Meet the SBMT President

Deborah Zelisnky

Deborah Zelinsky, OD

Meet the SBMT President

Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics elects Deborah Zelisnky, to serve as president for the 2023-2024 cycle.

SBMT President’s Message

Our immediate past president, Dr. Vicky Yamamoto, succeeded in laying out objectives and initiatives and achieved her goals. For instance, SBMT is now involved in the federal government’s Cancer Moonshot program. Her excellent leadership focused on expansion in the cancer realm – her expertise. This year, my vision is to expand our organization in the eye care profession realm, by further developing a realization that retinal neuromodulation significantly influences brain processing.

Being the first optometrist elected as the president of the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics is such an honor and privilege.  It is incredible to be a part of such a group of illustrious visionaries, who are truly breaking boundaries in healthcare, as our tagline. My mentor’s vision is now coming to fruition.  Albert Sutton, O.D. was a pioneering optometrist, a clinician and scientist, fascinated by research. He dedicated his life to promoting retinal processing over the span of 70 years, starting in the late 1940s. He taught me how to understand that optometry will be in the vanguard of change for patients with learning problems, brain injuries and autonomic dysfunctions and neurological disorders.

Visual processing can now stand among the other healthcare professions, with its own subcommittee that has had hundreds of presentations over the past few years. This accomplishment is due to Dr. Babak Kateb’s guidance over the past 14 years.  SBMT is fortunate to have his unwavering dedication and leadership.  He and Dr. Yamamoto co-founded this organization and have carefully chosen board members who continue to collaborate with other professions. They have positioned fellows who tirelessly carry out the infrastructure set-up so that we continue to grow. Our board and fellows have been wonderful, fulfilling innovative projects. This year, our organization can continue to build upon the handful of optometrists who are currently SBMT members by forming strategic partnerships with entire optometric organizations, such as William Padula’s brainchild Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA).

Society’s shift in visual usage has increased the importance of peripheral eyesight exponentially over the years, creating a need for an updated eye examination for the non-neurotypical person. To accomplish this during the year 2023-2024 the objectives are threefold:

  • Heighten overall awareness of the importance of retinal processing and its impact on responses to environmental changes. Retinal mapping can help brain mapping, facilitating and individualizing rehabilitation. Having efficient visual processing can help some people with brain injuries return to work by mitigating symptoms. As a start to achieve this goal, the visual processing subcommittee will produce publications.
  • Generate more scientific interest in the role of non-image forming retinal pathways. Those are connections from the optic nerve to places in the brain other than eyesight affecting systemic biometrics such as blood pressure and blood glucose. The latest research indicates retinal thinning reflects similar degeneration occurring in the brain. For instance, studies are showing retinal changes mirror brain changes in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Parkinson’s disease. After a brain injury, there is dysfunction noted in the inner retinal layer. Trained eye care professionals can work as an adjunct to neurologists, cardiologists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and others to help modulate brain activity.
  • Work with legislators at the Congressional level to change existing Medicare codes and standard of care for optometry. This would provide insurance coverage for the comprehensive assessment and testing of both image-forming (eyesight) and non-image-forming pathways. Succeeding in this objective will help to restore brain-injured, stroke and other neurologically disrupted patients to regain quality of living and be able to return to work – a goal that all our members share.  This would also help restore patients’ self-respect and self-worth, while saving government spending.

Each one of our SBMT members is like Walt Disney, a visionary who saw a Florida swampland with his eyes yet visualized an entire place for people to have fun.  When people did not believe in his vision, he plowed on anyway, creating Disneyland. It is often said that hindsight is 20/20.  Our organization has been ahead of the science curve since its inception. In SBMT, hindsight almost does not exist; we have embraced neurodiversity of central nervous system function since the inception of the organization.   This organization began with the brain, expanded to the spinal cord years ago and now is logically expanding to the retina.

I realize my agenda is an ambitious one but proceed with “eyes wide open” – pun intended. And, of course, remain sincerely hopeful that, with your help, our organization can continue making significant contributions to science, health care, and health care policy.  The impact of retinal processing on brain function is undervalued.  This year allows us to bring even more collaboration among professionals to have the public “Leave 20/20 in the 20th Century!”

Deborah Zelinsky