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In the past, our department was described as "a great clinical department. Great faculty. Good clinical research. Not much going on in basic research. But a really terrific clinical department. Superb teachers. A really terrific place to train as a resident". Despite important advances in basic research such as those from Dr. Sohan Singh Hayreh's lab, we were never known as a research department.
The complimentary parts of that description are still true. We are still a great clinical department. We deliver state-of-the art care to our patients, we are still a productive clinical research center. Our residency program is still at the top of many medical students' lists. We have been recognized by many publications such as the U.S. News and World Reports and Ophthalmology Times as one of the best eye departments in the United States.
But we are now also being recognized as having a first-rate basic research component in addition to our other strengths. Our researchers have attracted considerable funding from the NIH, the VA, and private foundations, and financial support for our research grows annually. Unlike some university research units, our basic researchers are integrated into the general department. This enables clinical observations to be translated quickly to the laboratory and turned back again to the clinic. For example, clinical observations about a family with congenital glaucoma led to the identification of a genetic marker for this condition. The identification of patients with unusual forms of keratitis using new instrumentation such as the tandem scanning confocal microscope led to collaborations with the ocular pathology and molecular ophthalmology laboratories to identify the organism as Acanthamoeba. The development of new methods for visual field testing are facilitated by the availability of a diverse patient population. The tight integration of our clinical mission with our researchers gives us an advantage.
Our researchers have active collaborations within the Carver College of Medicine. Having a center from the genome project and a bioinformatics group on campus is an advantage for Dr. Stone's Molecular Ophthalmology Laboratory. The presence of world-class researchers in biostatistics and epidemiology benefit everyone in ophthalmology.
Our collaborations aren't restricted to the College of Medicine. Our researchers collaborate with almost every academic unit at the university (biomedical and electrical engineering, computer science, education, liberal arts, law, and the National Driving Simulator on our campus).
Our researchers have been successful, in part, because of our past investments in infrastructure. All our faculty have access to state-of-the-art photographic services. Our research and development support team, headed by Paul R. Montague, took an active role in developing a departmental computer network. Not only do we collaborate with each other, we collaborate with the world. Data from our research units are sent to researchers throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Under the direction of Trish Duffel, the C.S. O'Brien Library not only houses books and journals, but provides a complete resource for electronic data retrieval and management. Having a solid infrastructure permits our clinicians and researchers to concentrate on their ideas instead of working on how to get something done.
The result of having an ophthalmic research unit as part of the clinical department on the campus of a major public research university provides us with a stimulating and cost-effective environment. The result is a research atmosphere that is as congenial as it is productive.