CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 384-4638
Release: Jan. 22, 2003
Bok to hold Helen C. Levitt Visiting Professorship in 2003 at UI
Dean Bok, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology and the Dolly
Green Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of California at Los Angeles
(UCLA) School of Medicine, will serve during his sabbatical from UCLA as
the 2003 Helen C. Levitt Visiting Professor in the department of ophthalmology
and visual sciences at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver
College of Medicine.
The Levitt visting professorship brings outstanding scholars from other
institutions to the UI to lecture, consult with faculty and students, and
devote time to research or activities related to clinical care. A second
visiting researcher, M. Anne Spence, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the
University of California at Irvine, will complete the second part of her
Helen C. Levitt Visiting Professor appointment from March to July. Spence,
an expert in human genetics, taught at the UI Colleges of Public Health and
Medicine last fall.
The professorship was endowed in 1997 with a $2 million gift to the UI Foundation
from the estate of Helen C. Levitt. Levitt, a native of Sioux City and a
1932 UI graduate, generously supported many areas of the university prior
to her death in 1996. She was a patient of Thomas A. Weingeist, Ph.D., M.D.,
UI professor and head of ophthalmology and visual sciences.
Bok will work with Gregory Hageman, Ph.D., UI professor of ophthalmology
on the Oakdale Research Campus, in morphology and cell biology, and with
Edwin Stone, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of ophthalmology and a Howard Hughes
Medical Institute investigator, in molecular biology on age-related macular
degeneration. He also will participate in the education of medical students,
residents, fellows and others at the UI.
Bok earned a doctorate in anatomy from the UCLA School of Medicine in 1968
and has been a member of its faculty since that time. He has served as a
trustee of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and received
the Friedenwald Award from that organization in 1985. He served as a member
of the Visual Disorders Study Section from 1982 to 1986 (chair from 1984
to 1986) and recently completed a four-year term of service on the National
Advisory Eye Council.
Bok's research interests involve the cell and molecular biology of the retina
in health and disease. His studies involve the interactions that take place
between retinal photoreceptors and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and
how those processes are affected by inherited mutations that cause retinitis
pigmentosa and macular degeneration.
His contributions include the discovery of photoreceptor outer segment disc
shedding, phagocytosis of these membranes by the RPE, the failure of this
process in rat mutants (rdy), detection of membrane receptors for the RPE
and release of retinoids by the RPE, transgenic rescue of inherited degeneration
in mice carrying the rds mutation, and the modeling of the equivalent human
disease in mice through the introduction of point mutations in the mouse
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