After 10 years at the helm of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Christopher Girkin, MD, announced he would step down as chair effective January 1, 2022. Dr. Girkin’s tenure focused on the key goals of growing a nationally prominent research program while simultaneously expanding the clinical practice. Brian Samuels, MD, PhD, has been named interim chair. A clinician scientist, Samuels currently serves as the Dennis Endowed Professor in Glaucoma Research and director of the Glaucoma Division and the Glaucoma fellowship.


Message from the Interim Chair

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I am honored to serve as the interim chair of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Under Dr. Girkin’s leadership, the department has seen tremendous growth in all aspects of our mission during the last 10 years. His vision and leadership have fostered continued  success – from consistently being named in the Top 20 for NIH research funding to growing our clinical, research, and surgical faculty and enriching our academic program to one of the top residency and fellowship institutions in the country. This success was fueled by a talented faculty and unwavering support from our donors, including the Eyesight Foundation of Alabama, International Retinal Research Foundation, and Research to Prevent Blindness.

As you will see from the stories below, despite the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was another record-setting year. While we are tremendously proud of all that was accomplished, we are even more excited for the things to come in 2022.

We are proud to announce our new brand – UAB Callahan Eye – which will encompass all areas of our mission under one, recognizable name. While we’ve always worked together toward a strategic vision based on our tripartite mission of excellence in clinical care, research, and education, this new brand better positions us to share that vision and create a brand that is synonymous with the preservation, treatment, and the curing of blinding eye diseases in our state, region, nation, and the world.

On the research and clinical side, we are excited to announce that we have been chosen as the newest site for Spark Therapeutics’ Luxturna, the first FDA-approved gene therapy treatment for those who have been diagnosed with Leber Congenital Amaurosis Type 2 caused by a biallelic RPE65 mutation. With only 14 site locations in the world, this announcement puts us at the forefront of ocular gene therapy.

Our residency and fellowship programs attract top recruits across the nation, and we are pleased to announce that we are expanding our residency program to a four-year integrated program. This change will allow our residents an intern year here at UAB, creating a valuable experience for our residents as we continue to educate the next generations of ophthalmologists.

The UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is positioned to be a world leader in visionary care, groundbreaking research and exceptional teaching because of the leadership of our past chairs and the dedication of our tremendous faculty, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to build upon that tradition..

Brian C. Samuels, MD, PhD
Interim Chair and Associate Professor
Dennis Endowed Professor in Glaucoma Research
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences


Featured Stories 

UAB Callahan Eye named newest site for gene therapy treatment

UAB Callahan Eye named newest site for gene therapy treatment

UAB Callahan Eye has been named the newest site for Spark Therapeutics’ Luxturna, the first FDA-approved gene therapy treatment for those diagnosed with Leber Congenital Amaurosis(LCA). LCA is a retinal degenerative condition and a leading cause of genetic blindness in children. Patients with LCA start to lose their vision in the first five years of life, and it gets progressively worse as they age. Most patients are considered legally blind due to the profound vision loss it causes. One subtype is caused by an inherited mutation of both RPE65 genes. When patients have mutations in both of copies of their RPE65 gene, the normal visual cycle cannot take place, and retinal cells die over time. Luxturna uses a non-disease causing virus to deliver a normal copy of the RPE65 gene to retinal cells enabling them to make proteins capable of improving and preserving visual function.

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Callahan Eye Hospital & Clinics and the UAB Department of Ophthalmology & Visual  Sciences Announce New Brand

Callahan Eye Hospital & Clinics and the UAB Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences Announce New Brand

UAB Callahan Eye Hospital & Clinics and the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences have always had one single unwavering mission – to provide pioneering, innovative, vision-saving eye care. With the same mission in focus, it is time we join together – under one name – to help people see the future through visionary care. We are excited to announce the launch of our new brand – UAB Callahan Eye.
4-year Integrated Residency Program

4-year Integrated Residency Program

The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is proud to announce that it has received official approval for a four-year integrated residency program. This change will add an integrated internship year to the current three-year ophthalmology training for residents. “This has been several years in the making, and we are excited about this addition to our program,” said Russell Read, MD, PhD, Program Director of the UAB Ophthalmology Residency Program. “The department will be able to determine what rotations our interns will perform and allow us to create an outstanding experience that will directly lead to a superior training experience that will, we hope, become a major factor in our ability to recruit future residents.”

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Patient Care

Five New Providers Join Department Faculty

Five New Providers Join Department Faculty

In 2021, the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences welcomed five new providers – Sarah Berry, OD; Jeffrey Tapley, MD; Jeff Chaiprakob, MD; John Morgan, MD; and Elise Agostinelli, OD.

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UAB Callahan Eye Hospital begins vision screening program for rural Alabamians

UAB Callahan Eye Hospital begins vision screening program for rural Alabamians

Patients of Cahaba Medical Care Federally Qualified Health Clinics, in the towns of Marion, Centreville and Maplesville, Alabama, can receive vision screening and testing for glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases.

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Clinics See Record Numbers in 2021

Clinics See Record Numbers in 2021

With nearly 20 clinic locations, UAB Callahan Eye is providing the same expert eye care in more convenient locations for residents in Central Alabama, and in 2021, our clinics saw a record-breaking number of patients in our clinics. We also had multiple record-setting days in our operating rooms. As we expand in both clinical location sites and in our specialties, we expect our clinic and surgery numbers to continue to increase.

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Research Innovation

 

Five dimensions of age-related macular degeneration provide new insight

Five dimensions of age-related macular degeneration provide new insight

A new study — published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science from University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers — suggests that linking to a fifth dimension for molecules and affected cells could help define new therapeutic strategies for those suffering from age-related macular degeneration. Christine A. Curcio, PhD., White-McKee Endowed Professor in Ophthalmology with UAB’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, says these findings could open new possibilities for patients with AMD.

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Department acquires Nikon AXR Confocal Microscope

Department acquires Nikon AXR Confocal Microscope

The UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the UAB Department of Optometry are pleased to announce the acquisition of a new Nikon AXR Confocal Microscope, making UAB one of the first academic centers in the United States and first in the Southeast region to house this state-of-the-art technology. With advanced artificial intelligence built into many aspects of its function, the Nikon AXR Confocal Microscope greatly simplifies microscope setup and leads to the most optimal images for research.

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UAB Callahan Eye Research Ranks in Top 20 for Funding

UAB Callahan Eye Research Ranks in Top 20 for Funding

Research is the backbone of our department as we look to preserve, treat, and cure the world’s blinding diseases. We are proud to consistently be named in the Top 20 for National Institute for Health (NIH) ranking and funding, and 2021 was no exception.

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Education 

2021 Graduating Class

2021 Graduating Class

Congratulations to the 2021 UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences graduating residency class. Best wishes to our graduates as they continue their journeys at locations across the country.

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Krupa Patel, MD, Named Associate Program Director for Residency Program

Krupa Patel, MD, Named Associate Program Director for Residency Program

Krupa Patel, MD, has been named associate program director for the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences’ residency program. Patel, who has been part of the department faculty since 2019, specializes in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus. Originally from Ohio, Patel completed medical school at Northeast Ohio Medical University and her ophthalmology residency from Summa Health before finishing her pediatric ophthalmology fellowship at Indianapolis at Riley Hospital for Children. Patel will work alongside Russell Read, MD, PhD, providing residents robust training opportunities, as well as overseeing the newly-announced integrated intern residency year.

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Meet Our Residents

Meet Our Residents

Our residents come from all over the country. We sat down with them to discuss what drew them to the UAB Ophthalmology Residency Program, what has surprised them most, and what they look forward to in the remainder of their time in the program.

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Faculty Awards and Promotions

Faculty Awards and Promotions

Faculty Awards and Promotions

Christine A. Curcio, PhD, Named 2021 Dean’s Excellence Award Winner in Research; Marissa Locy, OD, Named Assistant Professor; C. Douglas Witherspoon, MD, Named Professor Emeritus; Priscilla Fowler, MD, Named Associate Professor; Lyne Racette, PhD, Receives 2021 UAB Graduate School Dean's Award for Mentorship

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Philanthropy 

Why I Give - By Torrey DeKeyser

Why I Give - By Torrey DeKeyser

Torrey DeKeyser, former executive director of the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, shares her story about the importance of giving and what the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and UAB Callahan Eye mean to her.

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The 20/20 Initiative: Bringing Clarity to Your Vision

The 20/20 Initiative: Bringing Clarity to Your Vision

Our mission is to provide groundbreaking research discoveries, provide high-quality patient care and train the next generation of eye care providers. Our success will allow us to improve the eye health in our state, region and nation. We invite you to partner with us as part of the 20/20 Initiative – a bold plan to raise $25 million to support the prevention and treatment of blinding eye disease. Through a commitment from our generous partners, EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, the International Retina Research Foundation and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, we have already raised $15 million toward our goal. We are now seeking $10 million in support from additional philanthropic partnerships with individual donors and community organizations.

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Bertram Young Named Director of Development

Bertram Young Named Director of Development

We would like to welcome Bertram Young, who has been named our new Director of Development. Bertram comes to UAB from the Boys & Girls Club of Central Alabama with more than 10 years’ experience in fundraising, public relations, and marketing. He is a proven collaborator and relationship builder. His focus on building partnerships with corporations, individuals, and civic groups have resulted in major gifts and annual support for the organizations for which he has worked. We are excited about the talents Bertram will bring to our team.

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