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Moran eye center celebrates faculty holding endowed chairs and professorship

by paolo (comments: 0)


The John A. Moran Eye Center recently honored 12 of its University of Utah faculty scholars who hold endowed chairs and professorships and the generous donors who made the positions possible.

“As the University’s primary means of recognizing academic distinction, endowed chairs and professorships promote excellence, and enable the university to attract, retain, and honor distinguished faculty members,” explained Randall J Olson, MD, Moran CEO and Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

“We are grateful to all of the donors who, across generations, make the Moran Eye Center the object of their lasting and generous philanthropy.”

Faculty honored at the June 15, 2023 event were:

Iqbal “Ike” K. Ahmed, MD, FRCSC—Jack R. and Hazel M. Robertson Presidential Endowed Chair

Ahmed is recognized as one of the most experienced surgeons for complex eye conditions worldwide and is renowned for his groundbreaking work in the surgical treatment of diseases, including glaucoma and surgical complications. He coined the term micro-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) as a new genre of surgical devices and his research has shaped the field. Ahmed has designed microsurgical instrumentation and other devices, implants, and techniques to manage dislocated cataracts, iris reconstruction, and glaucoma. He directs Moran’s Alan S. Crandall Center for Glaucoma Innovation, which conducts research to develop better diagnostics and therapies, a deeper understanding of glaucoma and its genetics, and to expand access to care.

Alessandra Angelucci, MD, PhD—Mary H. Boesche Endowed Chair

Angelucci is a National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grantee and focuses her lab’s research on visual cortex circuitry and function—key knowledge in understanding exactly how vision occurs in the brain and how it might be reproduced. She is leading efforts to develop a visual prosthesis that could provide a form of artificial sight to people who have lost their vision. She is also developing the Utah Optrode Array, a device that uses optogenetics to selectively activate neurons using light. This new approach will allow brain researchers to activate neurons more precisely.

Wolfgang B. Baehr, PhD— Ralph and Mary Tuck Presidential Endowed Chair

Baehr joined the Moran Eye Center in 1995, and his work has impacted the understanding of phototransduction—the process by which light is converted into electrical signals in the retina. Among his lab's many discoveries, he is known for identifying the second and third components of the phototransduction “signaling” cascade. His was the first breakthrough since the light-sensing pigment, rhodopsin, was identified 100 years earlier.

With his retirement this summer, effective July 1, 2023, the Ralph and Mary Tuck Presidential Endowed Chair chair will be held by Liliana Werner, MD, PhD.

Liliana Werner, MD, PhD— Ralph and Mary Tuck Presidential Endowed Chair

Werner is co-director of the Intermountain Ocular Research Center and Moran’s vice chair of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her research focuses on ophthalmic implantable biodevices, particularly intraocular lenses (IOLs) used to replace the eye’s natural lens during cataract and other surgeries. She is recognized as a foremost authority in the IOL field and was the first woman to receive the prestigious American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Charles D. Kelman Award and Lecture. She is also the first woman and the first Latina to hold the position of U.S. Associated Editor for the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

Paul S. Bernstein, MD, PhD—Val A. and Edith D. Green Presidential Endowed Chair

Bernstein, Moran’s vice-chair for clinical and basic science research, is a retinal specialist and a leading expert in nutritional interventions against inherited and acquired macular disease. His research includes a focus on the genetics and imaging of macular telangiectasia type II (MacTel), a difficult-to-diagnose hereditary disease that causes central vision loss. He has also made a series of discoveries that will change the paradigm of diagnosis and treatment for several other blinding eye diseases using the Heidelberg Engineering Spectralis-based Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Ophthalmoscope. 

Craig J. Chaya, MD—John E. and Marva M. Warnock Presidential Endowed Chair

Chaya is the senior medical director of Moran’s Global Outreach Division. He received training in international ophthalmology as a Himalayan Cataract Project/Freedom Foundation Fellow in Kathmandu and Hetauda, Nepal, and volunteered on many outreach trips locally and internationally. Chaya helped launch the Utah Assessment and Review of Community Health Eye Care Study, which surveyed eye care needs of residents of the Navajo Nation, people experiencing homelessness, former refugees, and the underinsured or uninsured. He is now leading efforts to implement its findings.

Gregory S. Hageman, PhD—John A. Moran Presidential Endowed Chair

Hageman directs Moran’s Sharon Eccles Steele Center for Translational Medicine (SCTM). With the support of committed donors, Hageman has turned a series of groundbreaking discoveries into a new gene therapy hoped to halt or even prevent a prevalent form of AMD. His research has transformed our understanding of AMD, determining it is at least two biologically distinct diseases. With a world-class research team, Hageman has also importantly identified genetic protections against the disease. The gene therapy is now being tested as part of phase one clinical trial. Additional therapies are in the SCTM pipeline.

David Krizaj, PhD—John Frederick Carter Endowed Professorship

Krizaj is associate director of Moran’s Alan S. Crandall Center for Glaucoma Innovation. Glaucoma can cause blindness as increases in the eye’s fluid pressure damage the optic nerve responsible for carrying visual information to the brain. Krizaj has dedicated his research to understanding exactly how cells in the eye sense and interpret mechanical signals such as pressure. He has developed a new therapy that could lower eye pressure and protect retinal neurons that make up the optic nerve. If successful, the therapy will offer a new, first-in-kind approach to treating glaucoma.

Nick Mamalis, MD—Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Presidential Endowed Chair

Mamalis directs Moran’s Ophthalmic Pathology Laboratory and is a renowned expert on intraocular lenses as co-director of the Intermountain Ocular Research Center. The non-profit center performs research for physicians and companies worldwide to vet new lens designs, technologies, and complications. Mamalis has also helped hospitals around the country protect patients from a rare but potentially sight-threatening inflammatory syndrome known as Toxic Anterior Segment Syndrome. He is a past president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) and has received the ASCRS Binkhorst Medal and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Life Achievement Honor Award. 

Randall J Olson, MD—Cumming Presidential Endowed Chair

Olson is a distinguished professor at the University of Utah, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, CEO of the Moran Eye Center, and director of the University of Utah Vision Institute. Specializing in external eye diseases and anterior segment disorders, Olson is a renowned expert in cataract surgery complications and intraocular lens surgery. He is a former Association of University Professors in Ophthalmology president and has earned many of his field’s highest honors, including the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Binkhorst Medal, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Kelman Award, and the AAO Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA—Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Endowed Chair

Pettey is Moran’s clinical vice chair. He co-created Moran’s Operation Sight program, which provides cataract surgery for underserved Utahns, and has served as co-medical director of the Global Outreach Division. In 2020 as Moran’s Vice Chair of Education, Pettey launched the Global Ophthalmology Resident Scholar Program to expand Moran’s commitment to outreach work. In 2017, the American Academy of Ophthalmology awarded Pettey its Artemis Award to recognize his efforts to go above and beyond for patients. 

Steffen Schmitz-Valckenberg, MD—Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair 

Schmitz-Valckenberg directs the Utah Retinal Imaging Reading Center (UREAD) at Moran. His research focuses on multimodal retinal imaging technologies and fine-detailed functional testing in macular and retinal diseases. Analysis of this imaging helps develop new therapies by establishing, developing, and validating targeted outcomes during clinical trials. As founding director of the GRADE Reading Center in Bonn, Germany, and UREAD, he has been involved in several clinical trials as part of the systematic and standardized analysis of imaging data on an international level in AMD and other retinal diseases.



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