Message from the Chairman
he Department of Ophthalmology has made significant advancements over the past few years. This follows upon a long tradition of innovation, of which you are a part. We are excited to share our updates with you in this new alumni newsletter, Through the Looking Glass, which we plan on publishing three times annually. We chose this name because, as alumni, what you accomplish reflects upon the Department, and likewise, what the Department accomplishes reflects upon you. Together, we all strive to make our Department one of international acclaim. It is truly a very exciting time for the Department. We are all very anxious for the completion of the new Vision Institute, which is currently slated to be completed in 2022. More than twenty new faculty members, clinicians, scientists or both, have been added since 2017, bolstering our efforts on several important projects, such as the Funderburgh Corneal Regeneration Project. This project, made possible thanks to incredible work done by the late Jim Funderburgh, was renamed in his honor before he passed last winter. Glaucoma and retina research continues to be a top priority, along with the work taking place in the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration on optic nerve regeneration. These efforts are part of an ambitious strategy, developing multidisciplinary translational programs to restore vision.
José-Alain Sahel, MD
A major partner in this strategy is the Eye & Ear Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization created solely to support the education and research efforts of the Departments of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The Foundation is in the midst of the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history, with a goal of raising funds to help the Department of Ophthalmology save vision for patients here in Pittsburgh and around the world. Thanks to the efforts of CEO Lawton Snyder and his staff, our Department can equip our faculty and students with vital funding to ensure we have state-of-the-art lab space, innovative technologies, and the right people to make our Department the very best in the world. We realize, however, that much of the reason we are where we are today is because of the sensational backbone of our Department – you, our alumni. Your talents have helped shape our Department and have forged the path for our current faculty to achieve the goals we have set forth in our agenda. We encourage you to update contact information, submit personal news, or inform us of professional achievements to share with your fellow alumni in future issues. With this publication, we will share an inside look at our alumni and showcase our current faculty, both in the clinic and research. We are excited to bring this and future news to all of you. Best,
José-Alain Sahel, MD Distinguished Professor and Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology Eye & Ear Foundation Endowed Chair, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Exceptional Class Professor, Sorbonne University, Paris
In This Issue Chariman’s Update
From the Desk of Dr. Conner
Ophthalmology Newer Faculty
Department of Ophthalmology University of Pittsburgh
Two patients in Pittsburgh first in the United States to receive a promising PRIMA system to restore vision for severe Macular Degeneration
First Year Ophthalmology Residents
From the Desk of Dr. Conner
elcome to the inaugural issue of Through the Looking Glass, a new forum to keep alumni and friends of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Ophthalmology informed and engaged. We plan to publish three times per year, with a different theme for each season. For this first issue, we focus on the newest additions to our Department - our new residents, fellows, and faculty. You will see that we have recruited an impressively diverse group of talented doctors to join our ranks, and we are excited that they have chosen us to usher them through their training. Our newest faculty – both clinical and research – are poised to mentor and inspire these young ophthalmologists. Among these inspiring endeavors in the department, we have chosen to focus in this issue on the PRIMA ophthalmic prosthetic device for patients with advanced agerelated macular degeneration. Dr. Sahel, Dr. Martel, and their team are doing groundbreaking work to restore lost vision to patients with this debilitating disease. In other outreach efforts, our partners at the Eye & Ear Foundation have sponsored a series of webinars in the past year,
highlighting the important clinical and investigational work being done here in Pittsburgh. You will find links to these episodes at the end of the newsletter. Finally, we feature an alumni profile of one of our very best. Al Biglan is an institution unto himself, renowned as a clinical and educator, and one of our greatest alumni champions. We encourage you to share this content with your colleagues who may be less engaged, and to use the website to update your contact information for future communications. We know that we have great alumni, and we hope to use this new forum to grow and sustain our family. I will be working closely with Lauren Wally from the Department, as well as Craig Smith, the Department alumni liaison for the Eye & Ear Foundation, and encourage you to reach out to them with any questions, concerns, or suggestions for the newsletter. Craig can be reached at email@example.com.
Ian Conner, MD PhD Ophthalmology Department Alumni Liaison
All the best, Ian Conner MD PhD Chief of the Glaucoma Service Director of the Glaucoma Fellowship Associate Program Director of the Residency UPMC Eye Center
Two patients in Pittsburgh first in the United States to receive a promising PRIMA system to restore vision for severe Macular Degeneration by Craig Smith
cientists and clinicians in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine had the distinction in January 2020 of implanting the first patient in the United States with the PRIMA System. This procedure is part of a clinical trial that aims to restore partial vision to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients. “This is an important milestone for vision restoration,” says Joseph Martel, MD. “This device has the potential to impact patients with advanced AMD associated visual
impairment, for which there is currently no satisfactory FDA approved treatment.” AMD is an eye disease that occurs when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. Patients with AMD lose their eyesight in the center of their field of vision while retaining peripheral vision. AMD currently affects more than 11 million people in the United States and is expected to double by 2050 as the U.S. population continues to age. The PRIMA system consists of a small, wireless photovoltaic chip that is surgically
placed under the degenerated macula and a pair of augmented reality glasses that include a built-in camera and infrared projector. Once in place, the chip and glasses work together to convert infrared light from the glasses into electrical signals that are carried by the intact retinal neural network to the optic nerve and then to the brain. After being implanted with the device, patients undergo intense vision training and rehabilitation to learn how to interpret these electric signals and, in conjunction with their limited remaining natural vision, integrate the visual input from the prosthetic vision. Continued on page 18
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First Year Ophthalmology Residents David Mora-Boellstorff, MD David Mora-Boellstorff grew up in College Station, Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BS in biomedical engineering. Undergraduate research activities included creating a Java-based simulation of rat brain vessel angiogenesis in response to VEGF and stretching DNA in nanofluidic devices for optical mapping of DNA from single cells. Although these experiences were challenging and rewarding, he ultimately decided to pursue clinical medicine. He attended the University of Texas Medical School at Houston where he went from telling people he wanted to do anything but ophthalmology to not seeing himself being any other kind of doctor besides an ophthalmologist. He completed a transitional year internship at Providence Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington prior to starting his categorical training in ophthalmology in Pittsburgh. He enjoys hiking, alpine scrambling, birdwatching, skiing, watching and playing sports, and lifting weights.
Zachary Nadler, MD Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Dr. Nadler graduated magna cum laude from Emory University with a dual degree in Physics and Mathematics. He went on to pursue a PhD in astrophysics at the University of California Santa Cruz, while also co-founding a denim shirt company called Shirst, before pivoting to pursue a career with a greater emphasis on service. He returned to Pittsburgh and spent several years applying his physics expertise in the UPMC Ophthalmology Department where he conducted ocular imaging research using adaptive-optics optical coherence tomography to characterize optic nerve head structure as part of the Glaucoma Imaging Group. It was this experience that ultimately compelled him to pursue a medical degree. While attending the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, he served on the board of the Ophthalmology interest group, helping to organize community outreach vision screening. He completed his internship north of Philadelphia, at Abington Jefferson Hospital, and is thrilled to once again join the Ophthalmology Department at UPMC. He is a lifelong fan of Pittsburgh sports, and enjoys spending his free-time outdoors with his fiancĂŠ and their two dogs, either hiking or playing any sport that involves a racket.
Manuel Paez-Escamilla, MD Manuel Paez-Escamilla was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since a young age he was intrigued by history and science, greatly influenced by his dad, who is a neurosurgeon, and his mother, who holds a PhD in psychology. As a teenager, he practiced Tae Kwan Do, where he held a second-degree black belt, won national and Pan-American tournaments, and was part of the Mexican national team. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara School of Medicine, Mexico. He then did his ophthalmology residency at Guadalajaraâ€™s Civil Hospital, followed by a combined research/clinical fellowship in ocular oncology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida. During his residency, he managed to successfully pass the challenging International Council of Ophthalmology basic science, clinical science and advanced examinations, which entitled him the use of the postnominal acronym FICO. Following medical school, ophthalmology residency and fellowship, he completed a year of residency training in general surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Outside of residency, he enjoys spending time with his wife Catalina, hiking, going to the gym and playing videogames. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS 03
First Year Ophthalmology Residents (continued) Tadhg Schempf, MD Dr. Tadhg Schempf grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Neuroscience, where he performed research investigating neuronal changes in Alzheimer’s disease. He began medical school in 2015 at New York University School of Medicine. While in New York, he pursued research in several medical fields including orthopaedics and internal medicine, before discovering his fascination with the field of ophthalmology. His research pursuits in medical school have included projects investigating retinal imaging modalities, oculoplastic surgical approaches, and IOL techniques, resulting in several peer-reviewed articles. He graduated from NYU in 2019, receiving Alpha Omega Alpha and Valedictorian honors. He spent his intern year at UPMC in the transitional year program, which was a wonderfully comprehensive experience in many fields of medicine. He is excited to experience the fascinating ocular pathologies that UPMC offers, as well as all the teaching that the genuinely dedicated faculty have to offer. He and his fiancé, Molly, were eager to move back to Pittsburgh for residency, living near their families in a place that has always been home. In their free time, they love spending time with their puppy, hiking, biking, and trying out new food around the city. Peter Jones, MD Dr. Jones grew up in Parkersburg, WV and graduated from Stanford University in 2001 with a BS in Biology with Honors. As an undergraduate, he developed an interest in how brains process information while working in Dr. William Newsome’s laboratory studying visual cortex in primates. He then earned a PhD from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX in 2012 studying information processing in neural circuits and within individual neurons in the lab of Dr. Fabrizio Gabbiani; his doctoral dissertation was entitled “The Computation of Image Velocity in the Locust Visual System and its Impact on the Detection of Approaching Objects”. From there, he moved to Pittsburgh for a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Nathan Urban where he studied how animals use olfactory (scent) cues to navigate their environments. Motivated by a desire to make a more immediate and definite impact in the lives of others, he decided to return to school to obtain an MD, which he completed in 2019 at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He discovered a passion for clinical Ophthalmology while volunteering at Guerrilla Eye Service, the student and resident staffed free eye clinic run by UPMC Ophthalmology. He hopes to eventually have a combined clinical and research career. In his free time he enjoys getting outside to hike, rock climb, run, or play soccer; and also enjoys cooking, and spending time with his wife Rachel and their dog Seneca. Ralista Loewen, MD Dr. Ralitsa Loewen has a B.A. in Biology from Luther College, Decorah, IA and an MD from Medical University - Sofia, Bulgaria. After graduation, she pursued a fellowship in basic and clinical science at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, which led to several publications. There she also acquired the technique of embryonic stem cells microinjections in blastocysts for generation of knockout mice. Using the same set of skills, she continued to work as an embryologist at Rush University performing Intra-cytoplasmic sperm microinjections (ICSI). She completed two years of General Surgery residency training at UPMC and pursued her research interests in the Department of Ophthalmology. She has peer-reviewed publications and is the recipient of fellowship and ARVO travel awards. Long term she plans to continue her career as a physician-scientist. Trying to help those who are less fortunate in life is important to her, and she volunteers at the Guerrilla Eye Service clinic. In her free time, she enjoys running, playing piano, and spending time with her husband and their two daughters.
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Ophthalmology Fellows Susannah Brown Subspecialty: Oculoplastics Originally a native of Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Susannah Brown completed medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, SC and subsequently stayed on to complete her ophthalmology residency at MUSC’s Storm Eye Institute. She has been recognized for her commitment to patient care with multiple patient-care awards including the prestigious national Veteran’s Association ICARE Award for Distinguished Resident Physician. While at MUSC, she also received the Program Director’s Award, given to the resident who most exemplifies ‘the behaviors and attitudes each of us looks for in our own personal physician’. During her residency, Dr. Brown was selected by her peers and faculty to serve as Chief resident and received the Richard A. Saunder’s Award for ‘academic potential, surgical excellence and outstanding teaching ability’. During her free time, Dr. Brown enjoys spending time with family, horseback riding and learning to fly fish.
Hamza Pasha Subspecialty: Cornea Dr. Hamza Pasha grew up in Boulder, CO where he graduated from University of Colorado with a B.A. in Integrative Physiology with distinction. He then obtained his medical degree from University of Colorado School of Medicine. After completion of his transitional year at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI, he moved to Galveston, TX for ophthalmology residency at University of Texas Medical Branch/Houston Methodist. He also served as chief resident in his final year. During his residency, Dr. Pasha was recipient of the Senior Resident Teaching award. In his free time, Dr. Pasha enjoys running, hiking, snowboarding, and spending time with friends and family.
Laura Palazzolo Subspecialty: Cornea Dr. Laura Palazzolo graduated magna cum laude from New York University with a B.A. in Psychology and minor in Public Health and Policy. She completed her M.D. at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. As a medical student, she was President of the Ophthalmology Club and implemented a vision screening program for uninsured patients in Central Brooklyn. She also coordinated national community service initiatives as Vice Chair of the American Medical Association’s Community Service Committee. She was presented the Ophthalmology Departmental Award, the Jennifer Timbrook Award for significant contributions to student life, and inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. Dr. Palazzolo then completed her internship in Internal Medicine at Northwell Health and ophthalmology residency at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, where she served as chief resident in her final year. She has authored several textbook chapters and presented clinical research at national conferences including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. Outside of work, Laura enjoys running (she completed 2 marathons) and spending time outdoors. She is also a former ballet dancer, and now enjoys seeing live performances. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS 05
Ophthalmology Fellows (continued) Sarah Ullah Subspecialty: Glaucoma Dr. Sarah Ullah grew up in Federalsburg, Maryland and graduated from Salisbury University. She obtained her medical degree from University of Maryland School of Medicine. After completion of her intern year at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, she moved to Hershey, PA to complete her ophthalmology residency at Penn State Hershey Eye Center. After residency and prior to fellowship, she was employed as a comprehensive ophthalmologist at Geisinger Eye Institute in Danville, PA. Outside of ophthalmology, she enjoys reading, baking, walking and spending time with her husband and 3 year old daughter.
Emily Hughes Subspecialty: Glaucoma Dr. Emily Hughes graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with a first-class honors medical degree in 2010. She completed her internship in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin before progressing to do a two-year research degree in University College Dublin. Through cell culture and histological study, she investigated the potential role of the retinal pigment epithelial cell in glaucomatous optic nerve head cupping. She completed her ophthalmology residency with the Irish College of Ophthalmology in 2020 and holds a diploma from the European Board of Ophthalmology as well as Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. Outside of ophthalmology, Dr Hughes enjoys yoga, abstract painting and catching up on the latest movie releases with her husband.
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Ophthalmology Fellows: Second Year Boris Rosin Subspecialty: Retina Dr. Rosin has started his professional life as a Software Engineer, graduating Summa Cum Laude in Mathematics and Computer Science from Tel Aviv University, Israel. Dr. Rosin decided to pursue a career in Medicine and subsequently completed the MD-PhD program (with distinctions) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. His PhD project in Neurobiology investigated new approaches to Deep Brain Stimulation in Parkinsonâ€™s disease, culminating in top-tier publications and the receipt of multiple awards for his work. Dr. Rosin has completed the Israeli Residency Program in Ophthalmology and a 2-year Vitreoretinal Fellowship program at Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel. After receiving a few substantial grants, Dr. Rosin established his own lab at Hadassah Medical Center, which investigates the processing of visual information within the Central Nervous System (CNS). His clinical interests include gene and cell therapy options for congenital retinal degenerations, vitreoretinal surgery as well as visual system electrophysiology. Personal hobbies include biking, his Jack Russel Terrier and classical music (amateur violinist).
Erika Massicotte Subspecialty: Oculoplastics Dr. Massicotte was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She obtained a Diploma of College Studies in Health Sciences at the College of Valleyfield. She then attended medical school at the University of Montreal, Canada where she was involved in many committees, including the Medical Student Association as the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Dr. Massicotte also completed two different research internships that led to multiple publications during her medical studies. She then completed an ophthalmology residency at the University of Montreal, Canada from 2014 to 2019. Throughout her residency, she was elected chief resident and published publications in peer-reviewed journals. She recently became an associate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. During her free time, she likes to spend time with her family, hiking and travelling.
Jamila Hiasat Subspecialty: Pediatric Ophthalmology Dr. Jamila Hiasat was born in Amman, Jordan. She received her MD from the University of Jordan as well as completed an ophthalmology residency, where she was elected chief resident in her final year. Additionally, she received experience at the King Hussein Cancer Center, the first Joint Commission accredited in Jordan and the first center outside the United States to receive disease-specific accreditation. She is currently is a Pediatric Ophthalmology, Strabimus and Adult Motility fellow, where she is completing her second and final year.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty Amgad Eldib, MD – Pediatric Ophthalmology Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Amgad Eldib attended medical school at Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt, where he graduated in 2010. He received his Master’s degree of ophthalmology from Alazhar University in Cairo in 2014. Following medical school, Dr. Eldib attended the Research Institute of Ophthalmology in Cairo, one of the largest ophthalmology institutes in the Middle East, where from 2011-2018 he held a residency, a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology, and was also a senior registrar of ophthalmology. From 2018-2020 Dr. Eldib held fellowships in Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at Emory University in Atlanta and the University of Pittsburgh. Upon completion of his fellowship, Dr. Eldib joined our faculty in August 2020 as an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology.
Sohani Amarasekera, MD – Comprehensive Ophthalmology Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Sohani Amarasekera grew up in Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 with a BA in Biology. After graduation, she undertook a year of glaucoma research at the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary under the guidance of Dr. Robert Ritch. She then pursued her Master’s of Public Health at Cambridge University, followed by her MD at New York Medical College. She has particular interests in retina and global ophthalmology and has worked on diverse clinical and surgical projects in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Kenya. She recently graduated from the ophthalmology residency program and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where she served a Chief Resident of the program and joined the University of Pittsburgh in July 2020. In her spare time, she enjoys spinning, trying out new restaurants and cheering on the Raptors.
J. Patrick Mayo, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Secondary appointment in the Dept. of Bioengineering Training faculty in the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh Dr. Mayo research focus is on electrophysiology and systematic training in isolating the sensory, motor, and cognitive aspects of neuronal processing. Dr. Mayo’s extensive experience in non-human primate electrophysiology and systematic training in isolating the sensory (DiCarlo and Sommer Labs), motor (Houk and Lisberger Labs), and cognitive (Maunsell Lab) aspects of neuronal processing are one-of-a-kind. During training, he has twice recorded simultaneously in multiple brain regions (primary motor cortex and the basal ganglia in the Houk Lab; area MT and the frontal eye fields in the Lisberger Lab) and is one of only a handful of non-human primate researchers to record in both brain hemispheres simultaneously (area V4 in the Maunsell Lab). Dr. Mayo was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in April of 2020. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS 08
Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Roxana Fu, MD â€“ Orbital, Oculoplastics & Aesthetic Surgery Service Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Roxana Fu graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2010 with a BA in Biology, and in 2011 with her MD through a dual BA/MD program, where she graduated summa cum laude. Following a year long internship in general surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Dr. Fu began her first residency in Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh from 2012-2015. Following this residency Dr. Fu held a Fellowship with the American Society of Ophthalmic & Plastic Reconstructive Surgery under Dr. William Nunery at the University of Louisville and Indiana University. After being a member of the faculty at Wilmer Eye Institute at John Hopkins University, Dr. Fu recruited to the University of Pittsburgh as an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology in February 2020.
Gary Yam, PhD Research Associate Professor Head, Corneal Regeneration Lab Dr. Yamâ€™s research is focused on corneal cell biology, study of corneal stem cells to regenerate corneal tissues for wound healing, correction of corneal haze and scarring, as well as tissue engineering for refractive correction. His research initiatives are focused on developing safe, simple and efficient therapy for wound healing and scarring of cornea, using both cell-based and non-cell-based strategies. His research on stromal cell-based study has successfully used stromal keratocytes, through intrastromal injection, to treat corneal haze and scarring in animal models of corneal opacity. Dr. Yam was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in February of 2020.
Ellen Butts, OD - Optometry Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Butts received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. She then went on to complete her Doctor of Optometry degree from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Following a residency in ocular disease at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Dr. Butts was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in October 2019.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Gaurav Prakash, MD – Cornea, Cataract & Refractive Surgery Service Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Prakash attended medical school at Banaras Hindu University in India, followed by both a fellowship and a residency at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Upon completion of his residency and fellowship Dr. Prakash was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in July 2019. Aside from his clinical responsibilities, Dr. Prakash performs research with an emphasis on keratoconus, refractive surgery, wavefront optics, and corneal imaging.
Preeti Patil Chhablani, MD – Pediatric Ophthalmology Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Chhablani attended medical school at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College in India. Following medical school, she performed her residency at Sankara Nethralaya in India, followed by a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at the same hospital. She then held a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology and neuro-ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego before being recruited by the University of Pittsburgh in June 2019. Dr. Chhablani’s work focuses on strabismus, nystagmus, and pediatric neuro-ophthalmology. She also runs a Nystagmus clinic at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and is interested in management of this complex condition including the underlying causes, different forms of nystagmus and the associated genetic conditions and the medical and surgical management of these cases.
Jay Chhablani, MD – Retina Service Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Chhablani completed medical school at Pt JNM Medical College in India, followed by a residency at Kasturba Medical College. Upon completion of his residency, Dr. Chhablani completed a clinical vitreo-retina fellowship from Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, India and was an International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) fellow at Jules Gonin Eye Hospital, Switzerland, in 2009. He was a Clinical Instructor at the Jacobs Retina Center at Shiley Eye Center, University of California, San Diego, USA (2010-2012) before joining the faculty at L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India (2012-19). Dr. Chhablani was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in May 2019. Aside from his clinical focus, Dr. Chhablani performs research with an emphasis on macular disorders, retinal imaging, and clinical applications.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Erin Keim, OD â€“ Optometry Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dr. Keim received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Elon University. Upon graduation Dr. Keim attended Southern College of Optometry where she received her Doctorate of Optometry. Following optometry school Dr. Keim was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in April 2019.
Emily DePew, OD - Optometry Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dr. DePew is originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Following undergraduate at the University of Scranton, she completed her degree at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia in 2017. She then went on to pursue further training as a resident in Ocular Disease at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, FL. Dr. DePew currently holds a position as Clinical Assistant Professor at the UPMC Eye Center, where she provides primary care and contact lens services, works in association with the Neuro-Ophthalmology division, and UPMC Concussion Program, and is involved in the resident training program. Dr. DePew was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in March of 2019.
Marie Helene Errera, MD â€“ Retina Service Associate Professor of Ophthalmology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dr. Errera attended Paris Diderot University in France where she graduated from both medical and pharmacy school, as well as finishing her first residency after medical school. Upon completion of her residency Dr. Errera held two fellowships at Moorsfield Eye Hospital in London, one with a focus on medical retina, and the other focused on vitreoretinal surgery. Dr. Errera joined the University of Pittsburgh in November of 2018 where, aside from her clinical work, her research focuses on epidemiology in uveitis and clinical immunology in uveitis.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Colin Prensky, MD – Retina Service Clinical Assistant Professor in Ophthalmology Dr. Prensky was educated at Wesleyan University for his undergraduate degree and at Mount Sinai School of Medicine where he obtained his medical degree. He completed his internship at Mount Sinai and his residency in Ophthalmology the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and obtained fellowship training in VitreoRetinal Surgery at the Weill Cornell Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Prensky returned to the University of Pittsburgh as a faculty member in September of 2018. Dr. Prensky’s research emphasis is on retinal and choroidal disease, telemedicine, drug toxicity, and retinal detachment.
Tarek Shazly, MD – Neuro-Ophthalmology Service and Glaucoma Service Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology Dr. Shazly graduated from medical school in Egypt at Asyut University in 2002, finishing an internship then a residency in ophthalmology at the same university. After graduating from residency in 2007 and obtaining his clinical masters in ophthalmology, Dr. Shazly joined the faculty for 1 year as an instructor in ophthalmology then started a glaucoma fellowship at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary/Harvard Medical school. He then did a year of surgical internship at Baystate medical center/Tufts university in 2011 while obtaining his PhD from Asyut university at the same time. This was followed by a fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology and a second residency in ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh. Since then, Dr. Shazly joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in September of 2018.
Issam Al Diri, PhD Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology Dr. Al Diri obtained his PhD from the University of Utah under Dr Monica Vetter’s mentorship then did a postdoc at St. Jude Hospital, working with Dr Michael Dyer. His main interest is studying epigenetic mechanisms underlying retinal development and disease. Dr. Al Diri was then recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in July of 2018. His main interest is studying epigenetic mechanisms underlying retinal development and disease.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Takaaki Kuwajima, PhD Research Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Kuwajima received his PhD in Biology at Osaka University in Japan, where he worked on molecular mechanisms regulating GABAergic neuron differentiation and migration during development. In 2006, Taka joined Carol Mason’s lab at Columbia University as a postdoctoral fellow and focused on molecular mechanisms of retinal axon guidance and neuronal differentiation in subpopulations of retinal ganglion cells during formation of binocular circuit. In 2014, he moved to the Motor Neuron Center at Columbia university to investigate axon regeneration. In July of 2018, he began his assistant professorship at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he extends his studies on axon guidance to axon degeneration and regeneration after optic nerve injury and in glaucoma. In 2019, he was awarded Research to Prevent Blindness/Ernest & Elizabeth Althouse/ Dolly Green Special Scholar Award.
Alkiviades Liasis, BSc, PhD – Electrophysiology Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology Director, Electrophysiology Service Dr. Liasis received his Bachelor of Science from the University of East London. He then went on to receive his PhD from the Institute of Child Health, Auditory Detection and Discrimination in Children, Neurosciences Unit. Dr. Liasis was recruited to the Department of Ophthalmology in June of 2018.
Anthony St. Leger, PhD Assistant Professor Ophthalmology Dr. St. Leger was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Ophthalmology to run the Ocular Microbiome and Immunity Laboratory. The main focus of his current lab is understanding how microbes interact with the host immune system to mediate ocular surface disease. Concurrently, he also supervises research related to the microbiome and ocular health and has continued Bob Hendricks’ legacy of assessing the immune response against HSV-1 infection. Dr. St. Leger was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in January of 2018, since which he has published his first fully independent publication. In addition to his research training, Dr. St. Leger has enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh Mentoring Academy, which is an eightsession course on all matters related to mentoring to include diversity, ethical data acquisition and interpretation, and authorship.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Debasish Sinha, PhD Jennifer Salvitti Davis, M.D. Chair in Ophthalmology Research Professor of Ophthalmology, Cell Biology and Developmental Biology Dr. Debasish Sinha is the Jennifer Salvitti Davis, M.D. Chair in Ophthalmology Research and Professor of Ophthalmology, Cell Biology and Developmental Biology. He is also an adjunct faculty, Ophthalmology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Department of Environmental Health & Engineering, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Sinha was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in October of 2017. His major research focus is to understand the mechanisms that regulate lysosome/autophagy degenerative process in retinal pigmented-epithelial cells that contribute to the early stages of age-related macular degeneration.
John Swogger, DO â€“ Glaucoma Service Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Swogger received his medical degree at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, completed his Ophthalmology residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Glaucoma fellowship training at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, before being recruited back to the University of Pittsburgh in September of 2017. Currently his primary focus is on wound healing following glaucoma filtration surgery with the use of Mitomycin-C with respect to inflammation and fibrosis. Additional focus on surgical outcomes following tube shunt surgeries with regards to placement of the tube and in high risk populations, such as neovascular glaucoma. Dr. Swogger is also actively participating in other research and clinical interests that include fellow and resident clinical and surgical education.
Ryad Benosman, PhD Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Benosman received his PhD from the UniversitĂŠ Pierre et Marie Curie. He is a Professor at the same university at the Institut de la vision. His research topics include neuromorphic vision and computation, artificial retinas, event-based sensing and computing; retina prosthetics, optogenetics stimulation and computer vision, robotics, theoretical neurosciences. Dr. Benosman was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in July 2017.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Syed Mahmood Shah, MD– Retina Service Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Shah was educated at Abbottabad College where he received his undergraduate degree and at Aga Khan University Medical College where he received his medical degree. He completed his internship at the University of Maryland and completed his residency in Ophthalmology at the Flaum Eye Institute. He obtained his fellowship training in Retina/ Vitreous at the Wilmer Eye Institute. Following his fellowship Dr. Shah was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in July of 2017. Dr. Shah’s research focuses on precision medicine and deep phenotyping, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and international ophthalmology and telemedicine.
Kunal Dansingani, MD – Retina Service Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Dansingani attended medical school at the Royal Free Hospital and University College London Medical School, London, attended Graduate Medical Studies at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, was a House Officer in Medicine at Luton & Dunstable Hospital, Luton, UK and Senior House Officer in Ophthalmology and Surgery at the Royal Free Hospital, London, UK, Specialist Registrar in Ophthalmology at the Wessex Ophthalmology Programme, UK, and was a Fellow in Medical and Surgical Retina, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London and a Research Fellow in Retina Vitreous at Retina Macula Consultants of New York, New York, NY. Dr. Dansingani was then recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in July of 2017. His research interests include ophthalmology and its reliance on different forms of technology, and the necessity to unify themes relating to microsurgery, optics and vision, pathology and in vivo imaging and also the complementary roles of intraoperative depth-resolved imaging and robotic enhancements to microsurgery to expand scope and precision.
Yuanyuan Chen, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Pharmacology and Chemical Biology Dr. Yuanyuan Chen obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences in Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and then she moved to the U.S. and pursued her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University. She joined the vision research field when she worked with Dr. Krzysztof Palczewski in the Department of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University in 2011. Dr. Chen then joined the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh in June of 2017 as an assistant professor. Her research interests are focused on the molecular mechanism of photoreceptor cell death in retinal diseases, as well as pharmacological treatments of such blinding diseases. She has been awarded the highly competitive K99/R00 path to Independence research award from National Eye Institute, and recently she received the Allen Humphrey, PhD Excellence in Mentoring Award and the Bruce and Barbara Wiegand Entrepreneurial Research Award.
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Ophthalmology Newer Faculty (continued) Leah Byrne, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Gene Therapy for Retinal Disease Laboratory Dr. Byrne heads the Gene Therapy for Retinal Disease Laboratory. The Byrne lab uses high throughput methods, guided by computational approaches, to engineer viral vectors with new abilities and improved capabilities to deliver therapeutic genes to the retina. Dr. Byrne was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh from the University of California at Berkley in April of 2017. She had previously worked with Dr. Sahel at the Institut de la Vision in Paris.
Vishal Jhanji, MD – Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Jhanji is a corneal specialist and a clinician scientist by training. Dr. Jhanji was born and brought up in India. He completed his ophthalmology training from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, India. He moved to Melbourne, Australia for his fellowship training. From there, he went to Hong Kong and joined the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as an Assistant Professor. After spending a few years there, he was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in February 2017. Dr. Jhanji is currently the Vice Chair for Clinical Operations and Director of Clinical Trials in the Department. He splits his time between his clinics, laboratory meetings and administrative duties.
Ethan A. Rossi, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering Director, Advanced Ophthalmic Imaging Laboratory Dr. Rossi’s research is focused on developing and deploying advanced ophthalmic imaging tools to study the normal and diseased retina. He has been working with high resolution imaging technologies with adaptive optics for over a decade. Rossi’s Ph.D. training in the laboratory of Austin Roorda, the inventor of adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, was focused on using adaptive optics to probe the limits of human vision in both normal and diseased eyes. His current research continues the development of near infrared autofluorescence and expanded his investigations of age-related macular degeneration. This includes an international study in collaboration with Dr. José-Alain Sahel, the Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, and collaborators in France on how genetics shapes the cellular level retinal phenotype in AMD. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS 16
Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh José-Alain Sahel, MD
Kunal K Dansingani, MBBS, MA, FRCOphth
Jean C. Harwick, MD, FACS
Distinguished Professor and Chairman
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Department of Ophthalmology The Eye & Ear Foundation Endowed Chair University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Exceptional Class Professor, Sorbonne University, Paris Issam Al Diri, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Sohani Amarasekera, MD Assistant Clinical Professor in Ophthalmology Alexander J. Anetakis, MD Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Ryad Benosman, PhD Professor of Ophthalmology Gabrielle R. Bonhomme, MD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Emily DePew, OD Clinical Assistant Professor Deepinder K. Dhaliwal, MD, L.Ac Professor of Ophthalmology Scott P. Drexler, OD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Yiqin Du, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Haleh Ebrahimi, OD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Amgad Eldib, MD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Andrew W. Eller, MD Professor of Ophthalmology Marie Hélène Errera, MD, PhD
Ellen Butts, OD
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Morgan V. Fedorchak, PhD
Leah Byrne, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Bharesh Chauhan, DPhil Research Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Yuanyuan Chen, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Jay Chhablani, MD Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Bioengineering and Clinical & Translational Sciences Thomas R. Friberg, MD, FACS Professor of Ophthalmology Roxana Fu, MD Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Denise S. Gallagher, MD Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Vishal Jhanji, MD Professor of Ophthalmology Roheena Kamyar, MD Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Erin Keim, OD Clinical Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology Paul (Kip) R. Kinchington, PhD Joseph F. Novak, M.D., Chair in Ophthalmology Research Professor of Ophthalmology, Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry Regis P. Kowalski, MS, M(ASCP) Research Professor of Ophthalmology Takaaki Kuwajima, PhD Research Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Kira L. Lathrop, MAMS Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Alkiviades Liasis, BSc, PhD Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology Craig A. Luchansky, OD Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Alex Mammen, MD Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Joseph N. Martel, MD
Jeffrey Gross, PhD
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
E. Ronald Salvitti Chair in Ophthalmology Research
J Patrick Mayo, PhD
Susana da Silva, PhD
Professor of Ophthalmology and Developmental Biology
Ian Conner, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Developmental Biology
Vice Chair and Director of Research Director, Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Ellen Mitchell, MD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
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Ken K. Nischal, MD, FAAP, FRCOphth
Tarek Shazly, MD
Shivalingappa (Shiva) Swamynathan, PhD
Professor of Ophthalmology
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Preeti Patil, MD
Ian A. Sigal, PhD
John Swogger, DO
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Bioengineering
Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Debasish Sinha, PhD
Evan L. Waxman, MD, PhD
Jennifer Salvitti Davis, M.D. Chair in Ophthalmology Research
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Professor of Ophthalmology, Cell Biology and Developmental Biology
Xiangyun Wei, PhD
William Smith, OD
Gary (Hin-Fai) Yam, PhD
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Research Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Matthew Pihlblad, MD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Julia Polat, MD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Gaurav Prakash, MD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Colin Prensky, MD Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Ethan A. Rossi, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Anthony St. Leger, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Immunology Marshall W. Stafford, MD
Syed Mahmood Shah, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
S. Tonya Stefko, MD
Robert M.Q. Shanks, PhD
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, and Neurological Surgery
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology,
Hongmin Yun, MD, PhD Research Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Islam M. Zaydan, MD Assistant Professor of Neurology
Continued from page 2
PRIMA was developed by Pixium Vision in collaboration with the inventor of the patent, Daniel Palanker, from Stanford and the teams of the Institut de la Vision, led by Dr. José-Alain Sahel. With the first patient having been implanted in January, doctors are anxious to increase clinical trial participants and follow their progress. “Currently, two subjects have been implanted and have had no serious study-related adverse side effects to date,” states Dr. Martel, an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Retina and Vitreous Services. “At this point, patients have perceived visual sensitivity and bar orientation in the former
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central scotoma without loss of residual natural acuity, and we are planning further testing of prosthetic vision, including letter recognition and acuity.” This trial is running concurrently with the firstin-human trial in France, where patients have already begun to demonstrate the ability to identify sequences of letters and numbers. Dr. Martel believes that the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC implanting the first U.S. patient is an important signal that Pittsburgh is fast becoming an international leader in vision research and care. “It demonstrates our capability and motivation to be leaders in vision restoration for blindness. Dr. José-
Alain Sahel, Chairman of the Department Ophthalmology and the Exceptional Class Professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris, has an unparalleled record of propelling both people and institutions to success, which enables a culture of innovation, partnership, and results necessary to carry out this important milestone and others to come,” explains Dr. Martel. For more details on the clinical trial or to support the research conducted in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, please visit eyeandear.org.
Ophthalmology Alumni Spotlight Albert Biglan, MD Resident 1973-1976 City: Pittsburgh, PA
peak of my practice and surgical skills at the age of 63. At one point our practice had offices in Cranberry Township, Murrysville, and Peters Township, and included four pediatric ophthalmologists, 16 exam lanes, and 32 staff members.
Family: My wife Barb and I have been married for 52 years. We have two children and two grandchildren.
Hobbies: Gardening has been an avocation for me, and I became a Master Gardener following my retirement. I’ve also served on a number of boards in the community such as the Phipps Conservatory, where I served as Chairman of the Board during its growth to become one of the largest green facilities in the country, to the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Career Focus: Pediatric Ophthalmology strabismus
Career: I finished my residency in ophthalmology under Dick Katzin, the acting Chief until Dr. Stuart Brown arrived. I then applied for a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology as I liked the subspecialty and was inspired by Dr. David Hiles. I thought that Indianapolis had the best program in the country for pediatric ophthalmology fellowship and was accepted for a year of fellowship training. The fellowship exceeded my expectations. About halfway through the fellowship, I returned to Pittsburgh and discussed coming back to Pittsburgh to practice. With Dr. Brown’s hesitant blessing, I joined Dave Hiles and Milt Pettapiece, M.D. and this is where I spent my career until retirement. I practiced for 29 years and retired at what I felt was the
Most important thing to you about having attended Pitt for Ophthalmology: Excellent training and having the convenience and stimulation of practicing so close to the former Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, in addition to having Eye and Ear virtually across the street from our office. I enjoyed working with our pediatric community and working with our ENT colleagues, operating side by side with them, in the OR suite, at Eye and Ear Hospital.
Albert Biglan, MD
Funny Career Story: After going to San Francisco in 1980 to take the Botulinum A toxin Course, I returned to Pittsburgh carrying 10 ampules of the deadly toxin in my checked bag. Well, the bag was lost on the flight and could not be found in the “lost luggage” department. Thankfully it was found the next day (Whew!!) and I was relieved that I would not be arrested as a terrorist!
What made you stay involved with the Department of Ophthalmology and the Eye & Ear Foundation: I felt that ophthalmology was the finest career that one could have and that the subspecialty of pediatric ophthalmology, helping children to see at their fullest potential, was absolutely the best. I have been greatly blessed with my career in Pittsburgh and am very thankful for the help that I had throughout life and the privilege of working in the excellent facilities that I
had throughout my career. Now that I am retired, it is time to give back and support the facilities and people that helped me along the way. This is so others can enjoy the experience, and support that I had during my 52 years in Pittsburgh **Dr. Biglan will be honored on December 9th as the 2020 Albert C. Muse Award Recipient for Excellence in Innovation and Service in Ophthalmology. If you’d like to join us in celebrating Dr. Biglan at the Virtual Muse Ceremony please register at https://eyeandear.org/muse-prize/**
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We Want To Hear From You!
ith the release of our new alumni newslet ter, Through the Looking Glass, we want to keep in touch with our alumni. Please share exciting personal or professional news with fellow alumni in future editions of our newsletter. Have you recently changed jobs? Got married? Published some exciting research? Welcomed a new member into your family? We want to know about it! To update your contact information or to share personal and professional news, please visit http://ophthalmology.pitt. edu/alumni-updates.
ecently, the Eye & Ear Foundation, in conjunction with the Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh, launched a new bi-weekly webinar series entitled “Sights and Soundbites.” The webinars are presented by department faculty members and highlight their current research initiatives and treatment strategies. These webinars have proven to be an accessible and interactive way to stay connected with patients, donors, faculty, and alumni during the current COVID-19 shutdowns. If you would like to register to receive webinar invites, please visit www.eyeandear.org/webinars. To view past webinars, please click on the links below: •
Retinal Degenerations: Light at the End of the Tunnel
I’m Not Old, Why Do I Sound It?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Care
Restoring Sight by Regenerating the Cornea
Untreated Hearing Loss, Social Isolation, and Health Outcomes
Horizons in Glaucoma Research
Tinnitus, Hearing Loss, and Drug Discovery
Research Advances in Ophthalmology
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The Eye & Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh is a nonprofit 501 (C)(3) organization. Our mission is to support the research and academic efforts of the Departments of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh. Donations to support our research initiatives can be made online at eyeandear.org or by returning the enclosed envelope. For more information on the Foundation, our research, or the articles in this newsletter, please contact Katherine Troy, Director of Operations, at email@example.com or 412-864-1300.