Department Spotlight: Ophthalmology
A revamped ophthalmology department is leveraging its expertise in vision research, education and patient care.
The department of ophthalmology at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville is dedicated to leading the way in patient care, ophthalmic education and vision research. Combining the resources of the college with caring physicians and researchers, the department provides advanced care for patients throughout Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.
The department has undergone major changes in the past few years. The recent addition of permanent faculty — including new chair Darrell WuDunn, M.D., Ph.D. — has provided stability to the department, resulting in reinvigoration and growth of clinical activities.
Our physicians, researchers, ophthalmic technicians and support staff are dedicated to providing patient-centered quality care. The department uses the latest state-of-the-art technology and fellowship-trained ophthalmologists to set new standards in the medical and surgical treatment of ocular diseases.
We continue to push the boundaries of vision research and discovery, providing an environment for active research that leads to improvements in the treatment of diseases affecting the eye and visual system.
The department of ophthalmology has a strong tradition of research in vision sciences. Its faculty members are committed to research to enhance the understanding of ocular disorders and identify new targets for therapeutic intervention. The department has a strong clinical and basic-science research team headed by professor and associate chair Sandeep Grover, M.D., a research manager, a clinical coordinator and a postdoctoral fellow.
We remain a major center for retinal research, actively participating in major clinical trials sponsored the industry and the National Institutes of Health. Grover and associate professor Brian Madow, M.D., are part of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Network, a national association on diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases.
Our department has also been a center for national trials on age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. The focus is on basic science and translational research, with excellent collaboration among our clinical faculty, trainees and research faculty. The research lab maintains a repository of various eye fluids, leading to phenomenal research in retinal proteomics and now in glaucoma proteomics since WuDunn’s arrival.
The department also collaborates with various other College of Medicine – Jacksonville departments and divisions, such as neurology and endocrinology, in clinical trials and research.
The department has a strong focus on education, providing opportunities for ophthalmology residents, clinical and research fellows, residents from other specialties, medical students and ophthalmic technicians. The department also collaborates with Florida State College at Jacksonville and the University of North Florida to provide rotations for ophthalmic technician trainees and students enrolled in public health courses.
Until recently, the department maintained a thriving residency program that trained several dozen residents and fellows over a 15-year span. Due to significant personnel changes two years ago, the residency program was voluntarily suspended. However, with new faculty and the arrival of WuDunn — who previously served as program director for 12 years at another institution — we are restarting the ophthalmology residency training program in July and will soon restart clinical fellowship programs in glaucoma and retina.
We offer a wide array of premier eye care services. Specialties include cornea and external disease, glaucoma, anterior segment surgery, diseases of the retina, uveitis, oculoplastic and orbital surgery, neuro-ophthalmology, contact lens care, low vision and electrophysiology. The department is on the leading edge of technology and has a wide array of diagnostic, laser and surgical instrumentation.
COMPREHENSIVE EYE CARE
Most of the department’s faculty members provide comprehensive eye care services, as well as services related to their own specialties. These include medical and surgical management of all eye diseases. Cataract surgery with intraocular lens implantation is the most common surgery performed.
Each faculty member guides one or more of the following specialties:
· WuDunn is a nationally recognized, fellowship-trained glaucoma specialist with more than 23 years of experience caring for patients with the condition. He provides medical treatment and performs laser procedures and glaucoma surgical procedures, including minimally invasive surgeries. He has had many foundation- and industry-sponsored grants and plans to promote glaucoma research prominently in this department.
· Grover, also fellowship-trained, has been in the department 13 years. He specializes in medical retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration and performs lasers and intravitreal injections. He also specializes in neuro-ophthalmology and collaborates closely with other departments such as neurology, neurosurgery and radiology.
Grover is director of a specialty practice for patients with inherited retinal diseases and provides electrophysiological services for adults. This practice is one of the very few of its kind in the country, with patients coming from hundreds of miles away for care. He is actively involved with the Jacksonville chapter of Foundation Fighting Blindness, of which is the founding member.
· Madow, who joined the department last year, is an experienced, fellowship-trained vitreoretinal surgeon. In addition to managing patients with retinal diseases, including diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, he performs laser procedures, intravitreal injections and vitreoretinal surgical procedures. Also, he is one of a few specialists in the country who focus on uveitis.
· Walter Smithwick IV, M.D., who’s been in the department more than 15 years, is an excellent, fellowship-trained oculoplastic surgeon. In a part-time capacity, he treats patients who require oculoplastic and orbital surgical procedures.
· Diane Cates, O.D., is an experienced optometrist who helps screen patients and specializes in refraction, contact lenses and low vision.
The UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville’s department of ophthalmology will continue to grow its clinical, educational and research activities. Future plans include reinstating our training programs, expanding to UF Health North and other areas, and pioneering teleophthalmology and the use of artificial intelligence in ophthalmology. We are excited to serve Jacksonville and the rest of the region and look forward to collaborating with colleagues within our institution and beyond.