Gustavo Vargas, M.D. - Research Assistant

José Gustavo Vargas is a recent MD graduate from the University of Puerto Rico, looking forward to a future ophthalmology residency and his role as part of the SAFER team. His primary research interest is glaucoma and quality of life improvements in patients suffering from ocular conditions. In his spare time, he likes to read, exercise, paint miniature figurines and spend time with family and friends.

Jose Vargas

Tejasvi Kakani, B.S. - Research Assistant

Tejasvi Kakani recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor of Science in molecular and cellular biology. She is looking to matriculate into medical school in the near future. Some of Tejasvi's hobbies include dancing, playing tennis and reading.

Tejasvi Kakani

Ala Lutsenko, M.D. - Sr. Research Coordinator

Ala Lutsenko is a medical doctor from Belarus. When she moved to United States, she decided to continue helping patients through research. As a part of the SAFER team, she applies her knowledge and experience to assist participants and obtain a better understanding of how the home environment affects a person’s fall risk and functionality at home. She likes to spend her spare time creating jewelry, taking pictures of cars and hiking at the Great Falls Park.

Ala Lutsenko

Research Findings

In our prior research of 245 participants with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma (average age of 71 years), we found that our participants were most likely to fall inside of their homes and that most falls were reported on the indoor stairs and in the bedroom. The most commonly reported fall circumstances were tripping, slipping, uneven flooring and poor vision.

During home evaluation, the largest number of environmental hazards were found in the bathroom or on the indoor stairs of our study participants’ homes. Among evaluated hazards, inadequate light was the most pervasive one in different areas of the homes and our research showed that better lighting was related to a lower rate of falls.  

Participation Schedule

image of timeline of study participation

Contact Us

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 410-705-2771