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Dobbs Foundation makes $486,000 gift to support AMD research at Emory Eye Center

Funds will support the stem cell research of John Nickerson and Sayantan Datta

A $486K gift from the R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation will enable the Emory Eye Center to investigate new stem cell strategies for combatting geographic atrophy (GA), a condition associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The Dobbs funding will support the purchase of equipment that is critical to the ongoing translational research being conducted by Emory Eye Center's John Nickerson, MD, and Sayantan Datta, PhD. Their proposal, 'Differentiating Induced Pluripotent Cells into Retina Pigment Epithelial Cells as a Treatment for Geographic Atrophy in AMD,' outlines a process by which researchers will investigate the viability of using stem cells to regenerate a portion of the eye that is affected by AMD.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive disease that starts with the loss of central vision. Left untreated, it is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly. It is characterized by the decay of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layer which eventually leads to the decay of the underlying photoreceptors. Patients with dry AMD experience geographic atrophy (GA), a condition which has no treatment.

The Emory Eye Center is thrilled to partner with the Dobbs Foundation, whose longstanding commitment to improving the lives of others mirrors our own, said Allen Beck, MD, the F. Phinizy Calhoun, Sr. Chair of Ophthalmology and director of the EEC.

The generosity of this gift literally changes the landscape of our research, giving us the freedom to ask the questions that will, eventually, help us save vision.”

The Emory Eye Center's diverse research portfolio has been supported by multiple foundation gifts, government grants, and donations for more than a century. The Dobbs Foundation gift recognizes the importance of maintaining ongoing research.

In recent years, stem cells have been used to generate functional RPE which has then been used as a novel treatment for dry AMD. The new RPE is injected directly into the eye to replace dysfunctional atrophic RPE.

Nickerson and Datta will focus on using induced pluripotent cells (iPSC) to create the new RPE. Their work will focus on improving the process by which iPSC is differentiated to become fully functioning RPE. In a healthy human body, RPE generation is supported by the Bruch's membrane. To facilitate this process with stem cells, creating a scaffold that mimics Bruch's membrane will be an important first step.

The differentiation protocol for iPSC to RPE is still not perfect, said Datta. But we have some promising new processes that could change things. For instance, some pharmacologically active small molecules have been shown to significantly improve RPE differentiation. Larger sets of small molecule libraries are now commercially available and can be used to test their efficacy on improved RPE differentiation.

The team will also investigate the possibility of improving immune response to transplantation by developing stem cells that are stripped of the factors that typically trigger rejection. By using these altered cells for RPE differentiation they hope the transplantation will avoid rejection issues.

This is the sort of iterative investigation that requires a sustained commitment to methodical, well-researched trials,said Nickerson. We are ready and very excited to begin this work.


Phinizy Calhoun, Jr and Bickerson Cardwell

Family Reuinion. Modern-day cousins, Bickerton Cardwell, left, and F. Phinizy Calhoun, III had a mini-family-reunion at Emory's Calhoun Room, located in the Woodruff Health Sciences Building. Behind the boyhood friends are paintings of their forefathers, from left, Andrew B. Calhoun (one of the founders of the Atlanta Medical College, a precursor to the Emory School of Medicine), Abner W. Calhoun, MD (in his day, the only scientifically trained ophthalmologist south of Maryland) and F. Phinizy Calhoun, Sr., MD (who served as the chair of the department from 1910 until 1940) Find out more about the Calhoun legacy at EEC History


Emory Eye Center celebrates 150 years of service to Atlanta, Georgia, and the world

When we sat down to contemplate what a century and a half has meant to the Emory Eye Center, we quickly concluded that our history has transcended the narrow rectitude calendar logic. At 150, the Emory Eye Center is more than a timeline of key dates. It is, in fact, a dynamic mission that has for generations inspired us to take smart risks and pursue cutting-edge solutions in our clinics, labs, classrooms, and community.

How do you summarize all that?

Quite simply, by recognizing that it's the people behind the Emory Eye Center who have made our mission relevant. To celebrate this fact, we turned to four individuals -F. Phinizy Calhoun III, Debra Owens, Dr. Tiliksew Teshome Tessema, and Dr. Allen Beck - whose collective reflections on the Emory Eye Center's story inspire us embrace the challenges that will come in the next 150 years.


F.Phinizy Calhoun III: Revisiting our roots

If Emory Eye Center had a maiden name, it would have to be Calhoun.

The forefathers of this institution - Andrew B, Abner W., F. Phinizy Sr., and F. Phinizy Jr.- carefully built and faithfully curated what is now a world-renowned medical service and teaching facility. Taken together, their leadership in the department spans almost half our 150-year history.

We gained insight into what made these pioneers tick during a recent visit to the Birmingham, Alabama home of F. Phinizy Calhoun, III [Phinizy III] - son of F. Phinizy Calhoun, Jr., [Phinizy Jr.]. who was the chair of the Emory Department of Ophthalmology from 1946 to 1978. Now retired from his own career in the film industry, Phinizy III spoke with candor and reverence about his father's commitment - to patients, to medicine, and to identifying a passion that would last him a lifetime.

read more


Debra Owens: Hard questions, a soft heart, and the compassion to put them both to work

When it comes to glaucoma, Debra Owens can give most first-year residents a run for their money. The CEO of the DRO Management Company is quick to rattle off facts about normal tension glaucoma (NTG), a chronic disease that causes vision loss by damaging the optic nerve.

Debra Owens is fighting that disease. And she's doing just fine- in part because she is, by nature, a velvet-gloved fighter (and a tenacious questioner). In her story we see a commitment to healing, teaching, and learning that inspires us to keep doing the same.

Long before she set foot into the Emory Eye Center, Debra Owens and her father, Don, both received treatment for their glaucoma from a private practice physician near their home. While Don had a tougher battle - he also had AMD - Debra's glaucoma appeared to be treatable with medicated eye drops. The drops she was prescribed - ophthalmic timolol -relied on beta blockers, a class of drugs that is also used to lower blood pressure.

This is where Debra Owens starts to sound a bit like a PGY-1.


Both Sides Now: Healing, teaching, and learning are reciprocal in the Global Ophthalmology Program

The Emory Eye Center's timeless mission - to heal, to teach, and to learn - finds a uniquely modern expression in the Global Ophthalmology (GO-E) program, established in 2011. In just over a decade, the program has brought much-needed ophthalmological care and education to more than 10,000 people in 20 countries -from rural Georgia to refugee camps in Jordan.

It has also brought capacity-building expertise to under-resourced medical facilities and training institutions like Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, and Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras in Tegucigalpa Honduras.

And the program has also established the GO-E fellowship - a training ground for ophthalmologists who want to bring a global perspective to their existing medical practices. Initiated in 2017, the fellowship has graduated five fellows thus far.

The GO-E program demonstrates reciprocal learning at its best, explains GO-E director, Dr. Jacquelyn O'Banion.

The Emory ophthalmologists and GO-E fellows who join us on our global missions teach physicians to diagnose and treat patients and to perform sight-saving surgeries. We join them in providing that care, but we also stand back and observe how our partners negotiate work-arounds for obstacles that can get in the way of patient access - things like transportation to appointments, family obligations, payment practices, and literacy. This is our opportunity to learn, too. read more


Dr. Allen Beck: Harnessing the power of hard work, compassionate care, and relentless inquiry

When Allen Beck first enrolled in the Emory School of Medicine, he thought he had a good idea of what lay ahead. He would learn how to be a good clinician. In the back of his mind, the young med student even toyed with the idea of one day returning to Tennessee to work alongside his father, Larson Dale Beck, an ENT doctor in private practice.

My Dad had gone to med school after serving in the Korean War, and I think that really influenced the type of medicine he wanted to practice. He was a clinician, working directly with the people in his community, he said.

I thought that's what I would do, too. But I had this stupid notion that I was limited to either seeing patients in a clinic or doing pathology research in a lab. There was no in-between. I had no idea what academic medicine was.

Thirty-seven years and thousands of patients later, the now-chair of the Emory Department of Ophthalmology will tell you that in-between is what gets him up in the morning. Academic and clinical medicine are at the heart of Emory Eye Center's legacy -and its future.

read more


October 10 is the earlybird deadline to register for the Annual Southeast Ocular Oncology and Pathology Seminar

Emory Eye Center to host SEOP seminar on October 28

On October 28 the Emory Eye Center will once again host the Southeast Ocular Oncology and Pathology Seminar at our Clifton Campus.

The day-long seminar is expected to attract ophthalmologists, oncologists, and other specialists from throughtout the region to discuss routine and challenging cases and treatment options in an open, intellectually demanding, and collaborative environment.

Seminar organizers are proud to announce that the 2022 Calhoun Distinguished Lecture will be delivered by Dr. Ralph Eagle, Chief of the Pathology Service at Wills Eye Hospital and professor of ophthalmology and pathology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. Dr. Eagle's honors include the AOS, the Zimmerman Medal of the AAOOP, the Macula SocietyCs W. Richard Green Lecture, the ISOPVs inaugural Gordon K. Klintworth Lecture and the ISOO#s Henry B. Stallard Medal and Lecture. He has served as president of the AAOP and was a member of executive board of the American Registry of Pathology. He is director of CME and chairs the IRB at Wills.

The Southeast Ocular Oncology and Pathology Seminar will be held in the Calhoun Auditorium of the Clinic B building. CME credits are available. Early-bird registration for this event runs until Ocotber 10. Find out more about registration now.

The Emory Eye Center program faculty supporting this event are:

Hans Grossniklaus, MD, MBA, vice chair, Translational Research, F. Phinizy Calhoun Jr. Prof. of Ophthalmology and director, L. F. Montgomery Pathology Laboratory.

Jill Wells, MD,assistant professor, Comprehensive Ophthalmology section, director, the Ocular Oncology/Pathology section, Emory Eye Center

Baker Hubbard, MD, Thomas M. Aaberg Professor of Ophthalmology, director of Clinical Retina section, associate professor of ophthalmology, Vitreoretinal Surgery & Diseases section, Ophthalmic Pathology/Ocular Oncology section, Emory Eye Center

Ted Wojno, MD, James and Shirley Kuse Professor of Ophthalmology; director, the Oculoplastics section, Orbital and Cosmetic Surgery, Emory Eye Center


Emory Eye Center researcher Sayantan Datta explores new approach to age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

NIH-funded mitophagy study published in Autophagy journal

    Dr. Sayantan Datta

    Above: Sayantan Datta, PhD, an assistant professor and researcher with the Emory Eye Center, is the lead author in a recently published article that takes a new approach to AMD. His co-authors include previous colleagues from Johns Hopkins University as well as current colleagues from Emory: Marisol Cano, Ganesh Satyanarayana, Tongyun Liu, Lei Wang, Jie Wang, Jie Cheng, Kie Itoh, Anjali Sharma, Imran Bhutto, Rangaramanujam Kannan, Jiang Qian, Debasish Sinha, and James T. Handa.


    A recently published article from the lab of Emory Eye Center's Sayantan Datta presents findings that could dramatically impact the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other cell pathologies like cancer and fibrosis.

    Appearing in the August 13 edition of the journal Autophagy, the article, Mitophagy Initiates Retrograde Mitochondrial-nuclear Signaling to Guide Retinal Pigment Cell Heterogeneity explores the findings of Datta's five-year, National Institutes of Health (NIH) K-99/R00-funded study of mitophagy - a process by which cells regulate and maintain healthy function by processing and removing dysfunctional mitochondria.

    Datta's team focused on the molecular mechanisms that connect mitophagy with AMD, a vision-robbing eye disease common among the elderly.

    Currently, people with AMD may take supplements or vitamins, but there is nothing that effectively stops or reverses the process, he said. One of our goals was to establish the scientific foundation from which a novel therapeutic treatment could be developed. We are encouraged by our findings.

    Identifying epithelial to mesenchymal transition

    Datta's team discovered that a disfiguration of the eye's retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells proceeds the deterioration of a patient's sight. These normally honeycomb-shaped cells become elongated due to a dysfunctional or dying mitochondria within them. In AMD, Datta's team found that the mitochondria was undergoing not mitophagy, but epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). The EMT process destroys the stability of RPE cells and causes the release of a cell-damaging substance called reactive oxygen species (ROS).

    The ROS are thought to be the root cause of subsequent sight loss.

    In the RPE cells, especially, the energy [ATP] that is generated by the mitochondria is critical to the eye's function. The retinal cells are multi-functional and need lots of energy, said Datta. Ideally, we want to restore the mitophagy process and stop the EMT, which leads to irreversible cell damage.

    Identifying a novel therapy

    Datta's team also identified a new therapeutic approach that may eventually stop and reverse some of the hitherto untreatable damage caused by AMD.

    Our work helped us to better understand the molecular mechanics and that allowed us to identify the pathways by which AMD progresses. If we can interrupt those pathways, we can interrupt the disease progression, he said.

    Datta described a treatment approach that shows a lot of promise. It focuses on the removal of ROS by injecting a specially tagged molecule into the RPE cells. This molecule transports a therapeutic drug, N-acetyl cystine (NAC) to the damaged mitochondria, where it scavenges the harmful ROS from the cell.

    Our work has implications that go well beyond that. We see a very real potential to widen our horizon of understanding of cancer pathophysiology, as well. We were also able to develop a nanoparticle-based therapy that is able to prevent cell change - thus providing a potential therapeutic target for many other diseases, like cancer.

    Dr. Sayantan Datta and Dr. Ganesh Satyanarayana in the lab

    Sayantan Datta, PhD, joins his co-author and colleague, Ganesh Satyanarayana, PhD, to review mitochondria slides in the Emory Eye Center laboratory where they continue to study AMD.


    CTSA grant allows joint Emory-Georgia Tech research to launch

    A recently awarded grant from the National Institutes of Health will support a joint Emory Eye Center-Georgia Tech investigation of driver safety for people who have glaucoma.

    The project, Piloting Augmented Reality Cues for Enhancing Driving Safety in Glaucoma was conceived by Emory Eye Center researcher and clinician, Deepta Ghate, MD, and her colleague, Srinivas Peeta, PhD, who heads up the Autonomous & Connected Transportation (ACT) Lab at Georgia Tech.

    Their joint project received a $50,000 award from NIH's Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) - a program that promotes the efficient transformation of laboratory-borne science into innovations and interventions that improve individual and public health.

    We are excited to be able to support Dr. Ghate's partnership with Georgia Tech, said Emory Eye Center director and F. Phinizy Calhoun, Sr. Chair of Ophthalmology, Dr. Allen Beck, himself, a glaucoma specialist.

    Dr. Ghate is performing the kind of translational research that can have a positive impact on the lives of glaucoma patients. We are so happy to have her on our faculty.

    Ultimately, Ghate and Peeta seek to improve driving safety for individuals with peripheral vision loss - a problem that affects 13 percent of the population over 65 years of age. Drivers with glaucoma have been found to be three to five times more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident.

    Ghate's previous research found that drivers with glaucoma are less able to deal with distractions while driving as compared to elderly people without glaucoma.

    We believe that technology that cues road hazards - which is routine in many newer cars - may hamper elderly people with glaucoma rather than help. They may get distracted by the noise and the lights and, thus, make more mistakes while driving, said Ghate, whose Glaucoma and Visual Psychophysics Lab will take a lead role in the research.

    This funding is essential to identifying new solutions. It will fund scenario development in the simulator in Dr. Peeta's lab and generate pilot data for a larger study.

    The joint research project will evaluate which glaucoma patients may benefit from augmented reality (AR) cues. It will also seek to identify which driving tasks may be best communicated using AR cues, Ghate said.

    We will also evaluate which AR cuing modality - auditory or visual - works best for glaucoma drivers. We aim to evaluate the impact of visual and auditory AR cues on hazard detection and driving performance. We will also evaluate predictor variables for successful hazard detection in glaucoma and control subjects.


    Revisiting a Legacy of Purpose with Paul Anderson

    Longtime Emory Eye Center supporter celebrates his family's commitment to the Anderson Fellowships

      Dr. Allen Beck, Paul Anderson, Dr. Robert Kim

      A recent visit to the Emory Eye Center by Paul Anderson, Jr. provided an ideal opportunity to reflect on the importance of legacy. Anderson's, legacy and Emory Eye Center's.

      For the better part of a century, the Anderson family has provided a deeply inspiring standard for the Emory Eye Center to emulate, said Allen Beck, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology.

      Earl Wills Anderson was principled, intentional, and undeterred by the hurdles that often hamper greatness. We are grateful for his commitment to the Yonsei University Department of Ophthalmology and creating this lasting connection to the Emory Eye Center.

      A cursory glance at the Anderson Family history explains this high praise. And then some.

      Earl Wills Anderson (Paul's grandfather) was an Emory College valedictorian, a doctor of ophthalmology, and a Methodist minister who traveled to Korea as a medical missionary in 1914. The Jug Tavern, Georgia native went on to found one of Korea's first ophthalmology departments at Yonsei University. He remained at the helm of that department for more than four decades, raising his family along the way.

      My grandparents were just country people from Georgia who set sail for what, at that time, felt like the ends of the Earth. And it may sound like it was just a grand adventure, but I'd say it was a sense of purpose that motivated my grandfather to go to Korea. He felt called to provide medical care to those in need,said grandson Paul Anderson, Jr.

      The next generation, Paul H. Anderson, Sr., '38C, '40L, was born and raised in Korea, where that sense of purpose was everywhere around him. A lawyer by profession, he honored his father's legacy by establishing the Anderson Fellowship at Emory Eye Center in 1987. That endowment has since allowed 10 Yonsei medical students to study ophthalmology at the Emory Eye Center. The first of those Emory-trained fellows, Eung Kowon (EK) Kim, MD. PhD, went on to become chair of the ophthalmology department at Yonsei University.

      Which brings us back to the current scion of that legacy, Paul Anderson, Jr.

      Now retired from his own law practice, Paul Anderson Jr. remains inspired by the legacy laid down by his father and grandfather. As soon as COVID restrictions allowed, he asked to meet with the current Anderson Fellow, Dr. Seong-eun Robert Kim, who is doing basic scientific research with EEC faculty Dr. John Nickerson. On his most recent visit, Anderson spent an afternoon reviewing the status of gene therapy research that Kim and Nickerson are pursuing under the auspices of the Anderson Fellowship.

      I am a physician in my country, but I think physicians should know how to do basic research so they can teach others and further the discipline, said Kim.

      Paul Anderson, Jr., paused to listen to these words, as though they were an answer to a question he no longer needed to ask.

      This Fellowship is not about me, he said. It's about my family's commitment to Emory, the legacy of helping others, the value of research.

      Paul Anderson, Jr. is 1975 graduate of the Emory Law School.


      New global ophthalmology course will transfer wisdom borne from experience

      EEC's Global Ophthalmology Director, Jacquelyn O'Banion, MD, helped develop the course, now offered by the American Academy of Ophthalmology

      A new online course offered through the American Academy of Ophthalmology is answering the growing demand for practical and philosophical wisdom in the field of global ophthalmology.

      The 10-part course, entitled Academic Global Ophthalmology, is free and now available to all AAO members.

      Sometimes, even well-intentioned efforts to do global health outreach in other countries falls into the rut of being a fly-in, fly-out mission, explains Emory Eye Center clinician Jacquelyn O'Banion, one of nine ophthalmologists who spent two years building the course.

      We can do better. By sharing best practices and foundational knowledge in public health, we can give learners the tools to be impactful as visiting physicians.

      The fly-in, fly-out scenario that O'Banion mentioned occurs when a group of well-funded (usually Western) physicians fly into a less-resourced country, perform surgeries on local people, and then leave. If they have failed to work with the local physicians and health systems during their visit, these doctors can bring more disruption than aid.

      Patients develop the idea that the outside physicians are better, or more qualified, so they don't connect with their local physicians for routine or follow-up care after the visiting doctors leave, said O'Banion. This is one of the problems we address in the course.

      O'Banion knows firsthand of what she speaks. As the director of Emory Eye Center's Global Ophthalmology (GO-E) program, she has traveled the world to deliver physician education and patient care for the better part of a decade. The Texas native has worked in Peru, Eswatini, China, Ethiopia, and Honduras, to name a few. Working closely with her colleagues in these countries, she has learned to identify culturally appropriate, sustainable approaches to healthcare delivery and medical education.

      Other ophthalmologists who collaborated on this course include Grace Sun, MD, Ashlie A. Bernhisel, MD, R.V. Paul Chan, MD, MBA, Brent Finklea, MD, Peter MacIntosh, MD, Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA, Robert Swan, MD, and Richmond Woodward, MD.


        $300K grant from Research to Prevent Blindness comes to the Emory Eye Center

        The unrestricted Challenge grant is one of only six awarded, nationwide


          The Emory Eye Center and Department of Ophthalmology are pleased to announce that Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) has recognized our Research Division with an unrestricted, four-year, $300,000 Challenge grant.

          The Eye Center received one of just six Challenge grants that were awarded by RPB in 2022. The funds will allow department chair Dr. Allen Beck to strengthen the school's commitment to ground-breaking translational research. Under the terms of the grant, Emory Eye Center will receive $75K a year to support its research mission, including research salaries, new equipment, lab supplies, data analysis, and the ongoing exploration of new research agendas. Those funds will be matched with an annual $75K grant from the Emory School of Medicine.

          More than anything else, the RPB Challenge grant gives us the freedom to do good science. The job of a truly committed eye research team is to produce findings that result in improved vision for our patients, said Beck, the F. Phinizy Calhoun, Sr. Chair of Ophthalmology.

          The 2022 RPB Challenge grant - and the many that came before it - have given our researchers the chance to take smart risks when the science calls for them. Over the years, that flexibility has put our research teams in the position to collaborate with other cutting-edge investigators when the time is right. It is one of the most important investments we can make for our patients, our physicians, and the future of vision health.

          Over the course of 30+ years, the Emory Eye Center has received more than $3M from RPB - funds that have allowed the school to continually attract top-notch research talent and to build and maintain state-of-the-art facilities.

          The 2022 Challenge grant will propel EEC's overall research efforts in a variety of areas, including diseases that impact the retina/macula, ocular oncology, infectious diseases, and glaucoma / optic neuropathies. Research director Dr. John Nickerson said some funds will support a series of mini-research proposals - pilot projects that will expand basic science and launch new avenues for long-term research. He plans to solicit internal proposals beginning September 1.

          These grants encourage our post-docs, grad students, and research faculty to forge stronger links between their basic and translational studies in the laboratory and our mission to improve vision health, he said. They are enough to test some key hypotheses and to keep our team agile in their pursuit of new breakthroughs.

          Since its founding, RPB has channeled more than $397M into eye research nation-wide. Their investment links RPB with nearly every major breakthrough in vision research for the past 60 years.


            Recently published article explores the impact of COVID-19 on ocular health, healthcare access

            A recently published article in NIH's National Library of Medicine is giving a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated disparities in health status and in health care access for many historically underserved groups. The study also points out that large public hospitals like Grady could provide much-needed insight on how these minority communities are impacted by the unique ocular manifestations of COVID-19 infection.

            The analysis, COVID-19 Related Health Disparities in Ophthalmology with a Retrospective Analysis at a Large Academic Public Hospital was co-authored by second-year Emory medical student Grace Chung (first author), Grady Hospital optometrist Dr. Christie M. Person, and Emory Eye Center clinicians Susan Primo, OD and Jacquelyn O'Banion, MD.

            It's important to perform health disparity research to advance better eye health for marginalized populations and people of color - people who are already facing persistent barriers and poorer health outcomes, explained Primo.

            COVID is just one example of how disproportionate rates and effects in certain communities can be worsened if not addressed. We are honored to contribute to the ophthalmic literature from our patient base at Grady.

            Read the entire article online now or see the August 2022 print edition in the Advances in Ophthalmology and Optometry Journal



            Now that's how Emory Eye Center celebrates its graduates

            A beloved tradition, the Residents and Fellows Weekend, returns for the Class of 22

            2022 Residents

            from left, Mark Morel, Jr., MD, Albert Liao, MD, Saraniya Sathiamoorthi, MD, Emory Eye Center Chair Dr. Allen Beck, Residency Coordinator Tracey Yancey, Residency Director Jeremy Jones, Lauren Hudson, MD, Aditya Rali, MD, Ben Enfield, MD


            It was two days that were put on hold for three years.

            But for many who participated in the Department of Ophthalmology's 2022 Residents and Fellows Weekend, it was worth the wait. Each year, the decades-old graduation tradition brings together proteges and preceptors for two days of laughter, celebration, and reflection. Scaled down or canceled for three years because of COVID, the 2022 Residents & Fellows Weekend was seen as a must-attend event in 2022.

            This is one of the main reasons I love my job, said Ophthalmology Department Chair Dr. Allen Beck, himself a graduate of the Emory School of Medicine, the Emory Ophthalmology Residency program, and the Emory Glaucoma Fellowship program.

            It's this weekend, when we launch the careers of so many promising ophthalmologists - colleagues who literally represent the future of vision health in our region and the world. My only hope, really, is that we continue to connect, to learn from one another. I'm as happy as they are that they have finished their training here. But now I want them to remember to come back.

            residents and faculty on the green

            Is Mulligan an Emory Eye Center graduate?

            The weekend commenced with an 18-hole golf outing at the Stone Mountain Golf Club. Blue skies and gassed-up carts launched gleeful teams of optimistic residents, fellows, and faculty at 7:30 am. By 2 pm, all teams had returned from the par-71 course -- still smiling, but no longer harboring fantasies of a second career as a golf pro.

            For the record, the First-Year Residents team bested the entire bunch with a score of 7 over par, while department chair Allen Beck, MD, took home bragging rights for putting closest to the pin. First-year resident Sami Ahmad, who had never before played golf, won the prize for longest drive.

            Check out this Flickr slideshow of the day-long outing.

            Exploring the science behind the patient care

            On June 4, a half-day research session gave residents and fellows the opportunity to explore and showcase their commitment to the science behind clinical practice. Each of the six graduating residents and 13 graduating fellows prepared a 10-minute presentation grounded in their own clinical and academic interests. Retired ophthalmologist and Emory alumnus Liev Tackle, MD awarded the first and second-place presentations, which were:

            Residents:

            • Dr. Albert Liao's paper When Splits Go Wrong: Surgical Outcomes of Progressive Retinoschisis-related Retinal Detachments: A 17-year Survey from a Large Academic Center,received top recognition in the category of graduating resident. (Preceptor: Jiong Yan, MD)

            • Dr. Mark Morel, Jr, MD, took home second place for Early Corneal Neurotization Outcomes at Emory Eye Center. (Preceptor: Soroosh Behshad, MD)

            Fellows:

            • Dr. Matt Boyko received top honor for Retinal & Optic Nerve MRI Diffusion-Weigh ted Imaging Hyperintensity in Acute Non-arteritic Central Retinal Artery Occlusion. (Preceptors: Nancy J. Newman, MD, and Valerie Biousse, MD.)

            • Dr. David Levine received second place for Vitamin A Deficiency Retinopathy (Preceptor: Nieraj Jain, MD)

            The research session was concluded with the Henry F. Edelhauser Lecture in Translational Research, entitled, The Genetics of Ocular Disease. It was given by Dr. Joan O'Brien, the director of the University of Pennsylvania's Scheie Eye Institute.

            Celebrating the grit and brilliance of our colleagues

            Before they took their final leave, the graduating residents and fellows were guests of honor at a festive Graduation Banquet, held Saturday, June 4. From the podium, Emory Eye Center residency director Dr. Jeremy Jones made it clear that the current crop of newly minted ophthalmologists was like no other.

            To say they were thrown a curveball in their medical training is an understatement, he said.

            Not only have they had to master an ever-increasing amount of information, knowledge, and surgical techniques; they have had to do so in the midst of a global pandemic. Many of our graduating fellows were asked to serve in their programs' ICUs or emergency rooms with little information on how to keep themselves safe from a virus we knew so little about. I'd like to give them all a round of applause, because, in spite of all of this, they came in extraordinarily well-prepared and competent. All of us on faculty know and understand the importance the fellows play in the training here at Emory. They are our first line supervisors and teachers of our residents. And for that, all of us are grateful.

            The residents returned Jones's praise with their own slate of awards that spoke volumes about the Emory Eye Center's culture of mutual admiration.

            • The 2021-22 Thomas M. Aaberg, Sr. Clinical Teaching Award was given to Yousuf Khalifa, M.D., In special recognition of your dedication to resident education, excellence in patient care, and outstanding teaching expertise. You are a role model to us all.

            • The Multiple HatsAward went to Jeremy Jones, MD, the director of resident education, For always knowing when to be our leader, teacher, therapist, and friend. We cannot thank you enough for the past 4 years.

            • The Alliance Award was given to Homaira Ayesha Hossain, MD For helping unite Uveitis and Rheumatology clinics at Grady, one EPIC message at a time.

            • The Marathon” Award went to Joshua Barnett, MD, because You may not be able to run a marathon, but you can definitely operate for 26.2 hours straight in the Grady 4K3 OR.

            • The Scheduling Wizard Award went to Blaine Cribbs, MD, For always knowing exactly which retina patients need Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday follow-up appointments at the VA.

            • The You Look Beautiful Award went to Ted Wojno, MD, For demonstrating the skillful dance that is required when counseling post-op patients.

            2022 EEC residents carrying Dr. Jeremy Jones

            Check out this Flickr slideshow of the EEC Graduation Banquet


            Dr. Sachin Kedar named to the Cyrus H. Stoner Professorship

            Emory Eye Center's Vice Chair of Education brings a wealth of service, research, and knowledge to the the renowned professorship


            The Emory Eye Center is proud to announce that Sachin Kedar, MBBS, MD, has been appointed to a five-year term as the Cyrus H. Stoner Endowed Professor in Ophthalmology, effective April 1, 2022.

              Currently the vice chair of Education for the Department of Ophthalmology, Dr. Kedar first came to Emory in 2004 to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology. He officially joined the Emory faculty in 2021, happily ending the department's national search for a senior-level neuro-ophthalmology faculty.

              I am honored to be appointed as the Cyrus H Stoner Endowed Professor in Ophthalmology, which I see as an opportunity to enhance already outstanding educational programs in ophthalmic education, said Dr. Kedar. My goal is to make Emory Eye Center, a leader in ophthalmic education.

              Prior to joining the Emory Eye Center, Dr. Kedar served as a researcher, faculty member, and physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where, among other things, he established a robust clinical practice, developed the medical student ophthalmology curriculum, and was named vice chair of Academic Affairs for the Department of Neurological Sciences. His tenure was also marked by numerous pedagogical honors, including the Innovative Teacher Award, the Faculty Mentor of the Year Award, and the 2021 ACGME Palmer J Parker Courage to Teach Award for his contributions to resident education.

              We considered ourselves very fortunate to have been able to recruit Dr. Kedar to our faculty last year, said Dr. Allen Beck, the Emory Eye Center Director and F. Phinizy Calhoun Sr. Chair of Ophthalmology.

              And, now, we are delighted that he will continue the tradition of excellence that the Stoner Professorship represents. Dr. Kedar's renown in the field of neurology and neurologic education, his national and international service, and his frequent contributions to the neuro-ophthalmic literature made him an unmistakably strong candidate for the Cyrus H. Stoner Professorship.

              Beck's accolades were echoed by Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves in his congratulatory letter:

              This level of distinction recognizes your eminence as a scholar, as well as the accomplishments that have placed you at the very top of your field, Fenves wrote.

              Conferral of the title also signifies that you have made substantial contributions to Emory University's mission to create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity. You are most deserving of this prestigious honor. Thank you for enriching Emory's intellectual community.

              Established by the estate of Cyrus H. Stoner, '32M, the endowed professorship provides salary and support for a senior physician and faculty member in ophthalmology at the Emory Eye Center. Dr. Stoner practiced ophthalmology at Georgia Baptist Hospital from 1946 until his retirement in 1980 and was a member of Emory's clinical faculty for most of those years. The Learning Resource Center at The Emory Eye Center is named in recognition of his years of service and generosity. The endowed professorship was Stoner's gift to future ophthalmologists.

              Previous recipients of Cyrus H. Stoner Professorship are Dr. Kedar's colleagues in EEC's neuro-ophthalmology section: Dr. Valerie Biousse and Dr.Nancy J. Newman.


              Dr. Michelle Cabrera explores diagnostic strategy for infants

              The Knights Templar speaker shares her experience using optical coherence tomography


              Drs. Cabrera and Lenhart after the lecture

              The Emory Eye Center was honored to have Michelle Cabrera, MD headline the May 20 Grand Rounds seminar with her talk, Handheld OCT as a Tool to Diagnose ROP.

              Sponsored by the Knights Templar Foundation, Cabrera's presentation focused on the use of handheld optical coherence tomography (OCT) to assess retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition in which abnormal blood vessel growth can contribute to vision loss in some premature infants.

              The chief of the Pediatric Ophthalmology Division at the University of Washington Medical School, Cabrera practices at Seattle's Children Hospital Ophthalmology Clinic. Her specialties include amblyopia and refractive error in children, strabismus, pediatric cataracts, and nasolacrimal disorders.

              Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a non-invasive imaging technology that delivers immediate results. It is often used to diagnose macular degeneration in adults. In her pediatric ophthalmic practice, Cabrera has used a hand-held version of OCT to successfully obtain vitreoretinal findings. In addition to discussing her experience with the hand-held OCT, Cabrera explored standard and cutting-edge ROP diagnostic criteria in her presentation.

              We were thrilled to have Dr. Cabrera share her professional experience with our residents, fellows, and staff physicians, said Amy Hutchinson, MD, the director of Emory Eye Center's Pediatric Ophthalmology Division.

              Her innovative work in this area has the potential to reduce the need for traumatic scleral depressed retinal examinations and truly transform the way we deliver care to these fragile babies.


              ARVO appoints Dr. Hans Grossniklaus to presidency

              Declares The Beauty of Diversity in Nature and Science as the guiding principle behind his term

              Dr. Grossniklaus at the ARVO podium

              Dr. Hans Grossniklaus addressing his ARVO colleagues after formally accepting his new role.

              On Wednesday, May 4 Dr. Hans Grossniklaus was formally appointed president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) - the largest vision research organization in the world. At ceremonies held during the final day of the 2022 ARVO annual meeting in Denver, Grossniklaus officially took the reins from outgoing president Maureen Maguire, PhD and established his theme for next year's annual ARVO meeting to be The Beauty of Diversity in Nature and Science.

              The appointment came as no surprise to those who know the longtime clinical pathologist and physician, currently the vice chair for Translational Research at the Emory Eye Center.

              Hans's approach to ophthalmic research fully embodies the spirit and potential of translational research, said Emory Eye Center director and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Dr. Allen Beck.

              He has dedicated his career to studying and treating patients with ocular melanoma, a life-threatening disease that may be first diagnosed on an eye examination. His work is a testimony to both his commitment to patients and his powerful intellect.

              The new title conjured up humbling memories for Grossniklaus.

              When I came to Emory, my research mentor was a past president of ARVO, [former director of EEC Research] Dr. Henry Edelhauser-the best translational research scientist in ophthalmology, he said.

              If I aspire to anything, it is to deserve a place alongside the truly great researchers who mentored me - Henry Edelhauser is certainly one, as is Lorenz Zimmerman and Dick Green. It's certainly true that I stand on the shoulders of giants.

              It is a tradition for each ARVO president to establish a theme to guide their tenure. Grossniklaus explained that his theme comes from a deeply held conviction about optimizing both his research and the environment that produces it. Research is more rigorous and more productive, he noted, if it is accomplished from different perspectives, approaches, and data interpretations. Likewise, more diversity among the ranks of ARVO can only strengthen the organization's impact on the field.

              Diversity is a hallmark of nature and has provided us with a beautiful natural world, he said from the podium. Likewise, there is mechanistic diversity in ocular disease, and we, as vision scientists, are a diverse group with multiple backgrounds and perspectives. Imagine if we are able to fully embrace this diversity.

              Grossniklaus praised ARVO's culture, which he characterized as being open to new ideas, innovation, and broad-based participation by members. He hopes to build on that by promoting opportunities to diversify the Board of Trustees, improve the nominating process, and encouraging corporate sponsorship of travel awards and scholarships for under-represented groups at ARVO events. All of this is particularly important for scientists who are just starting their careers, he noted.

              I know this because I have seen how ARVO works. I presented my first poster at an ARVO conference in 1983. It was Glycosidases in Macular Cornea Dystrophy. The presenter next to me was a well-known senior scientific investigator, Gordon Klintworth. To say he was well-established is an understatement. But when he started asking me questions about my work, that was not a barrier. We just fell into a conversation that was based on our mutual interest in the research. That's the sort of connection that can shape a career. And I've had many like it over the years. So, the idea behind this theme, really, is that I am paying it forward.

              Grossniklaus with outgoing ARVO president Maureen McGuire

              Outgoing ARVO president Maureen Maguire welcomes Dr. Hans Grossniklaus to his new term as ARVO president



              Emory Eye Center welcomes NEI Director Michael F. Chiang

              John Nickerson and his research team spent an afternoon discussing new findings


              Dr. Chiang with EEC research team

              There was a true meeting of the minds on April 21 when National Eye Institute (NEI) director Dr. Michael F. Chiang stopped by the Emory Eye Center to discuss ongoing research projects with the Ophthalmology Department's team of faculty and post-graduate investigators.

              The atmosphere was collegial but charged as Chiang listened attentively to the progress reports delivered by director, John Nickerson, PhD and seven researchers: Ross Ethier, Deepta Ghate, Sayantan Datta, Andrew Feola, Hans Grossniklaus, Michael Iuvone, and Jeff Boatright.

              Chiang was fascinated by Ghate's presentation, Differential High-Level Visual Impairments and their Impact on Quality of Life in Glaucoma, which explored the ways in which specific high-level visual impairments tend to differentially impact a patient's quality of life. In particular, it looked at the impact on routine life activities, such as face recognition, scene navigation, and risk of falling.

              It's hard to come up with end points for all of the research we do in special diseases, he noted. Visual acuity is a good measure, but is there a quality of life instrument that will work with other diseases? This is important work.

              He also applauded the multidisciplinary approach of the different research teams, some of which included engineering faculty and researchers from the Georgia Tech School of Biomedical Engineering.

              The eye and visual system are an incredible system for methodological scientific innovation which can eventually be applied to improve patient care, he said. It's exciting to see collaborative research here that fits this model: graduate students at Georgia Tech working with ophthalmologists at Emory together to develop creative new solutions to problems.

              As director of Emory's ophthalmic research efforts, Nickerson was only too happy to join in the discussions that followed each presentation.

              Now more than ever, the Emory Eye Center is expanding our research program to keep pace with the need for new treatments, options, and perspectives in vision health. The presentations Dr. Chiang saw today demonstrated that there's no shortage of innovation in the next generation of researchers, said Nickerson.

              But it was particularly encouraging for those new researchers - and for me - to see firsthand how open Dr. Chiang is to new approaches. That's the sort of leadership that bodes well for the field.


            • $200K grant will fund Emory Eye Center's optic nerve regeneration research

              Jiaxing "Wayne" Wang, MD, will lead the two-year research initiative

                A two-year, $200,000 grant from the BrightFocus Foundation is funding Emory Eye Center researcher Jiaxing (Wayne) Wang MD, PhD, in his search for genes that are capable of modulating optic nerve regeneration.

                Wang's proposal, Genetic Mutation Enhance Optic Nerve Regeneration in BXD29 Mouse Strain outlines his plan to identify the gene mutation that has allowed some test subjects to regenerate damaged or destroyed optic nerves.

                Damaged optic nerves lead to blindness in many diseases, such as glaucoma, said Wang, who joined the Emory Eye Center's research team six years ago, after a successful career as an ophthalmologist in his native China. He currently collaborates as an assistant research scientist in Eldon Geisert's lab.

                If we can develop a gene therapy that will promote the regeneration of optic nerves, we could have a way to treat or prevent vision loss.

                Promoting optic nerve regeneration is a promising therapy for treating vision loss in glaucoma, said Dr.Preeti Subramanian, director of Science Programs, Vision Science at the BrightFocus Foundation.

                We at BrightFocus are excited to be supporting Dr. Wang's innovative research to identify genes that can promote this regeneration.

                Wang is a part of a research team that has been using a particular strain sets of mice - BXD - to learn about the regeneration process. In previous work, the team found that subjects with a slight genetic mutation - BXD29-Tlr4lps-2J/J - had an enhanced capability to regenerate damaged optic nerves. More information is needed to formulate an actionable gene therapy regimen, however.

                The overall goal of this proposal is to define the specific genetic mutation responsible for improved axon regeneration, he said. We have identified all variants between the two strains [BXD29/Ty and BXD29-Tlr4lps-2J/J ] so we are in a good position to map the location of the mutation that governs axon regeneration.

                Wang will cross-breed mice so that he can track and compare the genetic contributions each makes to the phenotypes of the resulting generations. This testing will allow him to eventually map the location of the beneficial mutation - a first step in establishing a clinical response.

                This is exciting work that, to be honest, we had to be doing, said Wang. We are incredibly thankful to the BrightFocus Foundation for giving us the freedom to advance this research.

                Dr. Wang in the lab


              • American Academy of Neurology recognizes research of Dr. Nancy J. Newman

                Research advances understanding of Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

                Gene therapy research conducted by Emory Eye Center neuro-ophthalmologist Nancy J. Newman, MD was recently singled out for high praise by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Her abstract, The Phase III REFLECT Trial: Efficacy and Safety of Bilateral Gene Therapy for Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) summarized the results of a multinational clinical trial for which Newman was the international coordinating principle investigator.

                Newman's was one of three scientific abstracts chosen for the Top Science honor from AAN's Science Committee, which received more than 2,400 submissions.

                Announcement of the three Top Science awardees was made just days before the American Academy of Neurology's 74th Annual Meeting in Seattle, by Dr. Natalia S. Rost, the AAN Science Committee chair.

                I want to thank you Dr. Newman for truly pioneering work in neuro-ophthalmology, now, for many decades, said Rost. And now, with this, you are bringing the reality of the most-recent cutting-edge gene therapy to patients with this devastating disease and disability.

                The subject of Newman's investigation - Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy - is a rare but devastating disease that starts in one eye and invariably leads to bilateral blindness. It typically affects young otherwise healthy men. Researchers have traced the cause to point mutations in the mitochondrial DNA, causing the disorder to be passed down through the mother. While not every individual who has the disease will lose vision, when it does affect one eye, it invariably involves the other as well.

                The most common point mutation that severely affects the patient is the 11778 mutation in the ND4 gene, said Newman.

                We have shown that one can apply gene therapy with a viral vector and inject a complement of the abnormal gene into the eye where, hopefully, it is taken up by the retinal ganglion cells and makes up for the abnormality.

                This therapy, called lenadogene nolparvovec, has been shown to improve LHON patients' visual acuity in the affected eye. Surprisingly, these experiments found that the uninjected eye also improved more than would naturally be expected of a LHON patient. This implies that there is some migration of the therapy to the other eye and optic nerve.

                Following two phase-3 studies of unilateral gene therapy in LHON patients, a bilateral trial of the gene therapy (the REFLECT study) injected all patients with the gene therapy in one eye; injections into the second eye were randomly split between gene therapy and a placebo.

                And indeed, all second affected eyes improved, whether they received an injection of the drug or the placebo. And they improved more than we would have expected from the natural history of the disease, she said.


                illustration of the REFLECT study


                But what we also noted was that the eyes that received the placebo did not improve as much as the eyes that received the true gene therapy injection. And patients who received true injections in both eyes did better, overall, which seems to suggest a dosing effect.

                Newman noted that some findings were counter intuitive. For instance, findings from REFLECT and the two previous unilateral gene therapy trials suggest that early introduction of the gene therapy - when only one eye is affected - does not prevent the second eye from being affected, even if that eye receives the therapy.

                And, secondly, gene therapy seems to work best when it is introduced six months after patients first experience vision loss. This contradicts the typical reliance on early intervention. Newman and her colleagues have hypothesized that the initial swelling of axons from the retinal ganglion cells may create a barrier that hinders adequate uptake of the therapy during the first few months of vision impairment. As the swelling subsides, the gene therapy may be more effective.

                We still have a lot to do, but for the patients who suffer from this devastating disease, this is a step in the right direction, Newman said.


                Welcoming an Emory Eye Center research champion

                When Morton Waitzman, PhD, knocks on our door, we're only too happy to answer

                Group photo with Morton Waitzman

                Sixty years after he founded the Emory Eye Center's research division, Dr. Morton Waitzman and his wife, Aviva dropped by for a tour of the newly renovated Emory Eye Center lab recently. In addition to building the foundation of our iconic research program, Waitzman was on the original committee that helped plan the construction of the Clinic B building (where that research now takes place). Earlier this spring, Waitzman gifted Department of Ophthalmology Chair Dr. Allen Beck with the original blueprints for that project. Though he retired in 1991, Waitzman seamlessly slipped back into shop talk with the current team of researchers - including vice chair of Translational Research Dr. Hans Grossniklaus - who gladly gave him a tour of the facility. From left, they are: Drs. Hua Yang, Ganesh Satyanarayana, Grossniklaus, Waitzman, Priyanka Sharma, and Sayantan Datta. See more of the photos on the Emory Eye Center Facebook page!


                Ocular Telehealth: A Practical Guide demystifies a smart approach to healthcare

                Emory Eye Center ophthalmologists April Maa and Alexa Lu collaborated on the just-published guide

                April Maa and Alexa Lu

                Physicians seeking to increase access to eye care have a new tool to help them. The recently published Ocular Telehealth: A Practical Guide is a compendium of best practices and emerging trends in ocular telehealth that have been tested, reviewed, and revised by working ophthalmologists and optometrists for the better part of a decade.

                Front cover of Telehealth book

                Chief among those experts is the book's editor, Emory University ophthalmologist Dr. April Maa, whose Technology-based Eye Care Service (TECS) program in the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 7 is the busiest in the VA enterprise.

                We've been practicing in this space [telehealth] for years, so we were excited last year when Elsevier [Publishing] approached us about putting this book together, said Maa, who solicited and edited contributions from more than two dozen practitioners, including her Emory colleague, Dr. Xiaoqin Alexa Lu (also an ophthalmologist).

                The work we've already done - setting up new billing strategies, monitoring patients, investigating technology - will make it easier for other providers to start a telehealth practice. They can use this book to get started.

                Defining ocular telehealth

                Telehealth is a term that describes a wide array of approaches (and technologies) that allow some portion of a patient's health care to be processed or delivered remotely. Ocular telehealth has been finding its way into mainstream vision care for years.

                For instance, depending on the complexity of the eye condition, patients might find themselves alternating between in-person examinations and video-assisted wellness checks with their physician. In between, they may visit a satellite site to have a technician perform specific eye diagnostic tests, such as Humphrey visual fields. The results of that test can be electronically transmitted to the physician who can, on their own schedule, analyze them and determine next steps. Those next steps might include an in-person visit or a Zoom call.

                A common thread, throughout, is the use of technology - in particular, telecommunications - to remove geographic distance from the equation. For ophthalmologists like Maa and Lu, whose practices cater to far-flung rural populations, that's a huge help. But they are not alone.

                Previously, ocular telehealth was typically reserved for rural or underserved populations, writes Robert Morris, OD, in chapter 1 of Ocular Telehealth.

                During this pandemic, everyone became remote and underserved, making telehealth mainstream.

                Getting beyond the School of Hard Knocks

                Ocular Telehealth: A Practical Guide analyzes the field from multiple angles, both practical and philosophical. There are chapters devoted to remote patient monitoring, the legal and ethical considerations of setting up an ocular telehealth practice, and billing/coding issues. A good deal of the book focuses on best practices for a broad spectrum of eye conditions. Each chapter author did extensive literature reviews to back their findings, but they also derived valuable data from what Maa and Lu sometimes refer to as the school of hard knocks.

                Experience can really tell us a lot. The VA system has a lot of physicians who've been incorporating telehealth into their practices for a while. They wrote a lot of this book. They've experienced and gotten beyond a lot of the barriers and challenges - experiences others don't need to repeat, explains Maa.

                One thing all telehealth practitioners need to do is accurately assess their technology needs. Sufficient bandwidth for data-hungry diagnostic instruments, uber-secure data storage, and efficient transmission channels are just the beginning of this challenge. Each vision subspecialty has its own array of telehealth tools and instruments that need to be assessed and carefully coordinated to make the entire system work. The book's authors shared their experiences doing just that.

                The anterior segment of the eye can be difficult, says Lu, a cornea specialist. To get a good exam, you need better magnification, something more than a 2D photograph. You need a modality that will give you the ability to do 3D interpretations.

                In her own research, Lu discovered that drone slit lamps offer a promising solution. Physicians can use these instruments to conduct an examination of a patient miles away, at a satellite clinic near home. Any time travel is reduced, access is improved.

                You get the magnification you need and you get that videography that allows you to better understand what you are seeing, she said.

                Change is in the air

                Both Maa and Lu are excited about the future of ocular telehealth. They've already seen it expand access to traditionally underserved populations, particularly in rural areas of the country, including Georgia. Last year, the VA enterprise conducted more than 21,000 patient visits remotely using TECS. And, even though Maa and Lu do not bill Medicare for their VA-based telehealth services, both are encouraged by the fact the Medicare granted a waiver during the pandemic that allowed telehealth billing.

                We hope it will continue after the pandemic, says Maa. We're advocating for it.

                Meanwhile, Lu is personally and professionally invested in expanding access to telehealth. She heads up the national training curriculum for TECS readers and manages the VISN 7 TECS teaching rotation for non-eye and eye providers. She devoted an entire chapter to this subject in the book because she strongly believes in teaching others to become future eye telehealth practitioners.

                And we know that this is just volume 1, adds Maa. Once physicians read this book and have their own experiences, we know they'll come up with new ideas for implementing telehealth. That will be in volume 2. We can't wait to see what they teach us.

                Eventually, both physicians foresee a time when more patients can comfortably alternate between in-person and telehealth exams. More tests can be run by technicians at satellite sites, with the results being evaluated by physicians miles away.

                But at the end of the day, neither Maa nor Lu is suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach to ocular health care.

                You need to select the right patients for telehealth, says Maa. If you try to force it on a person who is not comfortable with it or who really needs to be seen in-person, you will not get compliance. Quality of care may suffer. Our most important skill will always be our ability to judge our patients needs and then meet them where they are.



                Emory Eye Center faculty shine at AAPOS Annual Meeting

                Three physicians recognized with "Best in Show" for research poster


                Emory Eye Center pediatric fellow Dr. Daniel Nelson was recognized with a Best in Show award for his poster, Unilateral or Sequential Treatment of Eyes with Bevacizumab for Retinopathy of Prematurity at the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS), held March 23-27 in Scottsdale Arizona.

                Nelson presented the work, which was co-authored with his mentors, Dr. Baker Hubbard and Pediatric Division director, Dr. Amy Hutchinson.

                Joining them at the national gathering was a full complement of Emory Eye Center faculty, including Department chair, Allen Beck, MD, Phoebe Lenhart, MD, Jason Peragallo, MD, and Carolina Adams, MD.

                Another familiar face, Dr. Rebecca Neustein, presented her research, The Ahmed Glaucoma Drainage Device: Long-Term Clinical Outcomes in the Pediatric Population. Neustein, a former Emory ophthalmology resident, is currently completing a glaucoma fellowship at Wills Eye Hospital and will join the EEC faculty later this year.

                Nelson presented the poster, which was a review of patients who were treated unilaterally or had their eyes treated sequentially for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disorder caused by abnormal blood vessels in the retina of a premature infant. Nelson had reviewed 10 years’ worth of ROP cases, focusing on instances where initially, only one eye met criteria for ROP treatment.

                Most ROP cases are symmetric, so we end up treating both eyes by injecting intravitreal bevacizumab (IVB) on the same day. However, in some cases, ROP presents asymmetrically,” said Nelson.

                This is happening more frequently since IVB has become the preferred approach to treatment in many cases, supplanting laser treatment, which required general anesthesia. In this study, we wanted to look at how many instances we initially treated only one eye, and then see the natural history of the other untreated eye.

                What we found, out of the 22 cases with one eye treated initially, was that 11 eventually required bevacizumab in the other eye. These findings do not support a strong systemic effect of IVB. But for those persistently asymmetric cases, it's a good treatment strategy to reduce systemic absorption of bevacizumab.

                Another interesting outcome of the study found that unilaterally treated eyes demonstrated no significant difference in refractive error relative to the untreated eye.

                The team concluded that additional study is needed since the number of patients studied was relatively few.

                Doctors Lenhart and Peragallo presented and analyzed cases with their colleagues at the Difficult Problems: Non-Strabismus workshop, which Lenhart moderated.

                As practicing physicians, we gain invaluable insight into our own work when we are able to frankly discuss the clinical reasoning behind diagnosis and management, said Lenhart, who currently serves as the vice chair of the AAPOS Professional Education committee.

                Analyzing tough cases with other pediatric ophthalmologists and strabismus experts is incentive to attend a workshop like this.

                Attendees of the What's New and Important in Pediatric Ophthalmology workshop received something of a literature review that included interpretations of the top pediatric ophthalmology papers published in more than 27 high-impact journals. The collection was assembled by the AAPOS Professional Education committee.

                Our goal is to provide our colleagues with the newest high-quality information regarding patient care and treatment modalities for children and adults with strabismus, explained Adams, who ran the workshop. We produced a comprehensive review along with a shorter version that features the top 10 percent of articles presented at the AAPOS annual meeting.

                Peragallo, Lenhart, Beck,Neustein, Hutchinson

                Working Together. Drs. Jason Peragallo, Phoebe Lenhart, Allen Beck, Rebecca Neustein, and Amy Hutchinson were among the many pediatric ophthalmologists who gathered at the AAPOS Annual Meeting in Arizona March 23-27



                Now is the time to help Emory Eye Center

                collage of patient images

                March 30 & 31 your donation to the Eye Center Research fund will be doubled


                On March 30 and March 31, all donations to the Emory Eye Center Research fund will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000. That's right: your $25 donation will become a $50 gift to support our breakthrough vision research.

                Visit the Emory Eye Center Research Fund page now to do your part!

                Whether it's preventive healthcare or treatment of a serious eye trauma, the Emory Eye Center is committed to your long-term vision health. Over the next 24 hours, you can help Emory Eye Center strengthen that commitment by supporting the our designated Emory Eye Center Research Fund. Whether it's $5 or $500, it will support the kind of probing research that has made Emory's Department of Ophthalmology one of the top research hubs in the vision care.

                Emory Day of Giving is a 36-hour online giving event celebrating everything Emory - and that includes the Emory Eye Center and Department of Ophthalmology. Over the next few hours, you'll have a unique chance to support what inspires you. Find out more at The Emory Day of Giving to view the other leaderboards and browse the matches and challenges.


                The Department of Ophthalmology salutes Dr. Ghazala O'Keefe

                The longtime Emory Eye Center physician and professor recognized on National Doctor's Day

                The Emory Eye Center is excited to announce that Dr. Ghazala O'Keefe was singled out for special recognition by her peers on March 30, National Doctor's Day.

                O'Keefe is one of more than 100 physicians across the School of Medicine who were selected for the honor, which recognizes exemplary dedication to improving patient health and well-being through direct care, research, and inspirational education of future providers. The individual winners were chosen from among hundreds of nominations that were submitted to the SOM Recognition Committee this year.

                Colleagues called out O'Keefe for the knowledge, energy, and generosity she brings to her many roles - as a clinician, a mentor, and a thought leader.

                She is an outstanding clinician who receives high praise from patients for her empathic care, said Ophthalmology Department Chair Allen Beck.

                She is an excellent teacher and mentor and is a strong leader for her section.

                read more>>>


                From Ukraine to Atlanta: Finding a way home

                An Emory Eye Center staffer shares her experience helping her aunt escape the chaos in their homeland

                Natalia Lendel holding a sign welcoming her to the United States

                Editor's note: The Emory Eye Center staffer in this story was happy to share her experience, but asked us to omit her last name for privacy reasons. The photo, above, is of Natalia Lendel, when she arrived in Atlanta after fleeing the chaos that has overtaken her native Ukraine.


                Screaming sirens. Smoldering buildings. Soot-covered children.

                Nightly images of Ukraine's destruction have stunned many Americans into an awestruck silence. Yulia hasn't had that luxury. When the airspace over her native country was shutdown on February 23, her life went into overdrive.

                By day, she kept a laser focus on her newly acquired job, as an ophthalmological assistant at the Emory Eye Center. But that left another 16 hours for Yulia to focus on the other side of the world, where her aunt, Natalia Lendel, was trapped in the Ukraine.

                read more>>>


                Vision2020 Link USA grant will support Global Ophthalmology in Ethiopia

                Three-year, $90,00 grant recently awarded to EEC outreach program


                patients and EEC physician in Ethiopia

                The Emory Eye Center's Global Ophthalmology program (GO-E) has recently received an important boost in its efforts to expand access to both vision health and to ophthalmological training in Ethiopia.

                A three-year, $90,000 grant, from Vision2020 LINK USA, will allow GO-E to continue training ophthalmology residents from Ethiopia's Addis Ababa University (AAU) while also bolstering much-needed screenings for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and diabetic retinopathy (DR).

                read more>>>


                Grossniklaus Research Group publishes uveal melanoma findings

                Early detection of metastatic UM linked to liver


                Research coming from Emory Eye Center's Hans Grossniklaus's group is opening a promising new avenue for detecting early-stage metastatic uveal melanoma in the liver.

                The group's findings, Non-invasive Detection and Complementary Diagnostic of Liver Metastases via Chemokine Receptor 4 Imaging appeared in the February 10 edition of the journal Cancer Gene Therapy.

                Their identification of a biomarker for liver metastases came out of the team's work with uveal melanoma (UM), an ophthalmic cancer that almost exclusively metastasizes in the liver. Researchers in this study observed elevated levels of the chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) in both the liver metastases from their UM patients, and in the liver metastases of UM murine models. This led them to use a CXCR4-specific MRI contrast agent to detect small liver metastases in a mouse model. The relative simplicity of this approach may eventually offer patients a valuable option for detection and treatment.

                read more


                Match Day 2022: The future of ophthalmology is looking great

                Six outstanding med school grads to join Emory Ophthalmology in July


                Emory Eye Center Residents

                Emory Eye Center is proud to announce that six outstanding medical school graduates will be joining us in the fall to complete their residencies in ophthalmology. Announcement of the new class of residents was made February 8 - Match Day - by Jeremy K. Jones, the director of Emory School of Medicine's Residency Program in Ophthalmology. The six were selected from a field of almost 700 applicants.

                We couldn't be happier to recruit such an amazing and diverse incoming class, said Jones. They all come highly recommended with numerous publications, leadership roles, and life experiences that we have no doubt will make for a great addition to the Emory family. Thanks to everyone who helped us recruit such a great class, especially the one and only [EEC's Graduate Medical Education Residency program coordinator] Tracey Yancey.

                Matthew (Ryan) Claxton earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee and his medical degree at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine. Pasley Gordon earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia and her medical degree at Augusta University. Brandon McKenzie earned his undergraduate degree at Swarthmore College and his medical degree at Howard University. Kafayat Oyemade earned her undergraduate degree at Spelman College and her medical degree at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine. Kathryn Park earned her undergraduate degree from Brown University and her medical degree from the University of California School of Medicine at San Diego. Parth Vaidya earned his undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University and his medical degree at Virginia Tech's Carilion School of Medicine.



                Dobbs Foundation grant will boost Emory Eye Center outreach to underserved


                A two-year grant from the R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Foundation will focus on closing the health care access gap that prevents un- and underinsured Georgians from getting follow-up vision care.

                Announcement of the $180,000 grant was made January 26, and applauded by Georgia Vision 2020, a statewide coalition of providers and advocates that includes Emory Eye Center and our outreach program, Global Ophthalmology (GO-Emory).

                The Dobbs Foundation funds will allow us to strengthen the referral network of providers who can give patients direct access to follow-up medical care once a vision problem has been detected, said Emory Eye Center ophthalmologist (and GO-E director) Jacquelyn O'Banion, MD, MSc.

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                Emory Eye Center to host 2022 Southeast Vitreoretinal Seminar in Atlanta


                Ending a two-year hiatus, the Emory Eye Center will once again sponsor the Annual Southeast Vitreoretinal (SEVR) Seminar at the JW Marriott Hotel March 25-26, 2022.

                As in previous years, the 34th Annual SEVR is expected to attract top retina specialists, uveitis specialists, retina fellows, ophthalmology residents, and medical students from throughout the southeast. Led by Emory faculty, Ghazala A. Datoo O'Keefe, MD and G. Baker Hubbard, III, MD, participants will dive into a wide range of topics, including retinal vascular disease, ocular tumors, uveitis, retinal degenerations, updates on the latest clinical trials, and management of complex vitreoretinal surgery.

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                Emory Eye Center faculty to publish findings on hemangiopericytoma

                A case report co-authored by Emory Eye Center's Hans Grossinklaus MD, Jill Wells MD, and Caroline Craven, MD is advancing understanding of conjunctival hemangiopericytoma, a rare but serious soft-tissue tumorous growth on the surface of the eye.

                The team's article, Isolated Hemangiopericytoma of the Conjunctiva has been accepted for publication in the American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports. Two additional researchers, William Edwards and Joseph Ryan Turner, share authorship on the piece.

                The article shares findings from the treatment of a 54-year-old patient who had developed a small, firm, non-painful, non-mobile vascular mass on her eye. Treatment commenced after three weeks and included surgical excision of the mass. A one-year follow-up examination revealed no recurrence.



                Two Emory Eye Center faculty tapped for 2021 Morgan Distinguished Lecture

                As the Emory Eye Center closes out 2021, we are proud to announce that, for the first time in the University's history, two faculty (both from EEC!) were tapped to co-present the prestigious John F. Morgan Distinguished Faculty lecture. Nancy J. Newman, MD and Valérie Biousse, MD, shared the honor, one of the most coveted bestowed by the University.

                Newman and Biousse's talk, The Eye as a Window to the Brain: From Candlelight to Artificial Intelligence gave a fascinating history of their joint interest in reintroducing the ocular fundus examination - currently an infrequently performed practice conducted by non-ophthalmic physicians - into an effective tool of mainstream medicine.

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                Focus on Glaucoma Research: Andrew J. Feola, Ph.D.

                A team of researchers headed up by Emory Eye Center researcher, Andrew Feola Ph.D., is investigating a hormonal link to glaucoma that could open doors to more effective treatment and prevention options. Under the auspices of a 5-year, $1.25 million National Institutes of Health grant and a 5-year, $800,000 Veteran's Administration grant, Feola, an assistant professor in the Emory Medical School, is probing the connection between estrogen deficiencies and glaucoma - the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world.

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