Yorio makes career of balancing research and administrative roles

For nearly four decades, Thomas Yorio, PhD, has balanced a passion for eye research with a strong commitment to helping guide UNT Health Science Center’s growth.

This week, Dr. Yorio, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, will see his years of dedication recognized when he receives the International Society for Eye Research 2014 Ernest Barany Prize. The award is given in recognition of his outstanding contributions to research that has increased the understanding of ocular pharmacology.

Whether accepting an award or being honored for his contributions to UNTHSC, Dr. Yorio is quick to share the limelight.

“To be recognized for contributing knowledge is a real honor and very gratifying,” he said of the prize to be presented this week at the XXI Biennial Meeting of the International Society of Eye Research in San Francisco, Calif. “But it wasn’t just done by me.”

That’s been Dr. Yorio’s mantra throughout his career, sharing his success with faculty members, students and others every chance he got.

Since 1977, when he left the Bronx to join the faculty of a small medical school in Fort Worth named the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, he has never regretted it.

“Where else can you go in as an assistant professor and get involved at the ground floor?” he said. “I helped write the bylaws, design the laboratories in the first building and founded the graduate school. And I’ve helped recruit many of the basic science faculty.”

When he arrived at UNTHSC, his plan was to study kidney and eye diseases, but as his career in administration grew, he narrowed his research to glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Most recently he has been studying why steroids increase eye pressure in some people and not others.

“Many people who take steroids do not respond with an increase in eye pressure, but 95 percent of people with glaucoma do,” he said. “Why steroids produce this effect in those with glaucoma may tell us something about the disease and who is susceptible to this disease.”

He has continued to make time for research and students, even as he moved through the ranks of academia, becoming Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences he helped found and now as Provost and Executive Vice President.

Today, Dr. Yorio is as busy as ever balancing his roles as a scientist, educator, mentor and administrator.

“It’s going to be hard to leave this place someday because I have so much invested here,” he said. “When I look out my window and see it all, I’m really proud.”

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