Faculty Focus

Longmuir, Susannah

Susannah Longmuir, MD

Department of Ophthalmology

 What is your hometown?

Nashville, Tennessee

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

July 2008

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I guess you could say medicine is a family tradition. There are four generations of physicians in my family.

  • My great grandfather, Andreas Quisling, MD, was born in Norway. He was trained in medicine at the University of Iowa in the late 1800s.
  • All four of his sons were physicians, including my grandfather, Gunnar Quisling. They were trained in the 1930s.
  • My father, Richard, is an otolaryngologist trained at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia. He has a private practice in Nashville, Tennessee. My uncle, Ronald Quisling, and several of my cousins are also physicians.
  • And of course myself, specializing in ophthalmology. Like me, my husband is also a faculty member here.

I changed my mind between medicine and other fields, but watching my father practice otolaryngology, inspired me to choose medicine. My father makes a difference in his patients’ lives. While he is a skilled practitioner, it was his care and respect for his patients that had profound effect on me. Medicine just seemed to make sense to me.

What interested you to pursue a career in Ophthalmology?

The eye is beautiful. It is like a painting. I am fascinated by the intricacies of the eye and draw inspiration from it.

I derive immense personal satisfaction when a patient’s vision is restored. Vision, when lost, can have a devastating effect. It can completely change someone’s life. With my area of focus, there is the potential to reverse or restore the vision. I have the opportunity to improve someone’s quality of life. It is a great experience.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

My father, Richard Quisling, MD, and Louise Mawn, MD, a teacher of mine from Vanderbilt.

  • My father, Richard Quisling, has the ability to establish a remarkable rapport with his patients. He was inventive and made a throat spray for singers because he saw the need in his patients’ lives.
  • Dr. Mawn introduced me to the field of Ophthalmology and shaped my career in the field. She is an accomplished researcher and clinician. Experiencing her love for Ophthalmology and clinical care influenced me to enter this field. Wanting me to have the best training, she encouraged me to come to Iowa for my residency.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?

My great-grandfather trained here and my mentor, Dr. Mawn, trained here as well. Of course, I felt like it was the best place for my residency training.

I stayed because I connected with the people and the institution. Iowa is collaborative and its faculty very willing to share information.

The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How does your work help translate new discoveries into patient-centered care and education?

I am involved in early detection of vision problems and blindness for young children, six months through school-age. Through early detection, it is possible to reverse or reduce the severity of the vision loss and prevent blindness in some cases.

Some of my areas of focus are: retinopathy of prematurity, facioscapulohumeral dystrophy and eye findings, amblyopia and vision screening, strabismus and injury due to shaken baby syndrome.

What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?
Collegiality between faculty and staff.

I am involved in several interdisciplinary research efforts within my department and with other departments, Pediatrics for one.

Please describe your professional interests.

Vision screening and early detection of vision problems that lead to blindness or reduced sight. Digital analysis of eye images. Telemedicine for retinopathy of prematurity screening.

What led to your interest in Ophthalmology?

I am fascinated by the intricacies of the eye.

I care for children because I enjoy interacting with them. With each child, my first goal is to get to know her/him. I then use an approach that is distinctly fitting to the child’s character strengths, needs, and health issues. The children’s energy and appreciation invigorates me.

Restoring a child’s sight can positively affect her/his confidence, self-esteem, and joy.

How does working in a collaborative and comprehensive academic medical center benefit your work?

There are more resources for the patient in a tertiary medical setting.

  • For those having complicated and complex health needs, there is the opportunity to meet with the necessary specialties on the same day
  • For me, having access to skilled practitioners from various specialties, disciplines, and departments can foster better outcomes for patients who have serious and life-threatening health issues

What are some of your outside interests?

Singing. I was classically trained at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt. I used to sing opera. Now, I love singing to my children.

I also enjoy swimming, photography, and arts and crafts. Most recently I have started scrapbooking and using glitter and rhinestones to create art with my little girl.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?


  • Always do the best you can for your patient
  • Be persistent; never give up
  • Always keep your patient’s interest your top priority
  • Use as your measuring stick: what I would do if it was me or my child

If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine), what would it be?

  • Mandate early detection and universal screening to prevent or reverse conditions that lead to blindness or vision loss
  • Insure early and equitable access to vision screening
  • Expand research funding to improve vision and reduce blindness

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Gene therapy strategies to prevent and treat inherited diseases of the retina that can cause blindness.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

Follow your interests and look for good mentors.

What do you see as "the future" of medicine?

Diseases or conditions once thought not to be treatable can and will be.

In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e., population-based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?

  • I actively promote vision screening in Iowa
  • I am involved in Iowa KidSight, a joint project of the Lions Clubs of Iowa and the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Iowa KidSight is dedicated to enhancing the early detection and treatment of vision impairments in Iowa’s young children (target population 6 through 48 months of age) through screening and public education. http://webeye.ophth.uiowa.edu/IowaKidSight/.
  • I have been called as a witness by the public defender’s office in child abuse cases