Prominent stem cell and dry eye researcher Roy S. Chuck, M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed chair of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein.
Dr. Chuck now becomes one of the youngest chairs of ophthalmology in the country and one of only a handful of Asian-Americans to ever hold the position in the U.S. He joins the Einstein and Montefiore faculty after serving as director of Refractive Surgery Service and Tom Clancy Professor at The Wilmer Eye Institute at John Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Chuck’s appointment was announced by Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean of Einstein, and Steven M. Safyer, M.D., President and CEO of Montefiore, and will become effective July 1, 2009.
“With his fresh vision for the department and proven leadership abilities, Roy brings a welcome revitalizing spirit to this critical leadership position,” says Dr. Spiegel. “Roy’s extensive experience in both clinical and basic research makes him ideally suited to fulfill Einstein’s mission of promoting translational medicine.”
In addition to his Einstein post, Dr. Chuck has been named the Paul Henkind Chair in Ophthalmology at Montefiore Medical Center. The Department of Ophthalmology at Montefiore provides tertiary care to adult and pediatric patients with diseases of the eye, with subspecialty expertise that includes neuro-ophthalmology, plastic surgery, and retina, cornea and glaucoma services. The department maintains an active teaching program with 12 ophthalmology residents in training at Montefiore each year, as well as ongoing community outreach aimed at early detection and treatment of eye diseases.
“Under Dr. Chuck’s leadership, we will be able to bring the Department of Ophthalmology to a new level of excellence,” said Dr. Safyer. “Dr. Chuck’s extensive experience as a clinician and a researcher will ensure that we bring cutting-edge treatments to adults and children in the Bronx. His work in the area of corneal restoration will be of significant benefit to many of our patients.”
Dr. Chuck is a cornea specialist with expertise in the field of laser techniques for refractive eye conditions. He has run basic laboratories for his entire career, served as principal investigator on five FDA studies of vision correction, and authored more than 80 peer-reviewed papers and 10 book chapters. Dr. Chuck also holds multiple patents. His two main areas of research are corneal stem cell surgery and dry eye, the most common global eye disease seen in clinical practice. Recently, Dr. Chuck’s team developed a unique mouse model of dry eye that allows testing of preclinical therapies.
The model employs the use of botulinum toxin, commonly known as “botox,” to block neurotransmitters in the tear-producing lacrimal gland. The resulting dry eye at the ocular surface closely mimics that found in humans.
Dr. Chuck is also a long-time stem cell investigator who has a strong interest in ocular surface corneal transplantation and sight restoration. His work includes cutting-edge corneal stem cell surgery, which has a success rate of nearly 50-percent─one of the highest for stem cell surgery. The operation is performed if the stem cell pool on the eye is wiped out through injury or a genetic condition. Without these regenerating cells, eye injuries, however small, result in opaque scars that reduce or even eliminate vision. Corneal stem cell surgery requires removing the scar tissue and transplanting donated corneal stem cells onto the eye. If successful, the introduced stem cells heal the wound and vision is restored. At Einstein, Dr. Chuck will continue this innovative work.
“I have always respected Einstein’s sterling reputation and storied history and I was particularly drawn by its bright future,” says Dr. Chuck. “Dr. Spiegel’s dynamic leadership, including his focus on stem cell research, makes it an exciting time to join the faculty and build the department for the long term.”
Dr. Chuck plans to develop research centers focusing on ophthalmological disorders including cataracts, ocular surface disease/dry eye, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and eye conditions associated with diabetes. These centers will be comprised of current Einstein researchers and those recruited externally.
Dr. Chuck’s research and recruitment efforts will be aided in part by philanthropy, which has played a significant role in advancing research in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. For example, the support of Irving and Branna Sisenwein has helped Einstein ophthalmology researchers make important advances in genetics, epigenetics, and stem cell research.
The Sisenweins, who both suffer from acute vision loss, have strongly demonstrated their commitment to Einstein. In 2001, the couple established the Branna and Irving Sisenwein Chair in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Einstein. The Sisenweins were each honored with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Yeshiva University in 2007, recognizing their more than six decades of support for medical research, primarily in the area of ophthalmology. Mrs. Sisenwein will also donate the proceeds for her new autobiography, Blind Vision, to non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing eye education and research.
Prior to his appointment at Einstein, Dr. Chuck served as director of refractive surgery and professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. A renowned refractive surgeon, he has run one of the largest LASIK surgery practices in Maryland. He has been repeatedly named one of the city’s “Top Doctors” by Baltimore magazine. Dr. Chuck has served on the faculties of ophthalmology and engineering at Washington University, University of Southern California, and University of California. He was also on the faculty at the Southern California School of Optometry.
Montefiore Medical Center encompasses 125 years of outstanding patient care, innovative medical “firsts,” pioneering clinical research, dedicated community service and ground-breaking social activism. A full-service, integrated delivery system caring for patients in the New York metropolitan region and beyond, Montefiore is a 1,491-bed medical center that includes: four hospitals — the Henry and Lucy Moses Division, the Jack D. Weiler Division, the North Division and The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore; a large home healthcare agency; the largest school health program in the US; a 25-site medical group practice integrated throughout the Bronx and Westchester; and, a care management organization providing services to 179,000 health plan members.
In 2008, The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore was ranked as one of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals” in US News & World Report’s prestigious annual listing. The Leapfrog Group lists Montefiore among the top one percent of all U.S. hospitals based on its strategic investments in sophisticated and integrated healthcare technology.
Montefiore is committed to meeting the healthcare needs of the future through medical education and manages one of the largest residency programs in the country. Montefiore is The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Albert Einstein College of Medicine and has an affiliation with New York Medical College for residency programs at the North Division.
Distinguished centers of excellence at Montefiore include cardiology and cardiac surgery, cancer care, tissue and organ transplantation, children’s health, women’s health, surgery and the surgical subspecialties. Montefiore is a national leader in the research and treatment of diabetes, headaches, obesity, cough and sleep disorders, geriatrics and geriatric psychiatry, neurology and neurosurgery, adolescent and family medicine, HIV/AIDS and social and environmental medicine, among many other specialties.