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Safal Khanal

Assistant Professor

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HPB 526

Office: (205) 934-4558

Lab: (205) 934-3093 and (205) 934-0424

Schedule a UAB Eye Care Appointment: (205) 975-2020

Teaching/research interests: Refractive errors; emmetropization and refractive development; retinal, choroidal, and scleral mechanisms of eye growth regulation, myopia onset, progression, and treatment; visual electrophysiology

Office hours: By appointment

Education:

  • BOptom, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, Optometry
  • OD, Southwestern University, Philippines, Optometry
  • PhD, The University of Auckland, New Zealand, Optometry

Safal Khanal, OD, PhD, FAAO is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He also holds secondary appointments as an Associate Scientist in the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, and Civitan International Research Center. At UAB School of Optometry, Dr. Khanal leads an independent myopia research program, runs the visual electrodiagnostic clinic, and teaches optometry and vision science courses in the professional and graduate programs.

Dr. Khanal received his optometry and vision science training in Nepal and the Philippines and earned his Bachelor of Optometry and Doctor of Optometry degrees. After working as a consultant in a conjoint optometry/ophthalmology practice in Nepal, he moved to the University of Auckland Myopia Lab in New Zealand where he pursued his PhD under the supervision of John Phillips Dr. John Phillips, BSc (M Eng), BSc (Optom), MSc, PhD, MCOptom, FAAO. During his time at the University of Auckland, he also served as an educator in the Bachelor of Optometry degree program, teaching clinical optometry courses and supervising undergraduate students in summer research and honors projects. After completing his first postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Auckland Myopia Lab, he moved to the United States for his second postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratories of Timothy Gawne, PhD and Jason Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, FAAO, at the UAB School of Optometry. In 2021, Dr. Khanal became a faculty member and established his independent research laboratory focused on myopia and visual electrophysiology. His research program is supported by grants from E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind Inc., American Academy of Optometry Foundation, Reality Labs Research, and UAB Vision Science Research Center. 

Dr. Khanal is a recipient of several awards, and honors, including a fellowship from the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), Emerging Vision Scientist award from the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, and Eberhard Dodt Memorial Award from the International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision (ISCEV). In 2022, he received the AAO Career Development Award and became one of only six faculty members nationwide to receive this honor. Dr. Khanal holds active professional membership in several organizations, including International Myopia Institute, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), and ISCEV. He serves on several national and international professional committees, including ARVO Annual Meeting Program and Ethics and Regulations in Human Research Committees, AAO Scientific Program Committee, and Association of School and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Research Committee. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Scientific Reports and Frontiers of Human Neuroscience and volunteers as an ad-hoc reviewer for several leading journals in the field, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, Eye and Contact Lens, Optometry and Vision Science, Documenta Ophthalmologica, Clinical and Experimental Optometry, Journal of Optometry, BMC Ophthalmology, Scientific Reports, and Experimental Eye Research. Dr. Khanal regularly publishes, speaks, and presents on topics related to eye growth regulation, emmetropization, refractive errors, myopia development and progression, and visual electrophysiology.

Research interests:

Dr. Khanal’s laboratory conducts basic, clinical, and translational research related to myopia (nearsightedness) mechanisms and treatment. His current research interests lie in understanding the mechanistic basis of emmetropisation, eye growth regulation, and refractive development, through a combination of imaging, electrophysiology, and molecular techniques in animal models (tree shrews) and humans. The overall goal is to inform how the eye detects the sign of defocus and regulates its growth and what causes this regulatory mechanism to malfunction leading to the genesis of refractive errors like myopia in children. Dr. Khanal aims to use the knowledge gained to devise novel, effective strategies (optical, pharmacological, and behavioral) targeted at preventing the onset and slowing the progression of myopia in children.

Recent courses taught:

The University of Alabama at Birmingham
OPT 122: Ocular Microbiology (Course Director)
VIS700: Vision Science Literature Review (Course Co-Director)
VS 111: Ocular Anatomy (Guest Lecture)
VS 610: Ocular Anatomy and Biology (Guest Lecture)
OPT 228: Public Health Optometry (Guest Lecture)
VIS 611: Ocular Pathology (Guest Lecture)
VS 121: Visual Optics (Myopia Panel)
VIS 779: Advanced Graduate Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies

The University of Auckland
OPTOM 430B: Contact Lens Practice
OPTOM 416: Clinical Optometry
OPTOM 316: Optometry
OPTOM 272: Structure and Function of the Visual System
MEDSCI 316: Sensory Neuroscience: From Molecules to Disease

In what UAB Eye Care clinic do you provide care?
• Visual Electrodiagnostic Clinic

Selected publications:

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • Khanal S. Is myopia a disease or just a dis-ease? Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2023 Jul;43(4):595-597.
  • Khanal S, Norton TT, Gawne TJ. Limited bandwidth short-wavelength light produces slowly-developing myopia in tree shrews similar to human juvenile-onset myopia. Vision Research. 2023; 204: 108161
  • Dahal M, Dahal HN, Gautam P, Shrestha JB, Khanal S. Pattern visual evoked potential and foveal sensitivity in amblyopia. Doc Ophthalmol. 2023 Oct;147(2):109-119.
  • Khanal S, Paudel N, Adhikari R, Joshi MR. Optometry in Nepal: Clinical Practice, Research Advances, and Challenges. Optom Vis Sci. 2023 Feb 1;100(2):134-142.
  • Khanal S, Bai Y, Ngo W, Wilson L, Barnes S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human meibum and tear film derived cholesteryl and wax esters in meibomian gland dysfunction and tear film structure. The Ocular Surface. 2022; 23:12-23.
  • Bai Y, Ngo W, Khanal S, Nichols JJ. Characterization of the Thickness of the Tear Film Lipid Layer in Meibomian Gland Dysfunction using High-Resolution Optical Microscopy. The Ocular Surface. 2022; 24: 34-39.
  • Logan NS, Radhakrishnan H, Cruickshank F, Allen PM, Bandella PK, Davies LN, Hasebe S, Khanal S, Schmid KL, Vera-Diaz FA, Wolffsohn JS. IMI: Accommodation and Binocular Vision in Myopia Development and Progression. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2021;62(5):4.
  • Khanal S, Norton TT, Gawne TJ. Amber light treatment produces hyperopia in tree shrews. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2021 Aug 11.
  • Norton TT, Khanal S, Gawne TJ. Tree shrews do not maintain emmetropia in initially focused narrow-band cyan light. Exp. Eye Res. 2021 Mar 10:108525.
  • Khanal S, Phillips JR. Which low-dose atropine for myopia control? Clinical and Experimental Optometry. 2019; 103: 230-232.
  • Khanal S, Rathod SN, Phillips JR. The acute effect of atropine eye drops on the human full-field electroretinogram. Doc Ophthalmol. 2021 Jun;142(3):315-328.
  • Kharal A, Khanal S (co-first author), Shrestha JB, Shrestha GS, Paudel N. Flash VEP in clinically stable pre-term and full-term infants. Doc Ophthalmol. 2020 June 6.
  • Uprety S, Morjaria P, Shrestha JB, Shrestha GS, Khanal S. Refractive status in Nepalese pre-term and full-term infants early in life. Optom Vis Sci. 2017 Oct 1;94(10):957-64.
  • Ramamoorthy P, Khanal S (co-first author), Nichols JJ. Inflammatory proteins associated with contact lens-related dry eye. Contact Lens and Anterior Eye. 2021 Apr 3:101442.
  • Khanal S, Ngo W, Wilson L, Barnes S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human meibum and tear film derived (o-acyl)-omega-hydroxy fatty acids in meibomian gland dysfunction. The Ocular Surface. 2021; 21: 118-128.
  • Khanal S, Bai Y, Ngo W, Wilson L, Barnes S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human meibum and tear film derived (o-acyl)-omega-hydroxy fatty acids as biomarkers of tear film dynamics in meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye disease. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2021;62(9):13
  • Khanal S, Paudel N, Joshi MR. Optometry in Nepal: historical perspectives. Clinical and Experimental Optometry. 2021 May 2:1-4.
  • Bai Y, Ngo W, Khanal S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human precorneal tear film and lipid layer dynamics in meibomian gland dysfunction. The Ocular Surface. 2021 Mar 23:S1542-0124(21)00018-5.
  • Turnbull P, Khanal S, Dakin S. The effect of cellphone position on driving and gaze behavior. Scientific reports. 2021 Apr 8;11(1):1-0.
  • Khanal S, Turnbull PRK, Lee N, Phillips JR. Effect of atropine on global flash mfERG responses to retinal defocus. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2019;1(60):218-225.
  • Khanal S, Turnbull PRK, Vaghefi E, Phillips JR. Repeatability of arterial spin labeling MRI in measuring blood perfusion in the human eye. JMRI. 2019 Apr;49(4):966-74.
  • Uprety S, Morjaria P, Shrestha JB, Shrestha GS, Khanal S. Refractive status in preterm infants and its relation to clinical risk factors. Optom Vis Sci. 2017 Oct 1;94(10):957-64.
  • Khanal S, Walton M, Davey PG. Evaluation of intraocular pressure estimates obtained using an ICare rebound tonometer. Clin Exp Optom. 2017;100(2):179-83.
  • Khanal S, Davey PG, Racette L, Thapa M. Comparison of retinal nerve fiber layer and macular thickness for discriminating Primary Open Angle Glaucoma and Normal-Tension Glaucoma using Optical Coherence Tomography. Clin Exp Optom. 2016;99(4):373-81.
  • Uprety S, Khanal S, Morjaria P, Puri LR. Profile of Pediatric Low Vision Population: A Retrospective Study from Nepal. Clin Exp Optom. 2016;99(1):61-5.
  • Khanal S, Davey PG, Racette L, Thapa M. Intraeye retinal nerve fiber layer and macular thickness asymmetry measurements for the detection of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma and Normal-Tension Glaucoma using OCT. J Optom. 2016;9:118-25.

Editor-reviewed articles

  • Khanal S. Repeated low-level “laser” red light therapy for childhood myopia” Too Soon? Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. February 7, 2024.
  • Khanal S. Combination treatment strategy for myopia control. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. May 18, 2022.
  • Khanal S. Not all myopias are the same. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. April 20, 2022.
  • Khanal S. Myopia—Not Just "Nearsightedness" But a Disease. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. September 15, 2021.
  • Khanal S. Myopia Management: A Specialty or Primary Care? Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. July 21, 2021.
  • Khanal S. Ocular Growth Charts: A New Decision-Making Tool For Myopia Management. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. June 23, 2021.
  • 2020 Khanal S. Evidence-based Myopia Management: Clinical Considerations. MiVision. December 2020. (Continuing Professional Development Article)
  • Khanal S. 0.01% Atropine’s puzzling disconnect. MiVision. February 2020.
  • Turnbull P, Khanal S. Atropine – Efficacy & Possible Mechanisms for Myopia Control. MiVision. November 2017.
  • Khanal S. Which low-dose atropine for myopia control? NZOptics. March 2020.
  • Khanal S. Optometry from New Zealand to Nepal. NZAO TVC. February 2020.
  • Khanal S, Turnbull PRK. Atropine: Efficacy and possible mechanisms for myopia control. MiVision. November 2017.

Courses/Certifications:

  • UAB Clinical Investigator Training Program
  • MiSight 1 Day Certification, CooperVision
  • Euclid Emerald Certification for Orthokeratology Lenses
  • Bausch + Lomb Vision Shaping Treatment VST Process Design Certification
  • Applying electrophysiological techniques to translational vision research, ARVO
  • Human Lab Course on Electrophysiology, ISCEV symposium, Reims, France
  • Managing Myopia Course, Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy, Sydney, Australia
  • UT.7.20x: Foundations of Data Analysis, University of Texas, USA
  • Global Blindness: Planning and Managing Eye Care Services, LSHTM, London, UK.

Academic distinctions and professional societies:

Honors

  • 2023 Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Travel Grant
  • 2023 Exceptional reviewer, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
  • 2022 Career Development Award, American Academy of Optometry
  • 2022 Emerging Vision Scientist, Alliance for Eye and Vision Research
  • 2022 Exceptional reviewer, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
  • 2022 Exceptional reviewer, Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics
  • 2021 Best Alumni, Southwestern University College of Optometry
  • 2021 Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Travel Grant
  • 2019 NZAO Higher Degree Research Write-Up Scholarship
  • 2018 Eberhard Dodt Memorial Award
  • 2018 Velocity Innovation Challenge 2018
  • 2018 Centre for Brain Research Knowledge Exchange Grant
  • 2018 International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision Grant
  • 2018 Scientific and Educators’ Meeting in Optometry Travel Grant
  • 2018 American Academy of Optometry Travel Fellowship
  • 2017 FMHS Postgraduate Student Association Travel Grant
  • 2016 American Academy of Optometry Travel Fellowship
  • 2015 Asia Pacific Optometric Congress Travel Grant
  • 2015 University of Auckland Ph.D. Scholarship
  • 2015 CARIPARO Ph.D. Scholarship (Not taken)
  • 2015 WCO Travel Grant for First World Congress of Optometry
  • 2015 Best English paper, First World Congress of Optometry, Colombia
  • 2015 Lt-Col Henry Kirkpatrick Scholarship
  • 2014 Top-notcher and Dean’s Lister, Doctor of Optometry, Ph

Professional affiliations/organizations

  • 2023– Early Career Reviewer, NIH Center for Scientific Review
  • 2023– ARVO Annual Program Meeting Committee, AP Section
  • 2022– Steering Committee member, AAO Fellows Doing Research SIG
  • 2022– American Academy of Optometry Scientific Program Committee
  • 2022– Member, American Academy of Optometry Academy Optometry SIG
  • 2022– Member, American Academy of Optometry Vision Science Section
  • 2022– Committee Member, ARVO Ethics and Regulations in Human Research
  • 2022– Member, UAB Vision Science Research Center<?
  • 2022– UAB Faculty Senate
  • 2020– International Myopia Institute White Paper Task Force Member
  • 2020– Editor-in-Chief, Mero Eye Journal
  • 2018–2020 Member, Cornea and Contact Lens Society of New Zealand
  • 2018– Member, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • 2018 Member, International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM)
  • 2018 Scientific Committee Member, First All Nepal Optometry Conference
  • 2018–2019 Grant Officer and Faculty Research Committee, FMHS-PGSA
  • 2018–2020 Member, International Sports Vision Association
  • 2017 Co-chair, Abstract Review Committee, HealtheX, The University of Auckland
  • 2017 Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee, Campus Life, The University of Auckland
  • 2017–2019 Member, Australasian College of Behavioral Optometrists
  • 2016–2017 Member, University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee
  • 2012– Member, Nepalese Association of Optometrists (NAO)
  • 2015– Member, Nepal Health Professional Council
  • 2014– Member, International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision (ISCEV)