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Written by Jane LongshoreBrian Samuels, MD, PhD

Brian Samuels, M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, effective Oct. 1. In this role, Samuels will work to recruit and retain talented faculty in clinical service, teaching, and research, as well as advance high impact discoveries and grow extramural research funding.

"It is an absolute honor to be named the chair of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences," said Samuels. "Since the 1950s, when Dr. Alston Callahan first articulated his vision for the Eye Foundation Hospital, we have focused on providing outstanding clinical care to all of the citizens of Alabama, including the underserved in our state, conducting cutting-edge research to find new treatments and cures for blinding diseases, and educating the next generation of clinicians and scientists. I look forward to working with our faculty, UAB Callahan Eye administration, and UAB administration to expand the national reputation of excellence of our incredible clinical and research faculty.”

Samuels is a tenured associate professor of Ophthalmology and a respected clinician-scientist who has served as the Dennis Endowed Professor in Glaucoma Research, director of the Glaucoma Division and the Glaucoma Fellowship, and chief of staff of UAB Callahan Eye. He has also been the department's interim chair since Jan. 1, 2022.

"I am delighted that Dr. Brian Samuels has been selected as the chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. We are also appreciative of his service as interim chair over the past year," said Reid Jones, chief executive officer of UAB Medicine. "Dr. Samuels has a rich history of research and clinical excellence and has a vision to build upon previous successes within the department and take Ophthalmology to even greater heights."

Samuels has established himself as one of the leading experts in understanding how eye and brain pressure differences can lead to glaucoma and other ophthalmic diseases, and with that, he has developed an international reputation as an outstanding glaucoma specialist and scientist.

He has been or is currently the principal investigator on multiple awards through the NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI), including K awards, R21 and R01 Awards, an NEI Audacious Goals Initiative Award (U24), and the P30 vision science core grant from NIH/NEI that has continuously funded UAB’s vision research community since 1979. In 2018, he received the Research to Prevent Blindness Clinician-Scientist Award, one of two given nationally that year. In addition to his independent research, Samuels also collaborates with leaders in the vision science community at UAB and institutions like the Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke, Vanderbilt, Harvard, and NASA.

“Dr. Samuels’ proven track record as a clinician-scientist, educator, and mentor reflects his deep commitment to advancing both patient care and the frontiers of vision science. I congratulate him on this well-deserved appointment," said Dawn Bulgarella, CEO of the UAB Health System and CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance.

Multicolored artistic animation of human irisSamuels has deep clinical expertise in the medical and surgical treatment of glaucoma, including laser therapy, comprehensive ophthalmology, and cataract surgery. Perhaps nothing better attests to his dedication to patient-focused care than this remark from a patient online in March 2023: “Having a rare disease comes with many complications … like losing my vision for one. Dr. Samuels studied my case and mapped out a plan to address my eye problems. He is meticulous. He is kind. He gives me hope.”

Samuels is an active and accomplished teacher and mentor, having mentored more than 20 postdoctoral fellows, residents, and glaucoma fellows during his career. He was also instrumental in implementing a Cornea Fellowship program in the past year, which will undoubtedly play a crucial role in training the next generation of talented ophthalmologists and furthering the field of vision science research.

"I would like to congratulate Dr. Samuels on this opportunity," said Rett Grover, chief executive officer of UAB Callahan Eye. "I have had the privilege of working with him for a decade as a clinician and medical staff member, UAB Callahan Eye chief of staff, and as the interim chair of the UAB Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. During this time, he has exhibited a commitment to UAB and its mission, and I look forward to witnessing the impact of his leadership on the communities we serve."

Samuels will also be closely involved in the department’s ongoing 20/20 Initiative, a philanthropic campaign aimed at raising $25 million from individual donors, foundations, and community members to support faculty, research, and innovation, enhancing facilities, resident education, and programming.

Samuels adds, “I am enthusiastic about working with our philanthropic partners, such as the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, the International Retinal Research Foundation, and others to advance our shared mission goals. Their support has been the backbone of our success, and I look forward to celebrating our future accomplishments with them. Again, I am truly honored to be given this opportunity and endeavor to moving our vision and mission forward quickly."

Samuels earned his medical and Ph.D. degrees through the combined degree program at Indiana University in 2004. He received his Ph.D. in medical neurobiology and completed his ophthalmology residency training at UAB, followed by a clinical and research fellowship in glaucoma at Duke University. After fellowship, Samuels served on the faculty at Indiana University for three years before returning to UAB in 2013.