Donald Mutti, OD, PhD, FAAO, FARVO
Member, Berkeley Optometry Hall of Fame
Donald Mutti was born in 1954 in San Mateo, California. His father, a CPA and a 1939 Cal graduate, was a government contract auditor for the Defense Contract Audit Agency. This government service meant a few moves during his early education, the most important being a formative year spent in Paris during the fourth grade. His mother was a 1943 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, but Cal also figured into her life after raising five children as she completed her graduate training there to become a licensed marriage and family counselor.
Mutti attended the University of California, Davis after graduating from Acalanes High School in 1972. Besides his parents, teachers were always his inspiration. Reading the great books and discussing life made teaching high school English seem like the right career, up until student teaching provided a reality check. His veterinarian brother pointed Mutti toward optometry given his equal fascination with books and vision due to his childhood strabismus, treated by none other than Dr. Art Jampolsky. Meeting up with Dr. Jampolsky again at Cal as an adult provided a memory of a lifetime.
After graduating from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry in 1982, Dr. Mutti worked in the contact lens industry at CooperVision Ophthalmic Products for the next six years as a research optometrist. What started out as a summer job turned into the start of a career in research — and a lifelong friendship with his boss, Dr. Ron Seger. Testing new materials and designs for their suitability for patients taught Mutti the power of research. Patient care helps one person at a time, but putting patient findings together as research data can translate into knowledge that may benefit thousands. It also introduced him to people like Brien Holden, giants in contact lenses and optometric research. When corporate restructuring and corneal ulcers became issues for CooperVision in the late 1980s, Dr. Mutti started his graduate training in Physiological Optics under the mentorship of Dr. Anthony Adams.
No less an inspiring teacher, Dr. Adams thought there was an opportunity to study myopia in Orinda schoolchildren thanks to suggestions from local optometrist Dr. Weylin Eng. While in optometry school, Mutti and Dr. Karla Zadnik had completed a senior thesis together studying myopia in law students at Boalt. With Zadnik beginning her graduate training at the same time as Mutti, Tony Adams put the team back together and the Orinda Longitudinal Study of Myopia was born. Funded by the National Eye Institute, the study ran for 21 years from 1989 to 2010, eventually becoming a nationwide effort with five clinics studying nearly 5,000 children as the Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Ethnicity and Refractive Error. This monumental effort resulted in a simple prediction model for the risk of onset of myopia based on refractive error that echoed the findings from the 1960s of former dean Dr. Monroe Hirsch. It also provided the first large-scale, longitudinal evidence of the protective effect of time outdoors reducing the risk of the onset of myopia. This simple environmental intervention has already been adopted in Asia with proven positive results.
Mutti’s other research accomplishments include the Berkeley Infant Biometry Study, an eight-year evaluation of ocular component development and emmetropization in infants. This study provided important insights into emmetropization signals originating from accurate accommodation in infants rather than from the traditional view of the influence of hyperopic defocus. New screening and treatment options for hyperopic infants will likely come from this work. After becoming faculty at The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 1999, E.F Wildermuth Foundation Professor Dr. Mutti teamed up with UCB optometry alumnus and Gold Retinoscope winner Dr. Jeff Walline and University of Houston colleague Dr. David Berntsen to complete the NEI-funded Bifocal Lenses in Nearsighted Kids (BLINK) randomized clinical trial of myopia control.
Dr. Mutti has been honored for his research by the American Academy of Optometry with the Irvin M. and Beatrice Borish award, and the Glenn A. Fry Lecture award, for his teaching with several awards from students at Ohio State, and by the UC Berkeley School of Optometry as Alumnus of the Year in 2011.