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Larry MacIntyre
Office of University Communications

Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2008

Vice Provost Sarita Soni to serve as interim dean of optometry

July 14, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Chancellor Charles R. Bantz announced today (July 14) the selection of Sarita Soni as interim dean of the Indiana University School of Optometry. Soni is IU Bloomington vice provost for research and professor of optometry. She will continue to serve IU as the vice provost for research.

Sarita Soni

Sarita Soni

"Dr. Soni's leadership in the School and on the campus means she can quickly form a team to lead the School during this transition year," Bantz said. "As an optometrist, as a teacher, as a researcher, and as an administrator she has the tools to support the clinical and research missions of the school."

"Dr. Soni has superb administrative skills, and she is eager to support the clinical, research, and teaching missions of the School of Optometry," said Karen Hanson, provost and executive vice president for IU Bloomington. "It is her own academic home, and, because of her devotion to it, she is taking on the interim deanship, even as she retains her post as the vice provost for research. This is a transitional year, as Dr. Gerald Lowther, who has done an outstanding job leading the school for 10 years, steps down. Dr. Soni plans to build on his many accomplishments, and I am confident that the School will continue its remarkable trajectory, as one of the leading Schools of Optometry in the nation."

Soni holds an ophthalmic optics degree from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, and both an O.D. and an M.S. in pathology from Indiana University. She has served in numerous roles including associate dean of research at the School of Optometry and the co-director of the Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research (BCOR). Soni is committed to a team-leadership approach that will help build the "bench strength" of the School.

Soni succeeds Gerald Lowther, who has served as dean since 1998. "Jerry Lowther has led the advancement of the School of Optometry in clinical practice, research, and teaching," Bantz said. "The School's graduates pass their national boards at impressive rates. The School has expanded its clinical service and partnered not only with the School of Medicine's Department of Ophthalmology in a Carmel Clinic but also with the Mexican government in a clinic in Guanajuato. From 1998 to 2006, externally funded research increased from less than $500,000 to more than $5.5 million, with the number of individuals supported by research grants rising from four to more than 20."

Soni's research focuses on cornea and contact lenses, development of refractive errors and their correction, all areas that are fundamental to optometry.

She has conducted and directed a number of investigations at the BCOR during the past 10 years. She has worked with contact lens and ophthalmic lens companies, developing programs to encourage industry to partner with the Center's expertise in clinical trials. Under her direction, the center refined objective clinical procedures to objectively measure visual function.

Soni led the Center's efforts to develop quality-of-life and quality-of-vision instruments used in clinical trials to evaluate new ophthalmic devices. These developments resulted in numerous industry-funded clinical trials for new vision devices. Soni has worked internally to bring together students and faculty to participate in investigations. Soni is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health and is a co-investigator on the Indiana University-Purdue University NIH-funded Clinical Translational Scientist Award (CTSA).

Soni is a diplomate of the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of the American Academy of Optometry, served on the Board of American Academy of Optometry, is an elected fellow of the National Academies of Practice, and is a member of the American Optometric Association's Council on Research. She has served as a voting member on the FDA's Ophthalmic Devices panel and as a member of the NIH National Advisory Eye Council.