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UC Berkeley's School of Optometry gets new dean, Dennis M. Levi, a vision scientist from Houston
27 June 2001

By Patricia McBroom, Media Relations


Dennis M. Levi

Dennis M. Levi, new dean of UC Berkeley's School of Optometry

Berkeley - An internationally known vision scientist from the University of Houston, Dennis M. Levi, will take the helm on August 15 as dean of the School of Optometry at the University of California, Berkeley.

Levi's appointment as dean was announced today (Wednesday, June 27) by UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Paul Gray and is pending approval by the UC Regents.

"We are pleased to have an individual whose status in optometry and vision research is well recognized internationally," said the current dean of the school, Anthony Adams. He added that Levi's thoughtful approach and ability to listen to others will allow him to work well with the physical and biological scientists on campus who are involved with the Health Sciences Initiative.

The initiative encourages interactions among disciplines - from physics to psychology - to stimulate new developments for today's major health problems.

"This is a great opportunity to expand our work with other disciplines on campus to advance clinical research in optometry," said Adams, who will return to teaching and research at the school after nine years as dean. He is currently engaged in studies of the precursors to blindness caused by diabetes.

UC Berkeley's School of Optometry spans the distance from molecular research to the use of new techniques in clinical work, a range that Levi said he expects to use to good advantage in bringing to bear on eye research UC Berkeley's rich resources in the physical and biological sciences.

"Berkeley has incredibly good people in the molecular and genetic basis of the eye and vision. At the same time, we have a very strong clinical program and can move from molecule to patient. I will encourage cooperation between the talented people in so many departments at Berkeley that could have ties with optometry," said Levi.

Born and bred in South Africa, Levi came to the United States in 1970 to do eye research and teach at the University of Houston, rising from assistant professor to the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Optometry.

In 30 years at Houston, Levi achieved international prominence as a vision scientist for his research in amblyopia, the major cause of permanent vision loss in children.

Some two to three percent of the population has amblyopia, in which the brain does not process normally the information from one eye because the eyes did not work together properly during a developmental stage in childhood. The problem is completely preventable if detected early enough and corrected.

Levi plans to use the campus's new huge magnetic resonance imaging machine to investigate the effects of amblyopia on perception in the brain.