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Karan R. Aggarwala was born in a Christ-inspired hospital in New Delhi (foothills of the Himalayas mountain range of South Asia) to a mother who studied Philosophy at Sophia College in Bombay (Mumbai), and a father trained in Engineering (HVAC) from Westinghouse Electric Corporation (Columbus, Ohio), who cherished meeting God's messengers in his work related activities. He was influenced by annual summer visits to Rockland County, New York since age eight, balanced with multi-dimensional schooling at Modern School Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, where he excelled in Physics and Music (Western and Indian). His five month attendance of 3rd Grade in New York introduced him to baseball, frisbee, graffiti, and the US Bi-Centennial parade of 1976.

 

Karan trained in Ophthalmic Techniques (Medical Optometry) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where he was introduced to human and ocular anatomy and physiology, geometric and visual optics, microbiology, biochemistry, pathology, and ocular diagnostics (e.g. slit lamp biomicroscopy; imaging, counting and morphology of corneal endothelium cells; electro-diagnostics such as EOG, ERG and VEP). He learned and practiced the art of clinical refraction (retinoscopy and subjective verification), spectacle dispensing, contact lens fitting, ophthalmoscopy, and evaluation and management of disorders of eye position, motility, and retinal sensitivity. Faculty instructors emphasized detection and management of visual development disorders in children (e.g amblyopia or lazy eye), and management of tropical eye disorders such as trachoma. Short term assignments in corneal eye bank, ocular emergency and surgical clinics in ophthalmology were included. Ethical dilemmas such as enucleation of the eyeball for ocular tumors (e.g. retinoblastoma in infants) proved to be a challenging introduction to medical necessities in the interest of patient survival.


Karan passed the Optometry Admission Test and moved to the US in September, 1989. He was hired part time as a contact lens technician with Drs. Farkas and Kassalow. Following a pre-requisite class in Statistics at Hunter College (CUNY), he enrolled in the Graduate Program in Vision Science at the State University of New York, College of Optometry. Karan worked under the supervision of Dr. Philip B. Kruger in the domain of chromatic stimuli for ocular accommodation (eye focusing), while passing significant academic credits common to the Doctor of Optometry (OD) students. The National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, provided a post-doctoral fellowship (F-32 National Research Service Award) based on equivalence with the Doctor of Optometry degree and a hypothesis driven research proposal. His PhD research investigated the poly-chromatic optical image at the retina in relation to the spatial and temporal properties of neural opponent mechanisms in the early visual system-- from the retina to the primary visual cortex. The experimental design, feasibility and scientific significance of the proposal was reviewed by the Behavioral Neuroscience Study Section of the NIH. Results from Dr. Kruger's laboratory at SUNY were published in peer-reviewed journal articles indexed on PubMed, in book chapters, and cited in Adler's Physiology of the Eye (Elsevier, 2011).

 

In a part time role at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, Karan was certified to conduct tests of eye pressure (tonometry) and analysis of the optic nerve head for the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS). He also certified to test visual acuity using the ETDRS (Early Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy Study) protocols. Alongside, he passed a licensing exam offered by the National Contact Lens Examiners to refract and dispense contact lenses. Karan taught a continuing education class with clinical labs to opticians at City Tech in Brooklyn, on Visual Optics, Retinoscopy and Subjective Refraction, for about 5 semesters, with admistrative support from Dean Jeffrey Siegel.

 

Following the MS and PhD degrees in Vision Science, Dr. Aggarwala studied nutrition, metabolism, public health, ergonomics, vision therapy, and behavior modification principles under the guidance of Dr. Benjamin C. Lane of the Nutritional Optometry Associates in New Jersey. He was admitted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in December, 1999.

 

From a growing interest in diabetes, Dr. Karan paid a visit to the USDA Human Nutrition Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, and met Dr. Richard Anderson who extended the work of Dr. Walter Mertz on the role of trivalent chromium in potentiation (enhancement) of insulin in support of glucose tolerance.

 

With concern for the gypsy moth challenge affecting eastern forests of North America, Dr. Aggarwala visited the US Forest Service in Pittsburgh. From independent library research, he became familiar with the ecology of deer and mice in oak tree (Quercus) ecosystems, and possible factors including current "standard" management practices in exacerbating Lyme disease. 

 

After presenting research and reviews in visual optics and metabolic eye science at various conferences across the continental USA, as well as in Amsterdam, Reykjavik, and Wroclaw, Dr. Aggarwala spent eight years (years 2001 to 2008) in public health optometry (screening school children and factory workers), teaching, clinical, community and corporate pharmaceutical consulting activities in India. During this period, much of his spare time was devoted to readings in social and planetary ecology (e.g. Eugene Odum, E. O. Wilson, Fritjof Capra, Lynn Margulis), evolutionary hypotheses (e.g. Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Jared Diamond), human motivations (e.g. Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Thomas Cleary, M. Scott Peck, Deborah Tannen), biodiversity and limits to the Earth's "economic" resources (e.g. Lester Brown, Herman E. Daly, P. S. Ramakrishnan).


Dr. Karan developed and taught for 5 semesters (about 250 students), an undergraduate classroom course on Extending Personal Wellness Toward Social and Environmental Responsibility, for Ansal University, approved by North Dakota State University; including oral presentations and questions inspired by Stephen Covey's classic book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 

 

Dr. Aggarwala served as continuing education consultant to optometrists at Dr. Shroff's Charity Eye Hospital, conducted performance evaluations, and recommended library acquisitions. He coordinated a visual screening and optical dispensing event for over 800 Special Athletes in New Delhi, and in July 2003 was certified in Dublin, Ireland, as a Clinical Director for the Special Olympics Opening Eyes program. His articles on eye care, cognition, diabetes, obesity, aging, culture, marketing, disability, food and water security, and informed consent, were published in India by Consumer Voice, edited by the late Dr. Roopa Vajpeyi.


Having relocated to New York in 2009, Dr. Karan remotely supervised clinical research projects for Master's students at Lotus College of Optometry (Mumbai) and continues to collaborate for ocular public health research and community health interventions. He was awarded a US and Indian utility patent for an interactive opto-mechanical, computerized subjective eye refraction device that was never commercialized. His book of poems, Ecological Meditations, was conceived over 3 decades (from age 12 till age 42), and is organized in 4 subject areas (Xlibris, 2011). He served as Ocular Nutrition Consultant to Invite Health in New York from June 2017 till October 2019. Dr. Aggarwala has served as Member of the Board of Directors of the Ocular Wellness and Nutrition Society since April, 2019. He is currently reading on aspects of cross cultural communication and recommendations for education of young minds by contemporary scholars such as Riane Eisler and Martha Nussbaum. He is often addressed by students, clients and collaborators as "Dr. Karan" or "Dr. Gregg."

NRSA Designation (11.4 KB)

Dr. Aggarwala applied for and received the NRSA-- a Post-Doctoral Fellowship (F-32) from the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA (October 1992 to September 1995), reviewed by the Behavioral Neuroscience Scientific Committee.

FAAO Designation (12.9 KB)

Dr. Aggarwala was admitted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in December, 1999. A post from the Academy web pages is presented here.

Retinal substrate for processing chromatic fringes to direct near eye focusing and good distance vision in children (324 KB)

The three cone photoreceptor mosaics in the vertebrate retina have spectral sensitivity peaks in short wavelength (e.g. 430 nm), middle wavelength (e.g. 530 nm), and long wavelength (e.g. 565 nm) regions of the visible spectrum. These are organized into retinal neural opponent mechanisms with peaks that represent the colors blue opposed to yellow, and red opposed to green. The "white light" luminance channel has inputs from the summed output of MWS ("green") and LWS ("red") receptors producing a desaturated "yellow," and the contribution of SWS receptors ("blue") to the luminance channel is somewhat reduced but far from insignificant. Chromatic difference of focus from inherent longitudinal chromatic aberration provides an information substrate that enables comparison of luminance contrast between cone types via retinal bipolar or ganglion cells, modified by amacrine cell inputs. Optical cues convert to neural signals which emanate from retinal cells to enable short term eye focusing (accommodation), as well as long term eye growth (e.g. development toward emmetropia or myopia).

Journal article Aggarwala et. al. Spectral Bandwidth and Ocular Accommodation (350 KB)

Narrow spectral bandwidth illumination impairs the natural reflexive focusing mechanism of the eye. Conversely, broad spectrum white light that includes the blue short wavelength component allows for better eye focusing responses. 

Collaborating Ophthalmologist
(New York City)

Dr. Michel F. Moulin