UW Department of Ophthalmology
InSight Newsletter | Fall 2022
Welcome to InSight
Welcome to the Fall 2022 edition of the Department of Ophthalmology InSight Newsletter.
Fall is upon us, and we are pleased to present our latest edition of the InSight newsletter.
The research spotlight this issue shines on Dan and Irene Hunter Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Aaron Lee and Klorfine Family Chair and Associate Professor Cecilia Lee, jointly awarded a $33 million, four-year grant as part of the Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI) program, a new initiative by the National Institutes of Health to expand the use of artificial intelligence in biomedical and behavioral research. It is the largest grant award in department history. Artificial intelligence holds great promise for enabling research breakthroughs and improving clinical care; you can read more about this transformative project in the accompanying article.
Glaucoma remains the second leading cause of vision loss in the United States. Our patient care spotlight is on our glaucoma service, which is central to ourmission of eliminating suffering fromeye disease. We are pleased to welcome back Dr. Karine Bojikian to the department this year as Assistant Professor. Karine completed her ophthalmology residency at UW in 2020 and was previously a visiting scientist here. Her expertise includes the surgical and medical management of standard and complex glaucoma and cataract cases, including laser treatment and minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. Her research focus investigations encompass optical coherence tomography angiography applications in the diagnosis and disease progression monitoring of glaucoma.
Thanks to our generous donors, we are honored to announce that Dr. Ruikang (Ricky) Wang, Ph.D., was recently appointed to the George and Martina Kren Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology Research. Dr. Jennifer Chao, MD, Ph.D., Vice Chair for Research, was recently appointed to the Gordon and Joan Bergy Endowed Professorship in Ophthalmology. Learn more about their appointments and the donors in this issue.
Finally, in our education spotlight, you will learn more about the unique collaboration between the residency programs at Madigan Army Medical Center and UW. Our PGY-4 Ophthalmology residents each spend part of their rotation at Madigan at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where they have the opportunity to perform refractive surgery for active-duty service members. In exchange, two Madigan residents each spend a month at UW for an ophthalmology trauma rotation. It is truly a win-win partnership for both programs.
Russell Van Gelder, MD, PhD, Professor and Boyd K. Bucey Chair
Research Spotlight: Strengthening the power of artificial intelligence through intentional data collection
Cecilia Lee, MD, MS and Aaron Lee, MD, MSCI (Lee Lab)
Associate Professors of Ophthalmology Aaron and Cecilia Lee have recently been awarded a $33 million, four-year grant as part of the Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI) program, a new initiative by the National Institutes of Health to expand the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in biomedical and behavioral research. It is the largest grant award in department history.
AI holds great promise for enabling research breakthroughs and improving clinical care. The power of AI lies in its ability to analyze vast amounts of data and extract otherwise undetectable information, but this power is limited by the quality of the data used to develop AI models. Although exciting progress is being made in this field, the need for large, thoughtfully curated datasets remains a significant challenge.
The NIH Common Fund developed the Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI) initiative to address this critical need. The Drs. Lee have been awarded one of the four Bridge2AI data generation grants for new biomedical and behavioral datasets designed for AI analysis.
“We will lead multisite efforts to create an ethically sourced, state-of-the-art dataset for type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) research in this unprecedented project,” notes Dr. Cecilia Lee. “We will recruit 4,000 participants with diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds representing all stages of T2DM disease severity and collect complex multimodal data. This collaboration is structured with cross-disciplinary modules focusing on several interconnected aims, including team building, ethical oversight, training new AI researchers, and creating tools and standards for data collection. We hope that this dataset, while designed for T2DM, will also serve as a model for AI-based research into other diseases.”
The Lees’ computational ophthalmology lab has examined deep-learning models’ value in medical practice. In 2021, investigators tested seven algorithms designed to detect diabetic eye disease from retinal scans and found that just one met the performance of human screeners.
“These worked fairly well in the screening context. There didn’t seem to be any bias in detecting disease in people of different races, but there was a decrease in performance concerning people’s age. That is what this new project hopes to address,” Dr. Aaron Lee said. “If you don't have a well-constructed, balanced dataset, then the AI models will tend to fail in underrepresented groups.”
For more details about this project, read the UW Newsroom article here. To learn more about the Bridge2AI program, visit the Musings from the Mezzanine blog from the National Library of Medicine, watch this video about the Bridge2AI program, and read the NIH press release.
Drs. Aaron and Cecelia Lee
Glaucoma Service Overview
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. The term ‘glaucoma’ describes a group of chronic eye conditions characterized by progressive damage to the optic nerve. The damage is often related to high intraocular pressures, but it can also happen at normal levels of intraocular pressure.
Glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages. Half the people with glaucoma do not know they have it. Some people have no signs of damage but have higher than normal eye pressure (called ocular hypertension). These patients are considered "glaucoma suspects" and have a higher risk of eventually developing glaucoma.
“To lower the pressure, the most common treatment is prescription eye drops,” said Dr. Karine Duarte Bojikian, MD, Ph.D., who joined the Glaucoma division this past summer. “There are also laser and surgical treatments, with the same aim, to lower the eye pressure and prevent glaucomatous vision loss.”
A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dr. Bojikian completed her first ophthalmology residency and glaucoma fellowship training at the Federal University of Sao Paulo. In 2011, Dr. Bojikian joined the UW as a visiting scientist, primarily in glaucoma research and published over 80 scientific works, including peer-review publications, book chapters, and abstracts in society meetings. She then completed her second ophthalmology residency training at the University of Washington in 2020. During her training here, she received several awards and distinctions for excellence in ophthalmology, including the Association of University Professors in Ophthalmology/Research to Prevent Blindness Research Award, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Resident Excellence Award, and the National Eye Institute/ARVO Travel Grant Award. She completed a Heed Fellowship in glaucoma at the OHSU Casey Eye Institute & Devers Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon, in 2021.
Dr. Bojikian is a board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in glaucoma and cataracts. Her expertise includes the surgical and medical management of standard and complex glaucoma and cataract cases, including laser treatment and minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. Her research focus investigations encompass the applications of optical coherence tomography angiography in the diagnosis and disease progression monitoring of glaucoma.
“I am glad to be here at UW with the highest quality in medical and surgical care while supporting our patients through the journey of glaucoma care.’
Resident rotation at Madigan and Harborview benefits both organizations
Our PGY-4 Ophthalmology residents each spend part of their senior year in a rotation at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where they have the opportunity to work with Drs. Patrick Munson and Joshua Roe. Residents perform refractive surgery for active-duty service members during their time there with cutting-edge laser technology.
In exchange for our residents having the opportunity to work at Madigan, two Madigan residents each spend a month at UW for an ophthalmology trauma rotation. During the four-week rotation, the Madigan resident takes senior call at Harborview, where they can supervise the junior ophthalmology residents and participate in surgical emergencies, including ruptured globe operations.
Dr. Philina Yee, MD (PGY4), did her rotation at Madigan in August 2022.
“It was great learning how to use the femtosecond laser. I had never seen LASIK or PRK done before this rotation,” Yee said. “I loved my experience there, working with the population there of mostly younger people on active-duty service. We get to see the work at Madigan and appreciate those serving in the military and their families.”
Dr. Yee grew up in the Seattle area. After graduating from Cornell University with a BS in Neurobiology and Behavior and a minor in Global Health, she worked at the National Institutes of Health researching signal transduction in sensory neurons. She attended Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where her interest in ophthalmology blossomed. Dr. Yee was happy to return home to Seattle, where her family still resides, including her younger brother, a UW resident in internal medicine at Virginia Mason Medical Center.
Yee said her residency at UW Ophthalmology has been transformational.
“I think I have changed more as a person than any other time in my life during residency,” she said. “I have been involved in many complex cases and gained great experience; these four years have gone by so fast.”
Faculty named to endowed positions thanks to generous gifts
Department of Ophthalmology faculty members Dr. Jennifer Chao and Dr. Ruikang (Ricky) Wang have recently been named to endowed appointments at the University of Washington.
“Congratulations to Dr. Chao and Dr. Wang! An appointment to an endowed professorship and endowed chair is one of our highest honors,” said Dr. Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. “We are grateful to these donors for their generous gifts to support continued excellence in patient care and research.”
Dr. Chao, MD, Ph.D., Vice Chair for Research, was recently appointed to the Gordon and Joan Bergy Endowed Professorship in Ophthalmology. Dr. Chao has been on the faculty at UW since 2009.
A retinal disease specialist, Dr. Chao has an active laboratory that studies retinal degenerative disorders. The Chao Lab is investigating potential applications of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for treating eye diseases and identifying new drug therapies for eye diseases.
Inherited retinal degeneration is a significant cause of blindness. The Chao laboratory is working to create models of retinal degenerative diseases that can be used to discover potentially therapeutic drugs. The laboratory takes blood samples from volunteers to create patient-specific stem cells and grow them into retinal cells to study.
In support of the Department of Ophthalmology, in 2012, Joan Bergy provided funding for the Joan and Gordon Bergy Visiting Professorship series, which brings three outstanding vision scientists to visit and deliver scientific lectures each year. Several years ago, Joan moved to the Aljoya community on Mercer Island. She and Gordon had a beloved home in Hansville, Washington. After she made the difficult decision to sell the house, she decided to use the proceeds to fund an endowed professorship. Dr. Chao is Joan’s retina specialist at the Karalis Johnson Retina Center at South Lake Union.
“I am inspired by the visionary leadership of Dr. Van Gelder, who has led the UW Medicine Eye Institute and the Retina Center, and Dr. Jennifer Chao, whose ongoing research is the use of stem cells to restore patient vision,” Joan said. “What we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we give to others lives on,” she says. “And what could be more important than the gift of vision?”
A UW faculty member since 2011, Dr. Ruikang (Ricky) Wang, Ph.D., was recently appointed to the George and Martina Kren Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology Research. Wang is a professor with appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering and Ophthalmology at the UW and directs the Biophotonics and Imaging Laboratory.
The Wang lab is dedicated to developing biomedical imaging techniques for early diagnosis, treatment, and management of human diseases, especially retinal diseases.
His efforts have contributed to retinal findings in infants and adults with unprecedented precision, speed, and imaging resolution. Dr. Wang is widely credited with being the inventor of optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), a technique in which blood flow can be measured in all blood vessels in the eye non-invasively. This technique is now a standard testing modality in ophthalmology offices worldwide.
George Kren was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1970s. In 1976 he co-founded Tencor Instruments, a company that later merged into KLA-Tencor. He was also instrumental in founding the Surfscan Division and acquiring the companies Censor in Lichtenstein and NanoPro in Germany. For many years he had a leading role in SEMI Standards, where he received the SEMI Lifetime Award in 2004. George is now retired and lives with his wife, Martina, in Monterey, California. George serves on the UW Medicine Eye Institute Community Action Board, and he and Martina are also helping to support an endowed professorship in advanced ocular imaging within the Department of Ophthalmology.
Joan Bergy, center, presents the check for the Joan and Gordon Bergy Endowed Professorship to Dr. Russell Van Gelder and Dr. Jennifer Chao.
Miel Sundararajan, MD, and University of Washington Department of Ophthalmology Residents volunteer at annual eye screening event
Dr. Miel Sundararajan, MD, and Ophthalmology department residents volunteered at the Seattle/King County Eye Clinic held Oct. 20-23 at Seattle Center. The free community clinic offered vision screening, complete eye exams, reading and prescription eyeglasses to help those who struggle to access affordable eye care. Dr. Sundararajan serves as the director of outreach programs for the department