S. Grace Prakalapakorn, MD, MPH is a pediatric ophthalmology fellowship-trained clinician scientist with expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of retinopathy of prematurity. She initially joined the faculty at Duke University as a Clinician Scientist in 2011 and was awarded a K12 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Program Award by the department of ophthalmology (2011-2014). She later applied for and was awarded a K23 Career Development Award by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (2014-2018).
Her research focus is on improving access to care and outcomes in underserved communities by adapting innovative strategies to address clinically relevant problems. The majority of her research has focused on retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. While appropriate screening and treatment can decrease the risk of blindness due to ROP, there is a lack of ophthalmologists trained to screen for ROP and there are difficulties with access to care. Because the number of trained ophthalmologists able and willing to screen for ROP is limited and is unlikely to meet the continuing need worldwide, innovative strategies to screen for ROP and expand our workforce in ROP screening are needed. Her program involves looking at alternative screening devices that could be used in store-and-forward telemedicine applications for ROP teaching and screening.
She has shown that videos acquired by an indirect ophthalmoscopy system can demonstrate important features of ROPand that images captured by an indirect ophthalmoscopy system are of high enough quality to be graded for ROP screening. She has also shown that a FDA-approved narrow-field, handheld non-contact digital retinal camera can capture retinal images of prematurely-born infants of sufficient quality to be accurately graded for the presence of posterior pole vascular changes by both human gradersand semi-automated computer programs (i.e. ROPtool).These publications describe alternative strategies that could be used in an ROP telemedicine screening scenario which could change the way ROP is screened for in the future, especially in areas without access to a trained ROP specialist.
In addition to her role as a clinician-scientist, Dr. Prakalapakorn is a recognized expert in infantile Pompe disease. Pompe disease is an inherited lysosomal storage disorder. Prior to the advent of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT), most patients with infantile-onset Pompe disease did not survive past 1 year of age. In her role as an academic physician, she has developed a knowledge base and niche in ocular findings in this population. In collaboration with the pediatric genetics department at Duke, she has published on ophthalmic findings in a series of children with infantile Pompe disease treated with ERT. Her group established the current recommendations for annual comprehensive eye examinations in this population.
Dr. Prakalapakorn attended Duke University where she earned a B.S.E in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering with a minor in Chemistry. She was then awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study the role of directly-observed therapy short course in tuberculosis control in Bangkok, Thailand. Next she pursued a M.D./M.P.H. at Emory University as a Woodruff Scholar (full tuition, merit-based scholarship). She earned her M.P.H. with a focus on epidemiology. She then completed a transitional year internship at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California and then returned to Emory University to complete her residency in ophthalmology. She then spent a year working as a staff ophthalmologist for ORBIS international aboard their Flying Eye Hospital. She then returned to Duke University to complete a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology before accepting a faculty position at the Duke Eye Center.
Dr. Prakalapakorn has also established a national and international presence in the field of public health and international health. Because of her expertise in pediatric ophthalmology and public health, she was invited to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a consultant and collaborator on Zika Virus and pediatric ophthalmology. She has been involved in guiding future CDC recommendations on screening for Zika. In addition, Dr. Prakalapakorn works with the NIH on the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccine in Liberia (PREVAIL) III study based in Monrovia, Liberia. Since her time at Duke University, she has also been invited to speak internationally on the topics of both ROP and global blindness.
Dr. Prakalapakorn has also been selected and served as a member of various committees for both the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS). She was recognized for “special contributions to the Academy and ophthalmology outside the scope of the current Achievement Awards program” by the AAO with a Secretariat Award in 2017.